Amanda Stuermer is a very inspiring person, but she is also super down to earth, friendly, loving, and she makes the best pickles I have ever had. She is the kind of friend you want in your life. She even has great style! There is really nothing about Amanda that is not to love. Amanda has done some many inspiring things, least of all founding World Muse, creating Muse Camp (aka Camp Catalyst), and catalyzing the Muse Women's Conference (Did you go this year?). Plus there is more, so much more. I hope you enjoy her inspiring answers.
KS: Who are you? AS: I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, dreamer, schemer, inspiration junkie, rebellious wrinkled teen.
KS: You describe yourself as an inspiration junkie, what does that mean? AS: I look for inspiration in my everyday life. The other morning, I asked one of my sons what his intention for the day was. He answered, “just to get through the day.” I said, “okay, then that is exactly what you will do – just get through the day. Don’t you want to do more than that?” I think many people live their lives like that – just getting through their days. I can’t do that. I need those bursts of inspiration that make me feel lucky to be alive. I have learned to look for them in the simple things – the morning sky, the kindness of strangers, a warm mug of tea, music, laughter, people’s stories. I call it inspired living. It’s far different from getting through your days.
KS: Who inspires you? AS: I am inspired by anyone who shares their gift with the world in order to create positive change. We each have a gift - be it teaching, writing, dancing, singing, cooking. The people who inspire me most are the ones who are using their gift to better our world. At our recent Muse Conference, we featured some amazing women who are doing just that. Laura Peterson started Hands to Hearts in order to share the healing power of touch with babies and children in developing countries. The Dalai Lama has called her an Unsung Hero. Brook Irwin wanted to find a way to tell her young son about her cancer diagnosis, so she created a storybook for him. She and a friend have now started The Storybook Project to offer other women the ability to share their cancer stories with their own children. Esther Gatuma is an amazing speaker and activist. She has been featured on Oprah, NBC, CBS, etc. She is using her voice and her platform to speak out against the practices of FGM and child brides in her native Kenya. These are just a few examples. We welcomed over 20 women to the Muse stage this year alone. Each one of them inspires me, each one of them is a muse.
KS: What are you really excited about right now? AS: I am excited about a lot of things. Excitement is one of the side effects of my inspiration addiction. I am excited to see our local community celebrating women and girls as catalysts for change. We’ve gotten so much amazing support for our programs from individuals, businesses, schools, and other non-profits. We sold out The Tower Theatre this year. It was a dream come true to look out at that audience and know that they were all there to celebrate and support women and girls. I am excited to grow our global community by working with some of the incredible muses I listed above, as well as many others. We supported projects run by women in 5 different countries last year. I am excited to find more ways to share my own gift as a connector and a storyteller.
KS: What do you love most about Muse? AS: I love it all – working with teens, planning events, leading workshops, collaborating with other change-makers. Ok, maybe not the bookkeeping; I do not love the bookkeeping. I do love finding ways to celebrate and support women and girls as catalysts for change.
KS: I recently read about Lynne Twist's work on the subject of shame and money. Please tell me about her. AS: I met Lynne a year ago in New York and fell immediately in love. She has worked with some amazing people from the Dalai Lama to Mother Theresa, and yet, she is incredibly accessible and authentic. She connects from her heart, which is how she speaks, writes, and works. Lynne is an amazing activist who has raised millions of dollars for global efforts to end poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. The word shame doesn’t come to mind when I think of her work. She stands for transforming our relationship to money. Lynne says, “money is a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions. Money carries the imprimatur of our soul.” It’s not about how much you have; it’s about what you do with it, how you infuse heart into it.
KS: I think everyone struggles with getting healthy in some key areas such as relationships with money, family, romantically, personal relationships, food, self; where do you struggle? Where do you feel particularly blessed or healthy. How are you finding balance? AS: I struggle with taking on too much. Over-commitment is another side effect of my inspiration addiction. I have a hard time saying no to people, projects. I get depleted physically and energetically. I am blessed to have an amazing family that supports and grounds me. I find balance by spending time with them and remembering that they are my number one priority. Yoga and running are also important to my balance. They help me quiet my mind, listen to my heart, connect with source.
