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Women of Alive & Well talking at picnic table. – Courtesy photo

Part 2: Embracing self-love with Alive & Well Women of Pasadena

By Danelle Woodman, Editorial Intern

Embody, empower, and in love. Those are a few descriptors of the Alive & Well Women organization out of Pasadena. Although I might use words like necessary or comforting, I think that the participants of the organization’s effort to engage women in a conversation about their understanding of themselves as living breathing people instead of just consumers of beauty expectations and critical opinions about their worth would agree that Alive & Well means so much more than three words.

In 2007, founder Cissy Brady-Rogers recognized these negative perceptions women often have about themselves due to societal pressure. This included their view of their bodies and the effect it has on their self-esteem. Brady-Rogers saw this as a problem worth fixing. “I saw early on that it wasn’t just the clinical disordered who had problems, but every woman I knew. Myself included.” She held workshops and retreats for women in response to these issues. Brady-Rogers is a certified marriage and family therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Since Alive & Well started in 2013 women in the Los Angeles County area have witnessed the power of what the program describes as “an internal and experiential love.”

Read More: Part 1: Learning from the women of the quilting guild

Although the organization is not a Christian organization, Brady-Rogers stated that her faith aligns with the perspective of a love that transcends the one we hope to create for ourselves. “The level of shame that most women suffer from is so deep that the concept of self- love is a great one,” Brady-Rogers explained. “But most women I know can’t manufacture the amount of self-love to combat the level of shame and insecurity that we have. What the women needed was an experiential connection to a universal love that we refer [to] as God’s love.”

Lauren writing during the Contemplative Path Program. – Courtesy photo

Lauren Furutani from Los Angeles said, “The Alive and Well principles of self-acceptance and compassion are a refreshing alternative to cultural messages about our bodies that activate shame and comparison.”

For Alive & Well, loving ourselves from internally guided place comes from a loving relationship with our bodies and our whole lives.

“I learned that I am worth the time that it takes to slow down and properly enjoy a meal,” Kelly Mach, a licensed mental health counselor and yoga instructor, explained in a testimonial. “If we rush through every meal and feel guilty after eating foods that aren’t ‘clean’ or otherwise virtuous, chances are that our lives are sprinkled with unwarranted shame in areas that we may not even be aware of. We deserve to have our needs met and to be heard. We deserve connection with others.”

“So much of what drives women’s lives – their careers, their marriages and motherhood – is often an idealized view that is not necessarily their own dreams of their own vision, but a product of how we’re raised, our families, and what the culture says that we should be.” We should live deeply in all that we do.

Alive & Well Women does not run like a regular club with memberships. Instead, the organization offers workshops and programs that women can sign-up for in which they commit a portion of several weeks to explore their inner wounds and work to heal them. They have both fee programs and non-fee programs. For all programs that have a fee, Alive & Well offers scholarships for women who want to take part in the events. The organization’s main program known as the Contemplative Path – an eight-week, two-month program – is currently canceled, but focuses on integrating a varieties of schools of thoughts that help women love themselves.

(Left to Right) Sally, Stephanie, Betsy, Cissy, and Nikki. – Courtesy photo

Right now, Alive & Well is growing their core community which includes women who have participated in the program and have taken part in their Love Revolution. This aligns with their new vision which Brady-Rogers describes as “a movement of transformed women who create a more loving and empowering world for all women.” Brady-Rogers says, “This involves taking our freedom from all the shame and using that so that we can help those who are less fortunate or cared for than we are.”

After our interview, I explained to Brady-Rogers that I was intrigued to learn that an organization like Alive & Well exists for women who seek more than just friendship but healing. On their blogs, they talk about struggles of self-love in topics such as going grey, quitting social media, and supporting women who are incarcerated; all of which encompass deeply-rooted issues in how women are viewed and treated in various settings. As a woman myself, the idea of looking within and seeking a greater love does embody the kind of hope I think many women seek. In a society that so often depends on the strength of women, it also rarely responds to the desires of women to be seen, heard and supported in more ways than just compliments. And that has been reflected in the stories of the women I have met in this series.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for the Alive & Well program and the tools it equipped me with to better learn how to love myself,” Emma Gonzalez said, a student at Azusa Pacific University. “I am learning that a contemplative path to health and well-being asks that you be courageous and brave as well as reflective and accepting in order to fully embrace self-love and the love of others. It is both a process of fully letting go as well as leaning into and walking toward a complete love that was always there.”

The organization is staffed with trained therapists and educators whose passion is serving women and empowering them to see their true selves as beautiful strong individuals. For more information about the organization or programs, go to aliveandwell.org.

March 28, 2019

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