How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present.

—Pema Chodron

Have you been driven for decades by the idea that you had to be extraordinary? And now you’re exhausted and flailing? 

I understand.

Have you spent your life paralyzed by the need to please people? Instead of feeling like you’re enough as you are, you’re filled with anxiety and frantic guilt? 

I get you.

Did you come from a hard place when you were a kid? And the only way you felt good for a few moments was by putting all the words on the teacher’s list into alphabetical order faster than anyone in class?

You’re not alone.

Are you a woman over 40 struggling to throw off the stories you were told about who you should be and start writing your own story instead?

I can help.

Time to cultivate your joy.

But how in the heck do you cultivate joy? Those aren’t two words you hear together often.

Your brain — and all our brains — are hard-wired to make habits and see patterns in life.

You see, our nervous systems read uncertainty as danger. Since we’re living in especially uncertain times right now — and trying to take in more information than humans ever have before — our brains are so busy processing dire news that we’re perpetually in a state of fight, flight, or freeze.

This is why we’re overwhelmed and stumbling. Our nervous system has shut down what it considers non-essential in the middle of a dangerous moment. 

For those of us who came from a hard place, our nervous systems have been on high alert for decades. When you’re in a constant state of hyper-vigilance and self-doubt, there’s no room for joy. 

It’s time to cultivate a habit of joy. 

When you cultivate a habit of joy, you begin to show up for yourself. You rest more. You laugh more often. You start to grow and relax. You start to love your own life. 

How do you cultivate your joy?

You set aside 15 minutes, every day, for your own joy. 

Make it a habit. 

Whatever we pay attention to blooms. 

Once you do allow yourself joy, you’ll start to discover why you’ve been emphasizing guilt, productivity, pleasing others, and trying to be perfect for so long. 

Somewhere along the way, you got the message that you’re not worthy of joy. 

Time to let go of those old messages. 

You deserve more joy. 

And you can have more joy. 

Are you ready to dig deep, grow as a person, and celebrate your own life? 

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Testimonials for my work. 

[ENOUGH] is one of the best accounts of human growth I’ve ever read. Through abuse, rejection, illness, romance, motherhood, and finally, authentic truth-telling, Ahern leans into the uncomfortable realities of being a person in the world. This book shows us so much of what we can hope to become”

—Ashley C. Ford, author of the award-winning memoir, Somebody’s Daughter

Ahern ferries us through her courageous journey from decades of shame and uncertainty toward a life of agency, freedom, and dignity…ENOUGH is a testament to the healing power of a purpose-filled life.

—Lisa Congdon, artist and author of A Glorioius Freedom

A balm for anyone who has inhabited the tricky space between daughter and mother, wife and woman, woman and human being. ENOUGH feels like a long exhalation.

—Molly Wizenberg-Choi, author of The Fixed Stars

Why should you trust me? 

I’ve been where you are. It took an emergency for me to begin cultivating my own joy. 

My journey began when I could not speak. 

As the firefighters lifted my body on a stretcher into the ambulance, I looked at my husband’s terrified face and tried to beam I love you I’m sure it will be fine with my eyes, because I could no longer talk. The door of the ambulance closed him away from me.

I’m lucky. The stroke I was suffering was a mini one. (A transient ischemic attack, to be precise.) My symptoms were exactly that of a major stroke, but after a night in the hospital, they drifted away. I could feel my left leg, then my face again. The moment I discovered I could speak what I was feeling, I felt an enormous rush of relief. I would be all right.

Someday this would be a story I could share. 

Sitting on the front porch, the weak June sunlight pressing on my closed eyes, I listened to my doctor. He told me the good news: all my medical tests had come back clear. “Shauna, your brain, your heart, your arteries — they’re all healthy.”

And immediately, I worried he would doubt that it actually happened. I didn’t make this up.

He told me that even in healthy bodies, sometimes by random chance a chunk of cholesterol can break off and form a clot, blocking blood to the brain for a while.

“Shauna, I want you to take this as a chance to truly think about your life. Your tangible test results show that you’re healthy. But what about the intangibles? Emotional stress on the body can cause physical damage. We know this. Stress can kill us. So what are the forces that have been causing you to lose sleep? Why do you fret and work all day? Why are you not taking care of yourself?”

And then he said something that required me to change my life.

Where in your life do you not feel good enough?

And why?

I pondered these questions for the next year, as I slowly regained my strength and clarity. Those questions compelled me to start letting go of everything that didn’t bring me joy.

Eventually, those questions became the only ones that mattered to me.

I repeated those questions to myself daily, eventually finding the answers through writing my book, ENOUGH. I learned to embrace the chaos of creation.  Answering those questions helped me to begin healing from the effects of childhood trauma that had long been stored in my body and breath.

And then, a new question emerged.

What would my life be like if I lived with more joy?

I know the answers to that question now. My life now has clear purpose. Kindness. Courage. A sense of belonging. Rest. A wonderful geeky passion for neuroscience. Silliness. Compassion. Community. And creative energy without fear.

Now, I want to share this process with you. 

I’m going to be honest with you.

This is hard work. Since we live in a culture not built for joy, you’re going to feel like an outsider if you start cultivating your joy. You’re changing your mind, which is one of the hardest things we can do. 

You don’t need to feel lonely in this work.

I’m here to guide you. 

And guess what? There’s a bunch of us weirdos out here, making ukulele music, creating videos with vulnerable stories for TikTok, gathering people together to make felt art, discussing books about neuroscience, and being our own bizarre selves.

Join us on the path to joy. It’s far more fun out here.

As Ram Dass wrote, we’re all just walking each other home.

We might as well skip and dance along the path together. 

Love, 

Shauna

Time to start your journey.

The tip of a red canoe/kayak pointing into an blue and undulating oily sea in the late afternoon sun, poised for adventure.