One of the best ways in life to learn a lesson, other than experiencing something for yourself, is through the stories of others. Since I became aware of the patterns of the Year of Me and how crisis often brings the greatest growth, I have been fascinated with the stories of others experiencing their own transformations.
Brooke Snow is a luminary who also remains solidly grounded. She continues seeking her best life, despite conventions, using her past experiences to catapult her further into her latest ventures. I met Brooke through photography and connected more closely in a mastermind group. Now I am completely honored to highlight her here, as my first interview.
In life, we avoid the uncomfortable, the painful or just change in general. Often it is those very characteristics that stimulate change. I think of it as the phoenix rising through the fire, how we often emerge into a higher version of ourself. I recently found this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “The Signature of All Things.”
“The greater the crisis, the swifter the evolution.”
YOM: Brooke, you have gone through many changes in your life from immersion in music, to a much adored and talented photographer and now a teacher of lifestyle photography and your wonderful course “The Thriving Life.” Please share with us about your journey and the lessons you learned about making changes to follow your true path.
Brooke: Your quote is very telling to my own experience.
I’ve had several crisis’ that have brought about surprising evolutions in my path.
I spent my entire childhood and 8 years of college giving my life to music. I dreamed of composing music that would make an impact for good in the world and made great investments in my education and musical development.
My graduate school experience in music was very traumatic for me. I found the philosophy of my graduate program to be very different from what I valued and was forced to write music I didn’t believe in, in order to get a grade and ultimately get my masters degree. Out of creative disparity I turned to photography as an outlet to express myself without judgement.
I spent several years having a portrait photography business, but again, crisis struck. I found myself disenchanted with business and creating under other people’s expectations. (Is there a pattern here?!) I became frustrated and slowly evolved into teaching photography. One of the greatest parts of teaching, was that I would schedule teaching photo shoots where I photographed whatever I wanted (creative freedom!) and used that demonstration to teach photography principles.
One of the most life fulfilling experiences for me is in teaching. I have been dearly grateful to teach photography–but I found myself yearning to go even deeper. I’ve created several inspirational speaking presentations that I give in my church and community, and I’ve had the desire to expand my courses to include topics in personal development. My free “Thriving Life” course is the first course in this direction, and I have a few more that are in the works. Ultimately, my goal is to create an online school with courses in creativity and personal development.
The pattern that I see through my own experience is all about heart. Follow your heart in pursuing your dreams, but don’t be alarmed if your heart changes. Our desires change. One season may end and another one begins.
Guilt can often be associated with those changes in our desires. It can be easy to look at all our efforts, time, or money we spent in pursuing one path and feel like evolving in a different direction discounts all of that. It doesn’t. I know I didn’t give 25 years of my life to music to abandon it forever, I’m just in a season where it isn’t my focus right now. And best of all, I firmly believe that all my experience as a musician, composer, and music teacher–have given me so much to draw from in my experiences with photography and teaching. Every experience we have adds to our pool of life perspective, creativity, and unique set of skills that no one else has but us. We are given our desires as a gift and a guide. Even the so called “crisis” is a gift and a guide. Some of my own crisis’ have seemed overwhelming and discouraging at the time–yet looking back I have such gratitude that things happened the way that they did, for it provided a really big road sign for heading in a new direction that I was meant to experience.
Brooke: Yes! My baby girl was born in early summer. The birth was a scheduled C-section and everything went great. I spent about 14 blissful hours with my perfectly healthy baby when tragedy suddenly struck and I lost consciousness and could no longer breath due to nine pulimonary embolisms (blood clots) in my lungs. My calm happy world turned upside down into a frenzy of emergency and panic. I remember very little, other than one Doctor asking permission to do a life saving procedure all while emphasizing that this was a life or death situation and I had the possibility of not making it through. I was later life flighted to another hospital 90 miles away from home and from my new baby where I spent the next 8 days in the ICU under careful supervision. Surviving was truly a miraculous feat–as I was reminded daily by Doctors and Nurses.
You can’t face your own death and look at life the same ever again. Daily, I thank God for extending my life and allowing me the privilege of raising my two children and being here for my family. This particular crisis had the effect of validating my new direction with my business. I feel all the more purposeful in the things I’m currently creating and in my future goals.
