Jen Louden embodies the word “teacher”. It’s what she does, how she lives, who she is. Teaching is, for Jen, her way of serving others.
As a best-selling author and personal growth teacher, Jen has spent twenty years guiding women toward self care and personal wisdom. She teaches via her books, her blog and her retreats, and I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands of women have transformed their relationships with themselves due to Jen’s insight, clarity and gentle delivery of powerful knowledge. I know I have.
After devouring her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, I began to replace old ways of thinking with new practices and beliefs around self care. And her work influenced my decision to become a coach for women. In my practice I incorporate many elements of Jen’s teachings on comfort and self nurturing. How could I not?
She has recently shifted focus from self care and comfort to an exploration into how we can dedicate ourselves to serving the world while also savoring life. To do this, Jen created the Savor and Serve experiment. Savor and Serve is brand new and full of life, as you’ll see in the blog posts and comments on Jen’s website.
Jen’s commitment to others who teach inspired her to launch Teach Now, an online course she cooked up with Michelle Lisenbury Christensen. Michelle defines a teacher as “Anybody who shares energy, ideas or information with others for the sake of serving.” Teach Now is about teaching, but it’s not limited to those in teaching professions. It’s for all of us who want to share our gifts with others.
In my interview with Jen, we talked about her recent shift, what it is to be a teacher, and Teach Now.
A.K. Give us a sense of what brought you to this new change in your work. Where have you been and where are you going?
J.L. Where I’ve been and where I still am is … how do you fully embrace who you are and what you need to function and thrive and open to life. I’ve become aware recently that the fear of death is not a big one for me. But fear of being fully alive, fear of not giving birth to what’s in me – that’s what I’ve been dealing with. I’ve dealt with it through talking and teaching about self care and comfort and creativity and writing, but what I realized is there’s something deeper here. There’s a part of it that needs to be tied back to how we express that self care by caring for others.
But I don’t know the answers to any of it. That’s why I launched this Savor and Serve experiment because I’m blessed and cursed with learning something and having to share it immediately.
A.K. What is it to savor and serve?
J.L. I’m diving, sinking, giving way to this experiment. I’m giving way to a knot and the knot is the story that I live in that what I have to do in the world depletes me, so then I can’t serve in the way I’m called upon to serve.
More than a knot, it’s a box. I have the story “you have to do this this and this!” and then I run off to do it and I feel resentful and depleted. Then I say “Hah! You’re doing it again!” That prevents me from serving the way I want to serve. And I’m not even sure what that is yet. That’s what I’ve discovered so far in the experiment.
Teach Now, the course beginning on March 24, arose out of my own long journey of suffering around teaching and wanting to bring some of what I learned to other people, but also wanting to continue that learning. So part of the course is 28 interviews with master teachers. One of the beauties of what I do and the beauty of the internet is that we can learn so much from one another and we can get into the little places that we haven’t ever shared before.
A.K. Is teaching serving?
J.L. Yes. For many people. It is for me. It’s the way that I serve right now. Many people are called to serve that way but they get really frustrated because they show up to teach and it doesn’t go well so they decide “That means I’m not a teacher. I’m not supposed to serve this way”. No no no no! If there’s one thing I want to solve with this course it’s that feeling.
Parker Palmer, one of my heroes, is a teachers’ teacher. He’s an amazing man and he still feels this way when he goes to teach. After 35 years and a PhD and god knows what else. Addressing that is part of what gets in the way, because we may feel called to serve in a particular way – let’s say teaching – but then we think that because we’re called to serve that way it’s going to go beautifully. So we need support.
A.K. What about people who don’t want to be teachers in the conventional sense?
J.L. That’s most of the people who attended TeachNow last time we taught. Including people who had never thought about being teachers, and who had never taught. We had such a wide range from professors and high school math teachers, to yoga teachers to writers, bloggers, people who are reluctantly called to speak or teach and who want to do so with ease. A huge range. And they all got so much out of it.
A.K. We’re all teaching every time we speak.
J.L. There’s never been a time in history when more people were teaching as part of their livelihoods and part of their personal expressions. And I think that maybe that word is off-putting. For some people it’s really exciting. “I want to be a teacher!” For some people it’s scary. “I don’t want to be a teacher!” Some people think “I’m not a teacher” but are in fact teaching art classes. Or “I’m a blogger”. But blogging is teaching. Parenting is teaching.