Lisa Marie Rankin and Goddess Wisdom

Nadia Colburn // April 12, 2022 // 0 Comments

Nadia Colburn: Welcome. I’m Nadia Colburn, and this is part of the Align Your Story interview series where I talk to writers, activists, visionaries, and change-makers who help us come into a more aligned story, both internally and externally. I'm talking to people who both tell the truth and light the way forward with compassion, courage, and appreciation. 

Today I'm talking to Lisa Marie Rankin, an author, teacher, and Ayurvedic wellness coach. Lisa makes wisdom from ancient traditions accessible so women can improve health, relationships, career, and more. Through her work, she teaches women to reconnect with their bodies, prioritize pleasure, and rely on their inner wisdom so they can feel like a goddess.

Rankin is the author of The Goddess Solution: A Practical Spiritual Guide, published by HarperCollins. The book teaches women how to apply goddess wisdom to modern-day issues like sex, money, parenting, and divorce. She also teaches a six-week online program, The Goddess Solution Masterclass, that teaches women how to step into their feminine power to approach life with energy, confidence, and joy. She holds an MBA and MS from Bentley University and lives right outside of Boston with her two children, dog, and rabbit. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, snorkeling, and spending time with Mother Nature. And you can find more at her website, lisamarierankin.com. Welcome, Lisa. So good to be here with you.

Lisa Marie Rankin: Thank you for having me. It's nice to be here with you.

NC: We first met because you were a student in my Align Your Story class, and I’m excited to talk about your journey to this book.  But first, I always like to ask about your childhood so we get a sense of where you're coming from. What was your childhood like, and what do you think in your childhood prepared you for this work that you do today?

LR: Sure. I'm not really sure what seeds were planted in my childhood. I came from a pretty non religious family, a nonspiritual family, but spirituality was always something that I was interested in. I remember in high school, I started to read and learn more about Buddhism and, after college, got into yoga. But I'm not sure where that desire or motivation came from because nobody around me was drawn to it, and I'm not even sure where I found it. I think sometimes we have these innate senses that we should be exploring something, or there are things that spark our curiosity, and that's really how it was for me.

NC: That's so interesting. It might not be in our immediate family, but there's something within us that might be calling us, and then we then look for it and we find responses in the world around us. The teachings in your book are very multicultural, from many different sources. You had to look around you to different places that weren't necessarily in the tradition that you grew up in. You had a question:  "Where can I attach this longing, this knowing, this wisdom that I have within me?" And then you saw: Oh wow, look, here are stories from all around the world!

LR: Yes, my book really draws from several different traditions. I love how they all come together, and they even integrate with what we're learning about science and positive psychology.

NC: We often talk about what people need for health. We need a certain amount of diet, sleep, work, and relationships. But there's also a spiritual component to what most of us need to really feel healthy and aligned.

LR: Yes. And that's a lot of what I talk to my students and my coaching clients about. Often when we think of self-care or wellness, we're thinking about, "What do I need to eat? Or should I go to bed early? Or should I exercise?" And meditation is pretty mainstream, but not necessarily for the reasons meditation was supposed to be used for.  Health is emotional, mental, and spiritual as well. So they're all components of feeling really good and having a sense of self-care.

NC: Absolutely. So you had a childhood where this dimension wasn't really addressed. But when you look back to your childhood, do you feel as if the goddess wisdom that you connect to is in some way reconnecting with a part of your childhood that maybe you didn't have a name for but that has developed as you've gotten older? 

LR: When I think of goddess wisdom, I think of the early childhood years where there’s a strong sense of authenticity and a sense of play and curiosity without having to go in a particular direction. So in some ways, I think goddess wisdom really goes back to our youth, our playfulness, our creativity, and our inspiration. Think back to kindergarten, when you're just putting paint on something and you don't really know what you're making; you're just creating. We start to lose that energy throughout our lives. As we progress in school, it's more about dates and deadlines and getting good grades, so it becomes a more masculine, linear process. But I really feel like the early childhood years of that creativity, exploration, and curiosity are really central to goddess wisdom.

