Q&A with Kayce Stevens Hughlett, author of SoulStroller

What is SoulStroller about and why did you write it?

SoulStroller is a story of finding voice in a culture that historically silences women, it’s an excursion around the world, and a personal exploration of spirituality and ancestry. When I began writing this book, I thought the overarching story was about my travels—Paris, Egypt, Ireland, Bali—and the beauty and wonder of those places. I was going to share with readers the places I’d traveled and introduce them to the world through my eyes. Then I began to notice there was no way my inner journey was going to stay out of the narrative. My story of writing about journeys became its own adventure.

Writing has always been a clarifying process for me and most often I write for myself in the quiet moments of the morning. As this book evolved, however, I shared pieces of the story with others and noticed the many ways my fears, struggles, and joys intersected and resonated with readers. It became important to share with a broader audience, so I pitched the manuscript to my publisher and here we are.

You work with people to help them be more authentic. What does it mean to you to be authentic and what are some practical examples or ways to become more authentic?

Much of the time in ordinary life, we enter our days with thoughts clouded by what we think we should be doing or worrying about how others may judge us rather than how we can serve the greater good. We live in fear rather than opening our hearts to love. We keep our deepest selves hidden behind have-to’s and shoulds. As I’ve learned to discern my own rhythm, I’ve been able to shed the shoulds and bring a better self to the world. I believe this is my authentic self—the person who listens deeply, practices compassion, and gets clear on what my internal voice and higher power are inviting me to do in any given moment.

One of the most practical examples and easiest ways to be more authentic is to begin observing your own thoughts and behaviors. Be your own witness. Pause and pay attention before you answer a question or automatically jump into a situation. e.g. A friend calls and asks you for a favor. It’s okay to say, “Can I get back to you?”  Then take a moment and discern how you truly want to respond. Yes? No? Maybe? Get quiet and listen for your answer without all of the should or have-to noise. What do you want to say? No judgment here. That’s your authentic voice. By practicing this deep listening and taking incremental steps, we each move into our own authenticity moment by moment.

When are sometimes in your life when you have been inauthentic and when are sometimes in your life when you have been your most authentic self?

I grew up being inauthentic. Saying yes when I wanted to say no. Following other people’s dictums instead of my own. Dressing for others. Being the good girl at times I longed to be a rebel. Becoming an accountant when I was drawn to psychology and sociology.

One of the most authentic things I did was go back to graduate school in my late forties even though it made no logical sense. A more recent time while at a book presentation, I realized my feet were killing me, so I stopped for a moment, pulled off my shoes, and invited my audience to do the same. Sometimes my most authentic self looks like staying in my pajamas all day and reading a great book or watching Netflix. That can be a big statement in a culture that says I should be out pounding the pavement and making a mark in the world. My invitation is for individuals to define and discover what authenticity means for them, because it looks different for everyone.

“SoulStroller” is the (r)evolution of a woman too timid to speak her mind, redefining her own rules, and showing us it’s never too late to live your best life. What advice would you have for someone who would like to speak their mind more, but is afraid of standing out or what other people might think?

Can I simply invite them to read the book? {laughing} I’m not much of an advice giver, but I found my way by practicing deep listening to myself. Speaking up in small ways and stretching into bigger ones. Falling down and getting back up. My redefining began when I realized the old paradigms were not working for me. I needed someone to help me unravel which stories were society’s and which ones were my own, so I found a therapist.

My mother told a story that said, “Kayce’s our shy girl. She doesn’t talk much.” What I discovered is that I had been limited by this tale as well as others I heard growing up about women and their roles. The key to reclamation is becoming aware that you want or need it. Take one single step, like naming your desire. Find a mentor. Listen throughout the day for what resonates or makes your heart sing. Pay attention to the places you feel oppressed and make note of what lifts you up. Follow the signs. Don’t be afraid to fail. Step by step, practice stating what you need. Life is defined by those moments when we’re able to speak through that lump in our throat and feel it dissolve to warm our heart.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d love to express my gratitude for the opportunity to share my story with Spiritual Media Blog, as well as this brief excerpt from SoulStroller: experiencing the weight, whispers, and wings of the world.

It’s never too late to make a new ending. When people say to me things like, “I could never” or “I’m too old” or the myriad of other thoughts that get in the way of change, I ask: “Are you still breathing . . . even a little bit?” If the answer is yes, then isn’t there room for one more yes, and perhaps another and another?

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Kayce Stevens Hughlett is a tender, a healer, and an artist of being alive who believes in everyday magic and that complex issues often call for simple practices and author of “SoulStroller.” She holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and she is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach. Her novel, “Blue,” won the Chanti Award for best women’s fiction in 2015. Kayce began her working life as an accountant for a multi-national firm and transitioned to the healing arts when life’s harsh circumstances sent her searching for answers on a less-linear path. She is the co-creator of SoulStrolling® ~ a movement for mindfulness in motion. Raised in the heartland of Oklahoma, she now resides in Seattle, Washington with her family and muse, Aslan the Cat. Learn more at http://www.liveittogiveit.me/or connect with her via twitter @KayceHughlett.

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