Author: Brittany Johansen

The Great Wall Of Defeat

Written by Brittany Johansen, HOYH’s VP of Connection

The Great Wall of Defeat

Let’s start by saying this video is cute. Really and truly cute. Adorable even. I might go so far as to say it’s precious! But as I sit here (watching this little kid get his butt whooped by a giant wall that he’s apparently supposed to be able to jump over despite its towering position over his little body), I’ve got goosebumps all over. You know why? Because who doesn’t love a good rumble with fear? Or a head on collision with self doubt? Or a love story? I found this video to be a little of all three. So take a watch while I share the lessons I’ve learned in honor of this three minute heart-opening cuteness.

Six major lessons cleverly disguised in poor video quality and a tiny little human’s adventure of soaring to new heights:

1.) Failing is inevitable and happens far more often than our successes. We can benefit from learning to love our failures for what they teach us and what they prepare us for. I recently heard this line, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” Failure isn’t comfortable or easy. But there’s nothing quite like the sweet taste of perseverance, success, and accomplishment when you refuse to give up.

2.) It takes practice. If you’ve tried something new or even something you’ve done a thousand times and are somehow perfect at it – you are an anomaly. We should study your unicorn magic. The reality is, perfection isn’t real. It’s made up, fabricated by people who want to prey off your feelings of unworthiness and self doubt. What is real? Progress. Progress is tangible, measurable, and attainable. Aim for progress, not perfection.

3.) Tears are part of the process. They come after our hearts are broken, when we are ashamed or embarrassed, when our fears creep to the surface, or when we feel defeat. Let them come. Feel them. Allow your needs and vulnerable heart to be seen. Give permission for the emotions to build, crest, and then crash down like ocean waves – because the quickest way through is straight across. And then take a deep breath, stand up, wash your face, and recommence the major ass kicking you have to do. You’ll be strengthened by the small act of compassion of allowing your body to release the frustration in the most natural way you’re designed to. Tears aren’t the enemy. They do NOT mean you are weak. They’re a sign you need a small break; regroup, realign, rest. Then get back out there and hurdle those walls with renewed determination.

4.) Everyone, and I do mean every human being on this earth, needs a tribe. Your journey, your practice, your road is yours alone, but it is imperative you surround yourself with people who cheer you on, sit in the passenger seat and help you navigate, and comfort you when times get rough. Find your tribe and love them hard. And let them help you when shit hits the fan.

5.) Attributes like pride, encouragement, honor, fortitude, friendship, curiosity, teaching, diligence, patience, resiliency, fear, love, excitement, anticipation, and passion are not unique to any one religion, race, gender, culture, or sub group of people. Neither is heartbreak, rejection, shame, vulnerability, frustration, anger, humility, loneliness, sadness and fear. It is exactly these human emotions and feelings that help us relate to one another. We learn that others have experienced what we have, and in that discovery we feel less alone, we connect with shared story, and we find the grace in accepting one another as we accept ourselves. Close the distance and bridge the gap instead of building walls to support separation and segregation. It’s time to live in love, together. We were made to.

6.) Allow others the right to live their own journey. One of the sweetest things about this video is the quiet patience with which the audience, fellow participants and coach patiently waited for this pint-sized athlete to accomplish his goal. It was his turn in the spotlight, and no one tried to take that from him. No one tried to shame or belittle him, and most importantly – no one tried to do it for him. Let us remember that to honor the boundaries of others experiences is to exhibit real, authentic love. Even and especially when their experiences and choices cause us discomfort, fear, hurt, anxiety and even pain. Be a genuine, caring witness. Stay in your seat when it’s not your show. Give them the respect they deserve for the lessons they need to learn.

I began by saying this video was cute. Precious, even. And it is. But it is so much more, now. I am reminded that the simplest things often hold the deepest truths, if I’m willing to look for them. I am reminded that in sharing the human experience with my billions of sisters and brothers, I am not alone in my struggle to find balance, success and peace in this life. Across all divides; countries, languages, cultures, religions, and even time – we are all united in our need for connection, empowerment and hope. I’m grateful for this little boy who reminded me that no matter how high the wall, or how many times we fail…

we got this.