NC: Oh, that's really beautiful. You talk about feminine energy and masculine energy, and we all have both within us. But that feminine energy is often suppressed in our culture and in a monotheistic religion, and we managed to get a God that is a male god. What happens to all that women's energy? In non-monotheistic religions, there are always women goddesses. And that female energy is less linear and more fluid. I know you talk a lot about Saraswati, who is the goddess of creativity and fluidity. 

Can you maybe tell us a little bit about your own journey? You had a linear path for yourself and then you got off of it. Was that part of reclaiming a state of flow for yourself, reclaiming your own goddess energy? 

LR: Sure, yes. It's interesting, I think I probably followed the most linear path. If there was a playbook for what women should do in Western culture, I probably followed it. I went to a four-year college,  moved to New York City about the day after I graduated, and worked in technology during the dot-com boom for five years. Then I came back to the Boston area after five years, met someone, got married at 29, had two kids by 33, and was working my way up the corporate ladder. And I always say that sounds so cookie-cutter.

In my mid-30s I started to feel like I was just going along to get along,  like I was just playing out this script that I didn't write. Everything started to seem very unintentional.  I was doing things because they were laid out before me, but not necessarily because they were conscious decisions, and so a lot of things started to change during that time.

My marriage was very rocky, and it was really going downhill; I was finding work very uninspiring. 

And I remember at that time, too, searching outside of myself for things that would make me feel better, whether it was having a couple of cocktails every night after work or a glass of wine every night. or really focusing on my appearance. And then, once my husband and I got divorced, focusing on the next date or something. "Who am I going to  date to fill that hole?" And I think at one point I was like, "You know, I really don't feel like a goddess." It's like all my energy is going outward.

Even though I've always been interested in spirituality and yoga, I hadn't really spent that much time thinking about goddesses. But when I said those words to myself, it let something out. "Well, what do goddesses feel like?" 

And I started to do research, and it was a  feeling of coming home or uncovering this site of wisdom. Even though I knew it had been out there forever, I was uncovering it for myself.

There's a sense of sovereignty. I shouldn't be looking outside. It was a feeling of being already whole. It wasn’t about getting ahead in the corporate world or getting all of these external markers for success, but really just finding joy and passion and inspiration in my own life.

So that's really what got me on more of the goddess path. And then I was so excited once I was learning it, I was like, "I'm going to  start sharing this." 

I created a blog on Medium that was really well-received. It was a different way for women to frame the situations in their lives and to get different perspectives. These myths act as road maps. What I love about working with myths is, even though they're thousands of years old from different cultures and traditions and religions, you can see their commonalities across the world,  whether they come from South America or India or Greece. Even though we're separated by geography, we share this common humanity. We want to find that our lives have meaning; we want our children to be safe; we want to have love in our life. So the myths really give us this great framework for how we can approach the different situations in our life.

NC: That's beautiful. One thing people often worry about is, "Well, I'm on this path, so how do I trust that inner voice within me? If I look inward, I'm going to get cut off from the path.” 

And so where was it in your own path that you were taking Align Your Story?  I think you were in the middle of transitioning out of your corporate life and getting a divorce. How did the course help you do your inner work instead of all that outer work? 

LR: I think you said it. It's really trusting that inner voice. And I think we've been taught not to trust it; we try to reason or think our way through things like, "That's not practical to take a writing workshop right now." Or, "That's not practical to leave such a well-paying job." And it depends on how you define practicality. 

If your intent is just to make a lot of money and make sure that you have this big nest egg, maybe it's not. But I believe that there is no destination, it's really about the journey. And if we're not learning, growing, and doing things that are interesting to us, then we're missing the point. 

So I think, actually, I was still working in the corporate world, and I'm not even sure where I found Align Your Story. I think I first took a Kundalini workshop with you, and then I learned about Align Your Story. I think it was really that sense of, "Well, I've always wanted to write and why am I not writing?" So that was the first thing that got me back into my belief that I could do different things, that I could start coloring outside the lines of what my life is supposed to be.

NC: I love that. You hadn't been writing and then it was like this little voice saying, "Okay, it's time for something different. Let me look inward. Let me do this work. Let me listen. What is that wisdom that wants to come out?" And you just took the next step. "Okay, I'm going to go to this workshop." Maybe it was a Yoga workshop. And then after that, "Okay, then I'm going to go to this writing workshop. I haven't written for a while, but I'm going to  try it." 

