Janelle Hardy: Connecting body, mind, and spirit through life story work

I’ve found a partial solution to how to blog while experiencing a COVID-19 pandemic-related form of writers’ block: I’m sharing resources offered by friends/colleagues who are finding their own ways to help “ordinary” people cope in such an extraordinary time.

Janelle Hardy, life story practitioner (and more)

What’s a bodyworker/workshop leader doing to be helpful during this time of pandemic? That’s the question I asked Janelle Hardy, creator and teacher of an online transformational memoir-writing course called The Art of Personal Mythmaking. Her process uses body-based trauma-informed writing prompts, fairytales, and themed modules to support creative folks who are interested in healing from their lifestories as they write their memoirs. Born and raised in Canada’s Yukon, she now lives in British Columbia.

Asked what she is seeing in this time of pandemic complicated by justified anger at systemic racism, Janelle says, “A lot more people are enrolling in my classes. The change I’m seeing is that people are taking the leap with more ease—which is not what I expected, but makes sense in times of crisis. Folks are really wanting to learn and grow, and receive support. Rather than retreating, it seems to push them to say ‘I will do this for myself.’ It’s great for me, and for them.” (Find more information on the workshops at the end of this post.) A new workshop starts in in Autumn of 2020.

Janelle worked as a trauma-informed bodyworker for more than a decade, and has been a working artist (writing, painting + dance) for even longer. Throughout that time she’s taught adults out of her living room, arts centers, universities and community colleges.

“I bring a lot of body-based nervous-system-regulating techniques into the process of life story work, because I’ve found that it is really common for people to confess to me that they’ve wanted to write down their life story for over twenty years—but haven’t started.” Janelle told me.

“A lot of times it’s a fear of not knowing if they will be able to handle the difficult parts. And there are other fears—am I a good enough writer? Is my life interesting enough? Although I’m not a coach, I do a lot of coaching around resistance, self-doubt, procrastination, and overwhelm—those are, in my experience, related to a need for healing. The more I direct people toward nervous system re-regulation, the more the resistance seems to melt.”

I asked Janelle how she came to connect bodywork to life story.  “In North America, we are socialized to stay stuck in our heads. I’ve always been an artist, and I studied anthropology. Mind, body, and spirit are connected, which again, is something, we’re socialized to not understand.”

Through her work as a Structural Integration practitioner (Rolfing), Janelle learned that releases in the body were accompanied by an emotional release that brought out stories, feelings, and memories. “It’s not possible to separate that. I got interested in integrating creative writing with body-based awareness and healing.”

Janelle connects life story to personal mythmaking, saying, “We have more agency to reclaim our stories than we think. There’s a lot of power in examining our stories, first for ourselves, secondly for our loved ones as a legacy. I make it fun by bringing myth and fairytale into the process.”

Janelle’s interest took her deep into how we make meaning out of our lives, connecting individual life experiences, family culture, and social history. She pointed out that in North America, because of our colonial imperialistic history, many people know very little about their past, having lost knowledge of their ancestries, languages, cultures and lands of origin. “Reclaiming that is essential to understanding ourselves as well.”

We talked a bit more about the impact of racist colonial processes on minds and bodies, and then our conversation came around to what Janelle is doing to be helpful in the time of COVID.

Janelle’s workshop business model centers on her course,  The Art of Personal Mythmakingwhich she teaches as a live online workshop offered twice a year. The next cohort of students will begin in Autumn of 2020. The 5-month course involves a supportive weekly class and interaction with “creative, caring classmates,” according to Janelle’s website. The fee is $2100, or $215 in 10 payments, but there are early bird rates when you sign up for her newsletter. Find more here.

Janelle offers a free introductory workshop, Outline Your Memoiron demand. It consists of a recorded 2-hour video plus downloadable prompts and chat support. Access it here.

Janelle also occasionally offers a DIY Marketing workshop geared for creatives and what she delightfully terms “sensitive solopreneurs.” The course offers tips on marketing, especially online—crucial at this time—and access to a comprehensive resource library.

“I created it for people like me—healers or teachers—big-hearted people who are not thriving in their practices. It’s knowledge that’s hard to find, so it’s the course I needed when I was getting started,” Janelle said. During the pandemic, she is offering the workshop at “super-accessible pricing” and a sliding scale. Find more information on the workshop here.

“If you’re curious about my work—try the free outlining workshop,” Janelle suggests. Whether you’re interested in writing your own story or building a business helping others save their memories, Janelle has a unique approach worth checking out.

© Sarah White and Janelle Hardy

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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