Carina Jean Lyall built her life around one belief: “You belong here, exactly as you are.” And it’s this same belief that drives her work as a women’s story worker, writer and meditation teacher. Her passion: serving women and letting us know our stories matter and are needed.
Carina was raised on a reserve in Northern Canada and worked as a civilian with the American and British armies in Bosnia and Kosovo from 2001 to 2003. It was here that she discovered a personal need — and her gift — to help others. Through the experience, she says, “I’ve learned a lot about my limits and what can happen when my mind is pushed to the limit.” So read on to find out why Carina thinks are imperfections actually connect us and why we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on ‘fitting in.’
You must have a deep trust in yourself and caring support around you.
How did you discover your current job?
Because I have my own business, it wasn’t as much about ‘discovering’ my job as it was about this opportunity being created and molded by many experiences and trainings. I’m fortunate in that my job is defined by me and what interests me at the moment.
My main goal is to instill a sense of belonging in the world. Since I was a kid, this idea has meant something to me. Whenever I met someone who didn’t feel worthy, it really pained me.
During a trip to Bosnia and Kosovo, I began to feel a tug in the direction to help others. As a woman, this had its challenges. But the aftermath of this experience was anxiety and deep stress. This led me to writing and meditation. After my return, much of my healing came from tuning into myself, seeing my options and exchanging the thick wall of protection I built up for one of self-compassion. And during this transformational journey, I met with all sorts of profound women around me.
What does your work entail?
I work with women one-on-one and dive into how the story they are telling affects their lives. In our sessions together we talk about how much of themselves they give to the past and about what is holding an individual back from living freely. Self-compassion is a root of healing, forgiveness and kindness.
I also lead women’s circles to bring together another element of connection. I love seeing what happens when we, as women, gather together in that way. The resistance, the care, the love, the dislike – every flavor of emotion rises. Creating a safe and supportive circle allows each woman to see where she really belongs and the opportunity to learn from one another. I wish every woman would have a support group of other women in her life.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
To be truthful, I’ve always had a hard time working for someone. If you were to call any boss I’ve worked with, I’m sure they’d agree. I asked a lot of questions, talked too much at staff meetings and would never accept “Well, because … ” as an answer. (My mom would agree with this, too!)
It was hard for me to just accept bureaucracy and accept that a 500+ employee company didn’t want to even consider the bright and efficient changes I came up with. I’m someone who flourishes with freedom and the responsibility that comes from doing what I want. As my own boss, I can only blame myself for mistakes made, but I also can celebrate my successes with the people I love; both privately and professionally.
I have two young children, and I love being there when they need me. An elderly woman once told me I was meant to shine alone. I didn’t fully understand what she meant until I launched my first website and discovered that feeling myself.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
My 1-year-old — ha! Other than that, it’s mostly the thought of time. I’d love to have more time to keep up with the ideas I have. My mom calls me a walking brainstorm.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Working from home sort of washes away that line between work and family life. But, it’s all life, and each side with always affect the other. Working from home, I do face the challenge of willing up discipline to work, especially when I could be cleaning. It’s an art of prioritization.
In the beginning of my career change, it was especially hard to let go of work when my kids came home. I love what I do so much that the urge to work is driven by a deep passion and excitement. This year, I took a holiday where I spent three weeks offline. That definitely helped me create a balance in my system. My meditation and dance practice also helps me tune-in and relieve stress. I try to commit to practicing in the morning before I turn on my computer. Starting the day fully in the present sets a good stage.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
When I started my podcast show, “The Self-Compassionate Woman” I was very proud. It’s my belief that stories are what people remember, and I know sharing stories also can change people’s lives. They connect us, and it was that connection I wanted to enhance when I began my podcast. On the show I interview women from all over the world. They share their stories, struggles and work that have changed the lives of those they’ve touched. I also share my own thoughts and stories throughout the interviews. When I started the podcast I wanted it to have a sense of humor and be light-hearted in tone. It must be working, because downloads are increasing every day, and the feedback of how this is connecting women globally moves me daily.
What are some of the rules you live by?
I simply don’t like too many rules. When life happens, and rules slip, it feels like too much pressure and disappointment.
That said, I do believe in honesty, and I do my best to be honest and true to myself and those around me. I also always listen to my gut feeling. I don’t always act on it, but I do find it always seems to be right!
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
It requires the ability to listen inwardly, see opportunities where others may not and courage. You must have a deep trust in yourself and caring support around you.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Don’t take it personally!
I feel like everywhere we’re trying to fit in. We mold and fold ourselves to feel worthy of being here and work hard to find the reasons and qualities that grant us permission to be in a certain group. Instead, I think we need to look at what we already bring to the table. Seeing why we belong here exactly as we are allows us to ask the question, “What do I really need?” from within. Going out into the world with the sense of belonging can bring us where we want with greater happiness. I believe that it’s important and I’m humbled to be able to support women in unfolding their stories and brilliance through my work.