And then it was just keep on, one step in front of the other, do that work. And then you started writing your blog. And I remember then I taught a class, I think it was at Grub Street, about how to put a book together, and I think that you told me that was when you outlined The Goddess Solution, which is a beautiful book.

LR: Thank you. Yes, shortly after I started my blog on Medium, I saw that you were teaching at Grub Street, so I thought, "Oh, this will be fun, let me do this." And it's interesting because I outlined the book, and I feel like I set it out in the universe. But then, I never really did anything with it. I guess my inner critic was like, "This is such a long shot, I'm not going to be able to write a book. Self-publishing seems really hard and I can't... And I don't know if a real publisher would want to publish it." So I just sat on it for a while. And then I was contacted by Harper Collins a couple of months later, "Would you be interested in writing a book?" And I had the draft, the proposal almost ready to go. So, of course, I was like, "Yes, I would love that."

NC: It's such a beautiful story of just taking one step and trusting and saying, "I'm going to step into this. I haven't written much before, but I feel like it's time for me to be doing something new." And then the steps just continue: "Okay, I'm going to  outline a book proposal, see what happens." And then it was there. So you put those intentions into the universe and aligned with yourself around what you wanted to do. So often we worry, if I take this step inward, where is it going to lead me? If I go inward, then I'm going to be cut off from the rest of the world. Or we worry, it's not practical. But your story is such a beautiful example of what can also happen when we listen inwardly; it can create those other connections with those around us and with the larger world. Going back to Saraswati, your story exemplifies the wisdom of listening to the flow, of trusting it.

LR: And doing the things that light you up. So there’s a little voice; whether it's, "I want to learn how to make sushi," or, "I want to travel to South America." That's the divine talking to us, and a lot of times we brush it aside because we're saying things like, "Oh well, that doesn't make sense right now," or, "I'm too busy with my children," or, "Work is too busy." But when we're saying, "Oh, I don't feel inspired," I think it's because we're not listening. Because we have these ideas, we have these creative impulses, but a lot of times we just push them aside because it's not the right time or it doesn't seem practical. So for me, connecting to the divine really is following that voice. And it is taking a leap too, right? Because you decide to travel to South America for a month and you're leaving your job, you just have to decide what's more important to you. Are you trying to get to the final destination or is it just about the journey? 

NC: Right. And you don't necessarily know what the final destination is.

LR: Exactly. 

NC: Maybe you don't want to leave it all at once, you want to have some safety net. But I really like what you said about listening because as you know, I talk a lot about deep listening and I think there are different vocabularies. In more Buddhist traditions, it's deep listening. But in a different tradition, it could be tuning into your unconscious. When you talk about goddess wisdom, what is the goddess? Is it a higher power? Is it something within ourselves? Is it an energy? Is it an emotion? It could be interpreted in lots of different ways. But I think however we interpret it, it's a matter of paying attention. Paying attention to something in a different way with a different level of curiosity, trust, or interest And not just, as you said, brushing it under the rug.

LR: Yes. Joseph Campbell, the author of The Power Of Myth, often talked to people about following their bliss. Once you start following your bliss, you put yourself on a track where you're living the life that you were meant to live and doors start to open. And it's not something that we've been encouraged to do, or at least I wasn't. It was more like, okay, you go to school, you get a job that pays well and there's no bliss involved in that and these are the things that you do. But I do feel that once you start following your bliss, it doesn't become work anymore. It's hard for me to go to sleep sometimes because I'm so excited to get up in the morning and start writing or start creating a new curriculum for a workshop that I'm giving, and it's really just a completely different energy. It's more of that Saraswati—being in that flow state.

NC: Right. And do you associate that goddess wisdom with more pleasure? I think that's something you also write about, and I think for many women, and men also, pleasure is such a loaded topic There's a wonderful book by Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure, about the transformative power of pleasure. It's very radical. And what goddesses help you with that? Each part of your book has a different category and then different goddesses and stories about the goddesses.

