Answering a Calling: The Heal My Voice Story
Answering a Calling:
The Heal My Voice Story
By Andrea Hylen
God does not call the qualified. God qualifies the called.
~Michael Bernard Beckwith
The bridge across the highway was trembling from cars driving by as I walked on the sidewalk towards Toluca Lake, CA. The sun was warm and shining on this December afternoon as I daydreamed with God. The Forty-four (44) BlogTalk radio shows I was hosting on grief transformation were in process; 44 shows in 45 days over the holidays of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and ending with Epiphany. With each show, I felt my voice growing stronger as I talked about a journey with grief, sharing feelings and tools for healing the loss of a brother, a son, a husband, a home, a job, and a life threatening illness. While celebrations of joy and laughter were happening in many households over the holidays, I was holding a space for loss and grief.
Lately, my afternoon walk and conversations with God had been about the radio shows. My flip chart of 44 days was now full and the shows were in flow. Today I had other questions for God. I had been living in California for eleven months. I loved it and at the same time I was frustrated. I was still waiting for a message with a higher purpose. Why had I experienced the calling to leave my community in Baltimore? Why am I here? How am I to serve? What can I do to make money and support my daughter, Hannah, and me? What is the next step after this immersion in writing and speaking about grief?
I heard the whisper of words in the background of my mind. I might have brushed them away as a thought passing through except for one thing. I could feel my heart beat faster, my lungs suddenly filled with air and tears filled my eyes. The words, “Heal My Voice,” were more than a whisper. They were filling me with emotion. Heal My Voice was mixed with the unheard voices of women. I could feel the power of their voices; their ideas, thoughts, dreams and feelings that had been stuffed down by trauma, loss, grief, diminishment, abandonment, and feelings of less than, and “too muchness.” Heal My Voice was calling me to create something; a program, a business that could serve the voices of women. To heal, reclaim power and step into greater leadership in their lives at the dinner table, the community and in the world.
I can still feel the power of that moment. It is almost 6 years later and I still get teary, my heart beating faster with chills running up and down my body when I hear the words, “Heal My Voice.” We now have ten completed books with 200 stories in Heal My Voice, a non-profit tax exempt organization that has served the everyday, extraordinary, entrepreneurial woman; Two books from Heal My Voice Sweden with forty stories written in Swedish in programs led by Marie Ek Lipanovska. There have been two additional programs: a letter-writing program between women who reside in prison and women who reside in the free world and a writing circle for women in a residential addiction recovery program.
When “Heal My Voice” appeared I had undergone a “life preparation.” All had been the foundation that would prepare me for holding a space of energy and words of compassion and understanding as each woman wrote her story.
I wrote this blog in January 2010 after leaving Maryland:
Finally on the road and headed to Columbus, Ohio for the first night’s sleep, Five years ago, Hurley, my husband was dying from cancer. Everything in our lives stopped. He died nine months later. For the last five years I have been releasing material possessions, businesses, a house and the dreams we had together.
As I drove away from Baltimore today, it was hard to believe that we were finally on our way to California. A year of talking and planning with my 17 year old daughter, Hannah, and now here it is. It is hard to connect with the realness, the significance of this moment. It feels surreal.
This morning I told myself, drive, just drive. This is the spiritual practice of the week. Drive. Observe nature, the bumper stickers and vanity license plates. Let the feelings wash over you and drive. No thinking or figuring anything out. Let the last five years and all of the moments it took to get here, just BE. Let everything settle. Listen to your heart. This is the first day of a new chapter.
Hello World! I AM Andrea.
I arrived in California five days later with the expectancy that the answers would be there. After all, I had prepared for years, right? My husband died in 2005. Now it was Jan 2010. I spent two years of time clearing out my husband’s business. Another year of clearing out the basement of our house and his unfinished projects. I had grieved. Quietly. Silently. Loudly. I had done the deep, personal growth work. Found my way through the maze of grief. And now, arriving in California, wouldn’t God have a message for me? A note by the side of the bed? A voice mail? Something that showed me the next step to take in creating a new life? A job? An apt? A community?
After a week of not knowing what was next, the message did come. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. I heard God say: Release more.
What? God, are you crazy? What else do I have to release? I sold my house. Sold or gave away most of my belongings. Moved away from my community. Let go of all of the roles I felt gave me value. RELEASE MORE? What more do I have to release?
Then, I heard it. Release all the voices of the people I cared about the most. Release them from my mind. Release the “shoulds” and the “coulds.” Release their expectations. Stop playing their voices in my head every time I take a step. Stop listening for their approval, and the ideas of what a life should look like for a woman who was 53 years old. Follow a new path. Empty myself. Look for the signs along the way. Listen to my own voice. Say yes.
And that is what I did. I started with baby steps. One day I heard go for a walk. Fifteen minutes later… Now, go back to the hotel, get your computer and go to the coffee shop. I started to write a blog and there was a “ding” from the computer as an email from James Twyman arrived about “The Next Top Spiritual Author” contest. I signed up and began a 3-month journey of writing, exploring video, asking for votes on Facebook. Structure. Focused intention. Learning.
That was the beginning. It took me 10 months to really hear my voice without also hearing the voice of my father, mother, sister, brother or friends. It took me 10 months to feel clear enough to hear new ideas and messages without thinking about how my choices would affect or hurt a family member.
