Episode 36: Strategies for Clarity, Creativity, and Moving Through Struggles & Blocks for Authors and Leaders with Rachel Li

February 17, 2020

In this episode, breath work and meditation expert, Rachel Li, shares how authors and leaders can use different strategies and tools to get clarity, be creative, make the best decisions in their work and handle difficulties in their businesses.

Resources mentioned

Free Bestseller Title-Formula Checklist

3 Key Points

If you’re an author, you’re becoming a leader.

We need to be more self-aware and slow down to hear what we need and handle life better.

Stay open.


(:50) Ellen: Hi everybody, and welcome to episode 36 today my guest is Rachel Lee. Rachel integrates breath work and meditation into leadership development sessions to support leaders to live their best work lives.

([01:06]): She offers one-on-one meditation coaching to partner with leaders in creating a practice that matches their lifestyle. She’s a poet and author who writes about creativity, connection, and resilience, which I cannot wait to talk about. She speaks regularly on leadership, innovation, and learning. She brings more than twenty years of experience with meditation to her facilitation and coaching work and Rachel serves as an executive leader in the healthcare sector. So, welcome to the call, Rachel.

([01:35]) Rachel: Hi Ellen. Thanks for having me.

([01:38]) Ellen: I’m so excited to have you on because as I was saying before we got on this call, this is not a perspective that we’ve looked at at all yet on my podcast. And as much as I love working with authors and helping them write books and make them #1 bestsellers and teach them how to leverage it, when you get into leveraging, that’s where success is really a big issue. And why are some people successful and others aren’t, and how can they be more successful? So, that’s why on all the levels actually that I work at, I was really excited to talk to you because I think you could really help authors and business leaders. So, I want to start by just jumping into why did you start meditating? And tell us a little bit about your background.

([02:26]) Rachel: Yeah, well I started meditating when I was a teenager, and it was something that I was interested in exploring other religions. I was raised as a Christian and my father studied Divinity. I later went to divinity school as well. But the meditation practice just appealed to me as just like a different way to connect with spirituality. And the specific type of meditation that I started was using a Japa or it’s called a Mala, which is similar to rosary beads. And so, what you do is you say a mantra on each bead of the Mala. And so, I thought it was a really great way to just connect with spirit and have a break. You might say from your regular day, whether that would be go to school, go to work, like the hustle and bustle of of life. It’s a way to intentionally disconnect from that and connect with your spiritual identity.

([03:44]) Ellen: So, you said you were a teenager, so is that where, did you have anything you wanted to be before that or was that really the first thing that caught your attention?

([03:54]) Rachel: So as far as the meditation practice, it was really an exploration. And so, I’ve always been interested in different traditions, and rituals, and religions. And so later on I ended up studying religion in graduate school just to go deeper into various practices from around the world. And yeah, at the time I think I was in college and it was something that called to me and I answered the call.

([04:28]) Ellen: Yeah. That’s what college is great for that, especially if you don’t know what you want, it’s a great place to just start exploring a lot of different things to see what it is you like. As a matter of fact, that’s how I got my…what I wanted to study with just by looking at it and going, “What did I take the most in?” It’s like, “Oh, sociology and English.” And then, I just made that my major. So, why do you recommend meditation for leaders? How does that connect to leadership?

([04:58]) Rachel: Yeah. So, in particular, I think that leaders are under a tremendous amount of pressure, and the role of leaders or management within an organization, people are watching those people, and they are responsible for decision making, responsible for the way that money is spent within an organization. And so they’re really needing to be more in contact with the values of their organization. Also, their own self-awareness and values. And I think that meditation is a great practice to, again, disconnect from the hustle of the work environment and the tech technology that we’re all engaged with and just become more aware of the self and slow down. And then, it’s a place where you can make better decisions, have more clarity, and then, also, it’s great for energy management.

([06:05]) Ellen: So, what do you mean by helping people with their energy?

([06:09]) Rachel: Yeah, so I think based upon how we use our breath throughout the day, we have a certain amount of energy. So if you’re fully breathing, you have a lot more energy or prana in your body, in your system. And so, then if you’re breathing more deeply, you’re going to have more energy to carry out the various tests of the day. And so, some of the sessions I lead focus on breathing specifically and just deepening the breathing, becoming more aware, becoming more regulating your breathing.

([06:48]) Ellen: Okay. So how do you think authors can use meditation specifically?

([06:54]) Rachel: Yeah, so I love the idea of writing and meditation coming together, and I actually did a workshop last year on that topic. I think that meditation can be a really great way to get grounded and really get in touch with your creativity. And then, from that place, it’s kind of like, I see the writing, how I’ve used it is in between between the world of meditation, and then the regular world if it just the, the things that you have to do in life. And so, I’ve used writing to transition from that more meditative to like intentionally how do you want to be living in the world, living in your life. And that can be something you can use with poetry or it can be a more specific type of writing that you’re doing depending on your goals. But I think they just, they blend so well together.

([07:53]) Ellen: Can you use meditation for when you’re feeling blocked in your writing?

([07:58]) Rachel: Yeah, definitely. Because through the breath, you can change your breathing and that can change your whole outlook really. So definitely change your energy level. There’s some specific meditations that I do for creativity, and so I might recommend those to a writer.

([08:19]) Ellen: Is there anything you could share with us now that would help people?