LR: Sure. That would be Goddess Hathor. She's an Egyptian goddess. Hathor spent her days dancing, listening to music, eating fine foods, hanging with her girlfriends, and making love. She is really called the Goddess of Delights, but she was also an advocate for women for their spirituality and health. She was there whenever they beautified themselves, and I really love looking to Hathor because she says pleasure should be part of our spiritual practice. I think sometimes we're in a very no pain no gain society or pleasure is selfish. But we're humans—we can experience pleasure and when we start to notice the things that we desire, that gives us a sense of where we want to go; that gives us the energy that we need to approach life.

NC: So often in our culture, desire has been co-opted so that we don't even know what we authentically desire, and we have this consumer culture.  So again, it's a matter of deep listening, what do we really want?  Tapping into our body, not just our head; so often that straight line of the path forward is very head-centered. 

LR: It is. And I work with some of my students on that;  I did a workshop over New Years helping people get more curious about why they want things. Say you want this fancy new car, and it's like, "Well, why do you want it?" Do you think you'll look good in it, do you think it will make you feel important or it's going to  help you get to your daughter's college? And keep going deeper and deeper until you get to the root cause, and usually the root is that we either want to be respected, we want to find love, and we think that these are the different ways that can get us that, get us whether it's the respect or the love or the attention that we're seeking.

And I found even in the corporate world, I remember getting passed up for this promotion that I was pretty certain was mine, and all of a sudden it just went to somebody else. At this point, I had half my foot out the door already, but I felt marginalized and it was more about my ego because I didn't even know if I wanted to be in the corporate world, never mind the promotion. But I remember being upset and really getting curious about it. And it was more like, "Well, I want people to think that I'm growing with the company, or I want people to think that I'm smart," less about me doing the work that would be required in the promotion, but it was more of how this promotion would have me be perceived.

NC: It's very profound. Keep on asking those questions and going deeper and deeper. "Okay, is this about me and them or is it about me and me?" I am an admirer of Byron Katie who turns things around with questions and then always says, "Well, if you want the car because you want respect, then why don't you just give yourself the respect that you want?" What is it that we're not giving ourselves, that we're looking for the external world to give us? So I think that tapping into that goddess wisdom is giving us permission to tap into that inner wisdom, that inner strength, that inner capacity to give ourselves what we really desire.

LR: I think that's important, and it's also important that we don't judge it. So if we want the fancy car, because we think it's going to make us more popular and get cool, I think be honest with yourself. We're humans, we all have these different needs and just, I mean, you're only going to  be able to get to the root if you're actually honest with yourself, so instead of then shaming yourself and making up excuses why you want the fancy car, just be honest, and you can still get car, too, if you want, but just get clear about why you want it.

NC: Absolutely. It's not about asceticism, right? No. Your book is populated with stories, big adventures, big stories of transformation, of action, of dancing, of having sex, of having beautiful clothes, of having adventures that go awry and then need to be remedied. And it's not a matter of just sitting and not doing anything, but really living.

LR: Right, and I love that too because I have two kids and a big dog that likes to get walked a lot and stuff, and if in the morning, if I'm feeling really harried, I'm like, "Oh, I didn't get to meditate today," and it's like you remember, life is our practice. Yes, we're sitting on our cushion and doing our meditations or our mantras and our gratitude, but that prepares us for the kids and for the dog and for the work and everything. It's really all of our practice, so it's more of that tantric perspective where our life is our spiritual practice, too, and I think that really is what I get out of the goddess wisdom as well. Mother, mom, we're here in the material around, this is what we're working with, these are our ingredients in our cauldron, just our everyday experiences.

NC: Yes. And do you find that focusing on the feminine was part of that decision to focus on the everyday?  Why focus on goddesses? Why focus on women? And people ask me also with Align Your Story, why is this a class for women? And so I always say, "Well, I want to  share with men, I believe in sharing with men, we all have the feminine and the masculine within us, but there's also something that gets overlooked if we don't give some attention and energy to the feminine," so I'd love to hear your path. And what that's been like for you and why you've made that decision.

LR: Sure, well, I feel like so much of our culture is very dominated by masculine energy, and I don't think there's anything wrong with masculine energies; you pointed out we need both. But so much of what we've learned, the educational system, the corporate system, our political system, is all very masculine; we have enough of that right now, so I really wanted to focus on a more feminine approach, which is just a different approach to living. And it's not the only approach. I truly believe we need both to get along successfully in the world. So many of the spiritual teachings are also from  male spiritual leaders. I know that there are some with women, but I want to give another perspective, another way of living and engaging with the world.

