This week we welcome Dr. Julie Connor to our “Living in Creative Spirit” interview series.
As a TED speaker, educator and collaborative leadership expert, Julie Connor, Ed.D. inspires everyone with hope. Julie is an inspiring storyteller; she empowers students and adults with tools to create strong boundaries and strengthen communication and conflict resolution skills. She helps individuals and organizations define their vision and create attainable goals. Once crippled with depression and anxiety, Julie offers hope to individuals struggling with mood disorders. Dr. Connor equips businesses, schools, and nonprofit organizations with training, skills, and resources to recognize and successfully interact with employees and colleagues with mood disorders. She also offers encouragement and provides workshops for at-risk youth and families. Dr. Connor is the author of an award-winning goal-setting book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide.
What is one of your favorite quotes? The same fire that melts butter hardens steel.
What is one book that has inspired you? A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Dr. Ruby Payne
Do you have a favorite flavor of ice-cream? Chocolate marshmallow
If you were a super hero what would your name and super power be? As Julie the Mystical Medium, I have the power to see, hear, and communicate with Spirits. (Although I do not see the physical presence of Spirits, I do see auras and the colors of chakras that surround people.) As a child, I called them “my colors” because I had no other words to describe the experience. Growing up in a conservative Irish-Catholic home in North St. Louis, meditation, intuition, and the presence of Spirit within was something I did not experience until I was an adult. My favorite experiences of prayer as a child was in listening to “The Word of the Day” from Unity Village right before the T.V. stations went off the air for the night.
Tell Us Your Creative Story…
As a TED speaker, educator, and author, I want to inspire everyone with hope. I empower youth and adults with tools to create strong boundaries and strengthen communication and conflict resolution skills. I share these skills in interactive workshops that allow others to learn and practice communication skills they may have never learned in their homes or at school. This is a particularly critical time to teach communication skills; I often speak to schools about ways to resolve conflict before someone picks up a weapon. I also provide communication tools to mental health professionals and those in recovery. When people learn how to set boundaries, express themselves in positive ways, and take good care of themselves, they regain a sense of hope and experience greater joy.
As a child, I experienced depression and severe anxiety. I was a target for bullying because I had no boundaries and no tools to defend myself. As a young adult, the anxiety disorder exploded into agoraphobia – I was afraid to leave my home. I was afraid to drive. I avoided all places where I might potentially experience a panic attack.
When I was in my late 20s, I admitted myself into a psychiatric ward of a hospital. Doctors told me I was a hypochondriac and dramatic; I was prescribed Librium and Valium. I felt hopeless. And lost. I felt totally abandoned by family, friends, and God. My spiritual life changed when one of the interns shared a battered cassette tape with me: On one side of the tape was a guided meditation “Using the Body to Relax the Mind;” the meditation on the other side was “Using the Mind to Relax the Body.” I learned I had the power to control my own thoughts. I wore an assortment of damaging labels like “failure,” “stupid,” and “no good.” Labels are like an old hat; if you don’t like it, don’t wear it.
My miracle came in the form of a graduate assistantship. Shortly after I was released from the hospital, I received a phone call from a college. I was offered a teaching graduate assistantship. My Master’s degree would be paid for and I would receive a teaching stipend. All I had to do was teach one class: Driver’s Ed. I accepted the position. I cried to and from the 30 mile trek to the college every day. I refused to allow anxiety and depression to derail me. One day, I found the counseling center on campus. I found the medical and emotional support to face my fears, develop new habits, hone new life skills, and reclaim my life.
I integrate the art of storytelling and equip others with tools to more effectively communicate, set boundaries, and resolve conflict. As speakers and writers, our stories are not about us. Our stories must invite others to discover their own stories in our experiences. The real value within my story are the skills and tools I share, opportunities for others to practice these skills in a safe environment, and invite others to experience hope.
I often use meditation and creative experiences that invite others to reframe their own stories. Author, Brené Brown, once said, “If you own your story, you get to write the ending.” I remind everyone that you can start your day – and your life – over again at any time; whenever you wish.
Gently release the past. Forgive. Let go of resentments. Express gratitude. Love.
Remember what you loved to do when you were a child. Play. Paint. Draw. Write. Dance. Sing. Have fun.
Embrace your story. Write your own ending.
Watch Dr. Julie’s inspiring talk on owning your story presented at Unity Temple on The Plaza. CLICK HERE.
What are you currently working on?
I provide communication, conflict resolution, and collaborative leadership training to churches, schools, and nonprofit organizations throughout the country. I am delivering a new presentation “Communication Before Conflict: Alternatives to Violence” to schools and churches. As a gun violence survivor and as a teacher who experienced gun fire in a school, I believe we must equip young people with tools to find peaceful solutions before someone picks up a weapon.
I am currently developing a peer-to-peer curriculum for Pathways to Hope, a nonprofit organization that provide support, resources, and tools to connect those struggling with mental illness and their families with the community.
What tip would you give readers to help them nurture their Creative Spirit?
Too many people spend too much time thinking about what creative project they want to pursue. My advice? Do something. Set a date. Set a time. What can you realistically do to allow time for your art? Perhaps 15 minutes two days this week? And do it. Need help getting clear about what direction you want to go? Read my goal-setting book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide.
About this Interview Series
“Living In Creative Spirit,” is an online interview series featuring creative individuals who blend spirituality and creativity in their lives and work. Interviews are published weekly on Monday at 12:00 CT. The Summer 2018 session features registered members of Unity Artists Coalition. Follow this link to learn more about membership: Unity Artists Coalition.
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Unity Arts Ministry is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to inspiring personal growth, healing and transformation through spiritual enrichment and creative expression.
Funding for our online programming and live events comes through the generosity of individuals like you. Your contribution aids in our vision as we celebrate a world awakened to the Creative Spirit inherent in all. Please follow this link to make a tax-deductible donation today: GIVE