Am I Buddhist?

Written by Brittany Johansen, HOYH’s VP of Connection


At my new haunt in Austin this morning, sipping coffee and sifting through posts from friends. The place is basically empty. Over the two or so hours I spent there, roughly a dozen people came and went, most just grabbing some caffeine to go. The two giant great danes I like to bring everywhere with me are generally a conversation starter so I am used to meeting new folks, and I enjoy it too. This particular morning, though, varied greatly from the norm. Not sure if it was dumb luck or fate, but I only crossed paths with women. Women of all kinds and ones I will forever keep in the highest regard. There was the cop from Houston – animal lover and devoted sister. She travels to Austin and other cities once a week to deliver wine to various venues. She tells stories with confidence and finesse. I’d like to meet her parrots one day.

Then there was the brave and bold woman about to embark on a brand new adventure, out of her comfort zone and into something entirely new. It could have been easy for me to get lost in her sharp blue eyes and perfect jaw line, I admit I drooled a little at her flawless physical beauty – but her story was equally captivating. Listening to her big dreams was just as caffeinating as my cup of coffee. What was in the water this morning? Such heart-forward, powerful women. But it was my connection with one woman in particular that really set the tone for my entire day. To meet someone for the first time and be changed; this is magic.

Pearl. On top of her wonderfully vibrant and magnetic soul, her name was freaking Pearl. She was a gem, too. Not sure how the conversation started, but it flowed effortlessly. Time passed without notice. The tone of the exchange glided quickly from superficial to deep – another mermaid, I see. This was going to be good.

She told me she was Buddhist and I immediately needed to know more. Was she always? Her mother is devoutly Buddhist and lives a peaceful, equanimous life. Pearl laughed, “When your mom talks to ants you believe she is crazy. When they listen you think she might be on to something.” Apparently, believing that all life is equal (none greater than the other including humans and ants), Pearl’s mother was overheard trying to reason with the ants that had taken up residence in her kitchen. With all the sincerity in her heart, she encouraged them to leave and dwell elsewhere – she couldn’t keep them safe from those who did not believe they were creatures worthy of love, respect, and peace.

Is it just me or do you also want to hug her mom right now? The second story Pearl shared was the moment she realized that it all made sense; this oneness with nature, with animals, with all life. She had traveled home to visit her mom, and buzzing around her were two large bees as she entered the house. She yelled for her mother and begged her to get them out of the house. With all the majesty that she is, Pearl’s mother came into the room with a plastic shopping bag and asked the bees to leave because they were frightening her daughter. Included in her request was, “You’re scaring my daughter. I know you don’t mean her harm. Please come into this bag and I will bring you away.” And so the bees buzzed right into the bag and she carried them gently outside to set them free, where also, no doubt, she thanked them for their understanding.

As Pearl continued to discuss her beliefs with me, I thought about how the immense beauty in all religions makes it hard to limit to just one, but she does claim her one to be Buddhism. I understood this. Depth in a person demands diversity, acceptance, and our own truth that has been developed through countless curiosity and soul searching. Our insignificance in the grand scheme of all the greatness in the world keeps her humble and she said to me simply, beautifully, “I am nothing, so I am everything.”

This effervescent woman continued to educate me on her life as a child, a young adult, and finally as a married woman living thousands of miles away from her family. How she went to religious schools just to learn more about them, and how she traveled from her home country of Taiwan to the States bravely and courageously fulfilling her dream of working with children. Several stories later, I realized that I was in awe of this woman before me. She spoke with such intention, but it wasn’t too much – just enough to make it clear and thoughtful, but never uncomfortable.