NC: I really appreciate that. And I also find that something a little bit different happens when you have women together, another barrier goes down, a different level of truth telling, of safety, of sisterhood happens.

LR: It is and it's really beautiful. I've run some book clubs, and I actually have one coming up now with Women Who Run with the Wolves, and I have monthly goddess circles, and these are all for women. And it is just really amazing when women get to connect. The women in the group are of all ages from 24 to 74 and people from all different demographics really come together to consider how these concepts have played out in their own lives or how they want to grow and evolve, and it's really special. And it's interesting because a lot of the women have also confessed and I've also felt that their relationships with women haven't always been so easy that a lot of them will be like, "Oh, I've always preferred to hang around men” because there is less drama or they just felt more comfortable. But when we can start to come together again, we start to heal some of those sister wounds; we start to tap into our feminine power as well, and we realize that we're friends and not foes to one another.

NC: Yes, that's beautifully said because there's often a lot of tension between women. Yes and that tension is also in many of the stories in your book. These goddess stories aren't easy stories; there's usually something to be overcome. The darkness goes with the light and we can't get to our authentic bliss by just bypassing the things that are difficult, and I think with all of these stories in the book and that you're teaching, they’re about embracing what's hard, not pushing it aside and moving through it. We need these stories of goddesses to remind us that we can make our transitions. And so in your own journey, it sounds like it was not so hard, but still a brave transition to say, "You know what, I was on this one path and I'm going to go off and do something else, I'm going to  trust, I'm going to  listen, I'm going to tune in and I'm going to  create something," which is also that creative energy.

LR: Yes. I still have a voice daily that asks, "Are you sure you should have left your job? You sure? Don't you miss all of that money that you used to get into your account every... " And there's always going to be that inner critic or that sense of self-doubt, but it's really aligning with your higher self and what it is that you want, what it is that you want to create. It's not like the doubt ever goes away, at least I don't believe that it does, we just get a little bit more skilled at not listening to it, or aligning with our more of our values as opposed to that critic or the more egoic voice.

NC: I always like to ask people, is there a section that you might want to read aloud to us? 

LR: Oh, sure, I think I'm going to  read the very first part because I think that taps into that goddess energy that I was talking about as we opened the call. Is that okay? 

NC: That's great. 

LR: "I was born a goddess, I squealed with laughter when I was happy, and I wept without shame when I was sad. I gave my love freely and expected to receive love in return. I was wild, messy, and curious. I didn't care how I looked. I was attuned to how I felt, even though some things took effort, I persevered. I didn't care about perfectly accomplishing a task to impress others, I wanted to develop skills. As a child, my daily objectives were to pursue pleasure, give and receive love, and acquire knowledge. Later, I learned that these are the same daily objectives of living like a goddess. As I grew older, I began to change, I came to believe that I needed to look a certain way and act a certain way to be lovable. I learned to suppress my needs for the benefit of others, and I was careful not to make anyone angry. I hid my frustrations in favor of being agreeable. I no longer prioritize play and pleasure, instead I focused on getting ahead, first in school and then in the corporate world. But getting ahead just meant achieving society's standard of success, not looking within myself to recognize the unique contribution I can make to the world are identifying the things that lit me up."

NC: That's beautiful, thank you. I also think it's really interesting that this turn to going back to your goddess wisdom, to doing the things that light you up, can happen at any stage of life. As you said you can be 24, you can be 74. So if someone is curious, What steps would you say people might take to listen more deeply and trust and follow through on what they want to be doing?

LR: Sure, one of the steps I often say is feminine spirituality begins in the body. I think that’s a good place to start: treat yourself like a goddess. And what does that mean? It means getting a good night's sleep. Making time to meditate in the morning, eating nourishing foods and tapping into that Divine Mother energy. We're never too old where we don't need enough sleep, nutritious food and to move our body in strengthening ways. And I know people sometimes want to skip to the spirituality part. But we can't really access that if we feel crummy, if we feel tired, if our nervous system is activated. It's really tapping into Divine Mother, and you can think of Gaia or Demeter. How would you mother yourself? Just starting to feel safe and strong is I think the first way to start tapping into that goddess energy.