During the 10 months, I let go of weekly phone calls with my sister. I let go of the daily safety net of friends. I learned to live without all of the identities that gave me “value.” Girl Scout Leader. Homeschooling Mom. Maryland Resident. Wife of Hurley. Mother of Cooper. In my new location, I was just a woman sitting in the corner of the coffee shop writing every morning. No one saw “my value, my wisdom” just by looking at me.
For someone who had longed for community all her life and finally found a “home” in Baltimore, the idea of spending so much time alone was torture at times. Standing by the ocean in California with no family, no friends, no community when at the center of my being, connection with people was the most important part of my life. It didn’t seem
logical at the time. Now I know why I needed to do it.
Looking back, I can’t imagine leading Heal My Voice without that time alone. I cultivated trust in myself and in God. I cultivated trust in my intuition and the inner guidance that comes from sitting in stillness, crying on my knees at the beach, shaking my fists at the sky and yelling at God. There is a rich, fertile field that I can access now.
Another moment in April 2011. I had been asking God to show me the group of women I would connect with to launch the first Heal My Voice program. I was walking home from Priscilla’s, my morning coffee shop writing location. I received the “download” of inspired action. Go to the Awesome Women Hub Event in Baltimore. Post on Facebook. Reach out to your community. Get support and go. Now!
I quickened my walking pace to get back to the apartment. Within 24 hours, I had received donations in the form of a free flight, a ticket to the event, a place to stay, a fundraising event idea and a bottle of Abundance Shampoo. I had stayed connected with people on Facebook. I had grown connections during that 10 months: celebrated women, and shared deep feelings. I said yes to supporting the Awesome Women Hub event in California. I had been laying a foundation that was ready to receive me. When it was time to reconnect with the world again, I needed help and support. There would be no Heal My Voice, if I hadn’t had a community of supporters. The program price for that first year was $100 per person. Weekly phone calls, individual coaching, writing and editing support, radio shows and social media. Some of the women became sponsors for the book with larger donations or media coverage. It was the friends who believed in me, used frequent flyer miles to fly me back to Baltimore, who picked me up at the airport, gave me shelter
and food, drove me to networking meetings, encouraged me when I got emotionally whacked by, believe it or not, women who criticized me. I needed help. The community of support from the believers helped me to practice listening within and take inspired action.
I have learned to wait and listen and understand that everything has it’s own timing. This is the 6th Book Project in 3 years. Each book has required more excavation of me. I have healed a part of my own life story in each project. I have reclaimed more of my essence and cultivated my own personal power one step ahead of the women I lead.
It is now August 2014. A few months ago, I received another piece of guidance. Put my personal belongings back into the 10 x 10 storage unit in California. Pack a suitcase and a backpack and live on the road for a year. This time it is with deeper intention to connect with women and communities around the world. To have conversations, listen to their voices, follow the guidance from within and discover what is next for me and for Heal My Voice.
After 3 months of living on the road in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Baltimore, and New York City, I am now in Malmo, Sweden with Marie Ek Lipanovska, the founder of Heal My Voice Sweden and with the women who have written stories in Swedish. At an Open House last week, one of the women entered the room with her newborn baby and husband. The community gathered around her in celebration of this new life, a new voice. As she was leaving, she thanked me for following this vision. She invited me to look around and see the women and see what is being created by women joining in community and sharing their vulnerable, powerful voices with each other and through their stories in each book.
As I finished writing this story in Sweden, I received an email from the Facebook App, “A Message from God”:
Today, Andrea, we believe God wants you to know that …nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be. You keep wanting to know how things will play out, keep asking to see the future. God doesn’t give anyone the power to know the future because life becomes maddeningly boring when you know everything upfront. So, instead of struggling, enjoy the uncertainty. To be alive means to not know.
We all receive intuitive information every day. Our body gives us clues about the amount of exercise, rest, touch, and food it needs for nourishment. Our soul gives us clues about what it wants for growth. Moment by moment we say yes or no. We use the information or we don’t.
Then there is the deeper calling. The one that calls for you to surrender to life, to follow the inspiration step by step, to let go and release your comfort zone, to crack open something new in you so that a fuller expression can emerge. It will require a deeper level of commitment to grow and a radical amount of self-love.
Take a moment now. What is the story you are ready to write?
Shhhh…listen…it is calling you from within. Pick up the pen, the notebook, or the computer and start writing.
Your Voice Matters.
Andrea Hylen believes in the power of a woman’s voice to usher in a new world. She is the founder of Heal My Voice, a Minister of Spiritual Peacemaking, a Writing and Transition Coach and Orgasmic Meditation teacher. Andrea has discovered her unique gifts while parenting three daughters and learning to live life fully after the deaths of her brother, son and husband. She is currently living out of a suitcase following her intuition as she collaborates with women and men in organizations and travels around the world speaking, teaching and leading workshops. Her passion is authentically living life and supporting others in doing the same. To connect with Andrea and learn about current projects go to: www.andreahylen.com and www.healmyvoice.org.
Current ways to work with Andrea:
Conference Special $1995
Carving the Next Path: 3 month program November 2016
Conference Special $350
30 days of writing: Begins January 1, 2017
Conference special 3 sessions for $375.