As the wind picked up and distracts us from our mesmerizing interaction, my waitress (Pearl was my waitress, did I mention that?), turns to leave. Since I am not sure if we’ll another opportunity to speak before I leave, I decided to tell her how incredible she is because women need to celebrate other women for more than their outward appearance. Women need to be telling other women that they are smart, capable, and enough just as they are. I believe that Pearl, like every other woman on this earth, deserved to know all the things that make her special, that drew her so effortlessly to others. I told her she was fascinating, beauty beyond measure. She replied, “Then you must be too. We only see in the world what we have inside us.”

Honestly?! How does she do this, how is she this profound? I’m in love with her magic heart and profound truths. Is polygamy legal in Texas? Would she marry me if I asked nicely? Am I Buddhist? Am I all religions? Am I none?  (#curiosity and #soulsearching, see!)

The equanimity, peace and love she exuded brought out a side of myself that I could really get used to. There is beauty everywhere in this world, if you choose to see it. Pearl said, “Some people see with their eyes when they should be looking with their hearts.” Truth, my new friend. When you open your heart you will get hurt, yes. But you will also get love. You will also be found. You will also find acceptance, not just from others, but more importantly, yourself. Even if for just a moment, I urge you to find what is beautiful about your surroundings and soak it up as long as you can. Rinse. Repeat. Go digging for Pearls. Because sometimes you can walk into a restaurant and meet someone life-changing if you are open to it.

Where the seed of HOYH began

Written by Monica Rai Silver, HOYH Founder + CEO

Intro Course - Hope

In December of 2007, after a desperate battle with addiction, I watched my husband leave our home and embark upon his own perilous journey to sobriety and another lease on life. The nature of this specific rehab included the family by inviting us (wives, parents, siblings) to participate in their family-system healing course from the disease of codependency and addiction. In the ensuing heartbreak and cracking open of prior patterns of behavior and incorrect beliefs, what I needed was support. What I needed, was someone who understood. And this need was driven deeper each week when I would glimpse intimacy in ways I never knew existed: These broken men (from all walks of life) would hold each other while they wept, would call each other out on aspects of denial and emotional sabotage, and would touch each other so gently – so innocently and with a vulnerability that made me weep as I walked through the frigid cold to drive home – alone.

The apparent unfairness was a blaze of pain; my husband got a sixty day (plus ninety more out-patient) sabbatical while I was completely alone to pay the bills, raise the children, feed the children, run the home, stave off collectors and foreclosure, somehow work for a paycheck, and all the other responsibilities that a couple is meant to share. And then, I was supposed to find the time and energy and resources to work on my own emotional health? Impossible, to say the least. And while the logic was clear; yes, my husband had to take those sixty days or he would die, it did nothing for the lonely ache in my own heart and the raw and unbearable hopelessness that followed me day and night.

And when I finally obtained some courage to share with others what I was going through, I was more often than not met with unsolicited, unhelpful advice or cruel judgment that threatened my already tenuous grasp on sanity and hope. What I wanted was the intimacy I watched grow between the men of that rehab. What I needed, was a support system of women who, instead of tearing each other down or endlessly comparing and striving to be more perfect than their fellow sisters, would simply listen to my struggles and heartbreak and triumphs. Listen, without advising. Validate me, without ulterior motives of dishonesty, gossip or self-aggrandizement. Empower me, in the spaces where I cannot see my progress because I am drowning in grief and the overwhelming details of my life. And be a Mirror for me, when denial would serve to keep me captive in self-pity and anger.

Slowly, as I chose to make room for myself despite the odds, some light began to filter through. And in that sliver of light came the inspiration and unquenchable prompting to create such a support group that I sought to find. When there is a need, there is opportunity to create the solution. And with the help of my God, my dearest friend and fellow warrioress Jen Sturgis, HOYH began on a cold winter night on January 30, 2010. Addiction may have been my detail, but it is not my definition. We all have our different details that make us need one another, and HOYH was born out of such need. Ultimately, it is a place where we may both provide and receive respite, service, relief, peace, inspiration and encouragement.

Since then, it’s grown into so much more…

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