YOM: In your course “The Thriving Life” you talk about many amazing analogies to nature. In one concept you talk about pouring all your energy into one tree branch instead of spreading it around. What advice do you have during a life crisis where it is necessary to direct all your energy to one branch? For example, I imagine now you are filling your family branch quite full. How do you fill your cup during these times?
Brooke: To continue with the Tree metaphor, if our roles and responsibilities are our branches, I believe that our physical and spiritual selves are our roots. They must be nourished in order for any other part of us to thrive.
When I came home from the hospital it was evident that I only had one focus, and that was regaining my physical health. It was the first time in my life that something so simple actually took all my time and focus. Even the food that I ate was strategic for its healing properties. I also worked on nourishing my spirit through reading uplifting books and finally when I felt well enough, I began to write.
I didn’t touch my work for about six weeks. That was more of a natural transition than a conscious decision…in the beginning life was so serious. I joke about it now, but honestly, nothing else seemed important! It was like saying,
“You want me to write a blog post? I almost died! That is sooooo not important!”
Life gradually acclimated again to the point where I naturally wanted and most importantly needed to work again for my own fulfillment. My advice would simply be to always give top priority to your physical and spiritual self (as it affects everything else in your life) and listen to your body and spirit in the process. I’m convinced that if we actually listened more to what our body and spirit are telling us–more than giving heed to our heads and false expectations for ourself, that we’d naturally put a lot of things in order in our lives and solve most of our problems. I’m still learning how to do that. The times that I’m most frustrated and overwhelmed are because I’m not listening to my body and spirit. It really is a process that needs practice.
Brooke: Balancing a work and family life can be a challenge for anyone. I have found that I NEED to work in order to be a better person and better family member. Those few hours away each day to create something that I love helps me maintain my own identity and brings me so much happiness. I’m grateful that my work is so easily adaptable to my current lifestyle with a new baby and high adventure 4 yr. old. Currently, I’m working on creating a new course to be released later this year called Digital Detox. It’s all about how to live in harmony with technology. I’ve worked on it on and off for the past two years and am so in love with the content and the power it will have to help people find an inspiring balance with the information overload world we live in.
YOM: I enjoyed your free Thriving Life course immensely and it was so refreshing to hear you describe the concepts and give simple, yet powerful challenges to me to bring greater awareness to my thoughts and actions. Can you describe how this course came about?
Brooke: The seed for this course started out in an inspiring conversation I had with a friend. He asked me to think about a concept he’d developed for himself to maintain life balance. As I was on a walk one afternoon I applied his same concepts to nature and instantly the analogy of the Tree came to life. It was as if everything suddenly made sense and all my questions and struggle for balance now had a framework to work within. Several months later I was asked to be a guest speaker at the Beloved Collective Festival in 2012 and I took these same thoughts and molded it into my presentation which I later adapted into the free course you see now on my website.
YOM: And for fun…
What most inspires you about nature?
Brooke: The healing power.
We recently moved to a new home on the border of several acres of farmland and have a walking trail next to water behind our house. Being outdoors always brings me such a restorative peace, and I feel so grateful to have such instant access to a peaceful place. I think we were created to be outdoors and today’s busy plugged in world can easily suck our energy. I love the instant feeling of restoration I feel from being in the sun and next to real living things like plants and trees. I feel quite a contrast on days that I stay inside all day with my electronics vs. the days that I make it a point to walk outside and be a part of nature.
YOM: What is your guilty pleasure?
Brooke: This is such an ironic question for me since I have recently been thinking about the term “guilty pleasure” very literally. I’m trying to get away from guilty pleasures and instead have pleasures that have no guilt attached! ha ha! It makes it even more pleasurable 😉
Organic chocolate almonds
Homemade ice cream
L.M. Montgomery Novels
Photographing my own family
Brooke: At the moment I’m totally in love with the album Water Night by Eric Whitacre. It’s choral and orchestral works that are absolutely Celestial to listen to and bring a great sense of peace to our home.
YOM: Thank you Brooke for your generosity in sharing your life changing experiences. Your point of view is so refreshing and encouraging.
I highly recommend heading over to Brooke Snow’s website and experiencing her insights through “The Thriving Life” video. Brooke also offers excellent courses on photography (for everyone) and has been interviewed often on her local TV network! Now Brooke can be found bonding with her family of four and pondering what’s next?! www.brookesnow.com