KS: What is your favorite book? AS: There are so many. I always have a hard time when someone asks me to choose a favorite. It’s like I tell my three children, “you are each my favorite for different reasons.”
KS: What is your favorite movie? AS: Again, I can’t choose a favorite. So many have touched me at different times and for different reasons.
KS: What kind of music do you love? AS: I love almost any music that moves my soul as well as my feet – rock, country, jazz, classical, R&B, show tunes, hip-hop. I love the way Michael Franti’s music makes me happy. I love the way Bob Dylan’s lyrics make me think, I love the way Taylor Swift makes me feel like a teenager, etc.
KS: You travel, what is the most beautiful place you've seen? AS: Again, there are so many – the Grand Canyon, the Ngororo Crater in Tanzania, Mont St. Michel in France, Hanalei Bay on Kauai, the Sangre de Cristos at sunset, the Oregon coast at sunset, the French Quarter at sunrise, Venice at sunrise, Santa Fe in the Fall, the Deschutes River Trail in the Fall, etc. I am inspired wherever I go.
KS: You have great style, where do u find your style inspiration? AS: I believe we are most beautiful when we feel gracefully at ease. I am inspired by women who dress to feel good, as well as look good. Some women are most ease in pencil skirts and heels. Personally, I am most at ease in jeans. I love beautiful things - cashmere and silk tops are my weakness – but I usually wear them with an old pair of levi’s and boots or flip flops.
KS: You have three beautiful and incredible children, do you have anything you'd like to say to empower mothers, especially new ones. AS: Be open. I grew up in a house where we didn’t talk about “difficult” things. I try to keep open dialogue going with my kids at all times. You have to start young. When they are teens, it will pay off. My teenagers and I can talk drugs and sex, as well as their feelings.
Be brave enough to let your children see you fail. I was talking to a young parent the other day, and he told me that he’s constantly scared that he’s messing up with his kid. I told him, “that’s part of our job – to show them that life can be messy, parents aren’t perfect.” I love this passage from a book written by my friend Hampton Sides:
“Navajos hated to complete anything - whether it was a basket, a blanket, a song, or a story. They never wanted their artifacts to be too perfect, or too closed-ended, for a definitive ending cramped the spirit of the creator and sapped the life from the art. So they left little gaps and imperfections, deliberate lacunae that kept things alive for another day. To them, comprehensiveness was tantamount to suffocation. Aesthetically and literally, Navajos always left themselves an out. Even today, Navajo blankets often have a faint imperfection designed to let the creation breathe - a thin line that originates from the center and extends all the way to the edge, sometimes with a single thread dangling from its border; tellingly, the Navajos call this intentional flaw the “spirit outlet.”
I want to teach my children to appreciate the spirit outlets in themselves, in others, and in the world.
KS: What are you currently obsessed with? AS: My family, my friends, my work, sunshine, yoga, travel, and French fries.
KS: What is something you can't live without? AS: My family, my friends, my work, sunshine, yoga, travel, and French fries.
KS: How does your yoga practice play into your life? AS: Personally, yoga helps me cultivate self-awareness. I have to be self-aware before I can become truly aware of others. I can’t know anyone else until I know myself. Yoga connects me to that deep knowing of my self, which then allows me to connect with others and the world in a more authentic way.
Professionally, yoga helps me practice conscious activism. I like to point out the difference between conscious activism, which comes from a place of awareness, and what I call re-activism, which usually comes from a place of fear and anger. I believe that lasting positive change can only come from conscious action. Look at Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa – they all practiced conscious activism. I can say the same thing about some of the muses I have already mentioned – Lynne Twist, Esther Gatuma, Brook Irwin, Laura Peterson.
Yoga means union. I think there are many ways to practice yoga, on and off the mat. My husband’s yoga is fly-fishing. Sometimes my yoga is a walk in the woods or a run by the river. Yoga, to me, is whatever unites you with your true self.
Amanda and Muse will be hosting 30 Days of Inspiration: a 30 day online workshop that will provide you with daily inspiration, mindfulness practices, creative exercises, and action steps, all designed to help you connect to your sense of personal purpose and start cultivating the tools you need to create positive change. Whether you are looking to create change in your personal life, your local community, or on a global scale, we will share practices and tools that you can use.