NC: That's very wise, and it's exactly for that reason that I bring the body into my teaching for writers, because we can't align if we don't listen to the body. The body is the root, so in a Kundalini yoga class, which is the yoga that I share, it starts with that root chakra, getting grounded, getting safe, getting embodied, and then we can express and take the next steps from those places. That was a beautiful, beautiful response.

LR: I think it's so important because we all want to skip to the crown chakra, right? 

But it really starts at the root, as you say, so I think that that's really one of the first steps is taking care of yourself and getting into that Divine Mother energy, and then listening to those creative voices. Like: "Do I want to  start writing?" And if I'm nervous, what am I nervous about? Am I worried the writing is not going to be any good? And why do I care if the writing's not... And getting deeper and getting rid of that inner critic and starting to just trust those little ideas that you get into life whether you want to take writing or, again, learning how to cook something new or going on a trip, but just trusting that there's something there.

NC: Instead of squashing that energy, let it flourish; this is a divine spark within us, it's a divine calling, to be creative, to listen to ourselves, to tune in, and to connect. And when we tune inward, we're not cutting ourselves off, but rather connecting with the whole world of traditions and energy.

LR: Yeah. And it's really beautiful to do that again and again... I guess this goes with it, but again, enjoy yourself, pursue pleasure whether that's making sure you get out for a hike or taking a warm bath. Of course, strengthening pleasures, like not drinking two bottles of wine or going out to Vegas and blowing your money. I always say go for pleasure where you're still going to  feel good about tomorrow.

NC: Beautiful. I like to end the conversation with three questions, so the first question is, is there a book or a piece of music or a movie or a walk or a hike or something that you've been really enjoying recently that you want to share with the audience? I like to share the love.

LR: Sure. So one book that I've been enjoying lately is Caroline Myss’ Intimate Conversations with the Divine. It's a book of prayer. At least for me, when I think of prayer, I have a picture of hands clasped, kneeling by your bed. But she really talks about having a conversation with your higher power, letting them know you’re here. I really love the way she has all of these prayers that are almost like talking to a good friend. And I think that's just a great practice to get into, whoever your higher power is, and it could be your own inner wisdom, but starting that dialogue so you feel connected throughout the day.

NC: That's great, thank you. And that leads me to my next question, which is about  practice. We've talked a lot about different practices, but is there a specific practice that you do regularly that you want to share with people? 

LR: Sure. One of my favorite practices is an Ayurvedic self-care practice, Abhyanga, which is the practice of putting warm oil all over your body. It could be coconut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, and I'm sure countless others as well, and that's just a great practice, and again, as I just said, I think the first step to tapping into your goddess is coming back into your body. It's like a practice where you're reminding yourself you're a sacred being, and it's really caring for yourself, and if you live in a colder climate like we do, a cold, dry climate right now, it's really nourishing. So I think that that can be really a beautiful practice, and that's something I try to do a couple of times a week.

NC: Sounds yummy. And then my final question is: are there things that you do more explicitly to connect with others outside of your small circle, things that help affect structural change, political change, global change in any way. Is there anything that you could share with us that you do? 

LR: Sure, I have a six-week online program, it really goes deeper into the concepts of my book called The Goddess Solution masterclass, and I give 10% of the revenue, so I have given to Care India, because they were really struggling with COVID this summer, and I also gave to the American Himalayan Foundation, and the STOP Girl Trafficking program. I picked those foundations because a lot of the wisdom and a lot of the practices, the yoga and Ayurvedic practices, are from those traditions from that part of the world, so it's also my way of giving back a bit as well. That's something that I'm going to continue to keep doing because I think it's a great way to honor where we're getting all of this incredible wisdom and helping people.

NC: That's great. I always like to remind people that the self-work we do has incredible ripple effects, and I'm sure in so many ways doing this work has helped so many women, has helped your children, has helped people when you just walk down the street and smile at them, has helped people listening to this interview. So showing up for your bliss is really a radical act to spread it with others and to change the world just a little bit. So thank you so much for sharing your time and your goddess wisdom. It's really wonderful to be here with you.

LR: Yeah, it was wonderful. Thank you for inviting me.

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