([08:23]) Rachel: I think just taking the time to get in touch with your breath, whether it be just a few minutes. One of the breathing exercises that I teach is called “One-Minute Breath” and it’s intentionally that you inhale for twenty seconds, hold for twenty seconds and exhale for twenty seconds. And if twenty seconds isn’t available, you can switch that out for another number. Such as eight is a good starting place that’s a really simple way. Get in touch with your breath that you can do anywhere.

([08:59]) Ellen: That’s awesome. And what about procrastination? Can you use it for procrastination? I know there’s a lot of procrastination going around with the author.

([09:08]) Rachel: Yeah, that’s an interesting, I hadn’t thought about that. I think that how I recommend meditation or people if they want to have a practice is that they would have a regular practice at a certain time. The ideal time to be meditating is really before the sun rises. And I know a lot of authors like to get up early and write at that time too. So, I think if you partner those together, it’s more about making the time committing, and then just do it no matter what.

([09:41]) Ellen: So yeah, doing it no matter what, that’s always the hard part, no matter what it is, whether it’s meditation, exercise, drinking water, whatever it is, that’s always the uh the struggle I think. But for people who say they can’t meditate, what do you say to them?

([10:00]) Rachel: Yeah. So, I think that there’s some misconceptions about meditation that are common. One might be that you have to be seated and you have to be still. And there are walking meditations, there are different types of meditation for people who prefer not to be seated and still. There’s sometimes too people will think that you have to be quiet and there’s, you can use mantras or some chanting or music. So, there are ways around that as well. And sometimes you will think that you have to think of nothing. And that’s not necessarily the goal of all meditation. So, that’s another kind of, it can be a barrier for people if they, they believe meditation is that way. So, yeah. So, you don’t have to think of that thing. You don’t have to be seated. You don’t have to be still, and you don’t have to be quiet either. So if people don’t like those things, I say, there’s other types of meditation out there. You just have to explore.

([11:00]) Ellen: Okay. So, I’m trying to understand a walking meditation. So is it focusing on your breathing while you’re walking?

([11:08]) Rachel: Yeah, and breath doesn’t have to be the main focus of meditation either. So it could be, one of my favorite walking meditations, you’re repeating. “I am peace.” So, you’re focused on the steps of the mantra or of the walking, and so you’re walking and you’re saying, “I am peace”  along with, so there’s some great walking meditations.

([11:35]) Ellen: Oh nice. Okay. So, I wrote something down here, set a goal and now I don’t know why I was saying that to myself. Okay. So, how does writing fit into the work that you’re doing?

([11:50]) Rachel: Well, I often use writing when I’m doing a workshop or people. Mindfulness is very popular in the workplace now, and so people are interested in like mindfulness curriculum. The one thing that I’m doing in the workplace is pairing together journaling activities along with a guided meditation. And I find that very accessible for something that people could integrate into their work day and that businesses and corporations are interested in those types of activities being offered to their employees.

([12:22]) Ellen: So is it like journaling or something else?

([12:25]) Rachel: Yeah, it’s, yes, exactly. It’s like a reflective writing exercise. So, it could be about all sorts of topics. We have different prompts that we work with.

([12:36]) Ellen: That’s so interesting cause it’s just came upwith Jackie Ruka who I just interviewed before. And it’s also something that Julie Cameron talks about in The Artist’s Way, which is every morning writing three pages of basically journaling. And the thought behind that is to empty your mind out of all the garbage that’s in there so that you can get to the creativity. So, is that similar?

([13:07]) Rachel: Yeah, no, I think it can be similar depending on the, more on the meditation side. I think meditation, you know,  you kind of get what you put into it. But for me a large part is that reset, to reset the system on a daily basis. And so, I usually do the meditation first and then the writing. So, when you get to the writing, you’re having more of an experience of connecting with the authentic self or there’s that, yeah, more of that creative force, your own creative force.

([13:46]) Ellen: I actually meditate every morning before I do anything else. As soon as I open, well as soon as I realize I’m awake.

([13:55])Rachel:  Yeah.

([13:56]) Ellen: Then I start meditating, and then I journal. But for some people I’m thinking if they have trouble focusing, they might want to try journaling first before they meditate. What do you think of that?

([14:08]) Rachel: Yeah, I think, I think that can be great, and it can be a great way people want to set intentions going into their meditation cause if there’s something that’s bothering them or something like from yesterday that’s they’re thinking of or that sort of thing that they could ask for clarity around an issue or ask to move forward; let something go. That’s really common that people would use meditation for those purposes.

([14:38]) Ellen: You know, a lot of times I think I use meditation also, like when I’m looking for the right title for a project, I think there’s an aspect of meditation that is actually involved in it. I don’t think …I mean, I do it so automatically now that I haven’t really thought about it. But once I’ve done the research and I kind of let my brain soak up all the different things that I wanted to maybe incorporate, maybe it’s the words that I’m thinking of using the topics that I’m thinking about, how I’m positioning it. Once I’ve got all that information and I’m looking for a title that’s unique, that’s where I find it is like in that quiet, not by continuing to try to force something, you know?

([15:30]) Rachel: Yeah. I think you get some of your best clear thinking, best ideas, great decision-making just in the quiet.

([15:40]) Ellen: Yeah. But if that doesn’t work, then what I’ll do is I can also go the other way where I’ll just like do a brain dump where I’ll say, ”Okay, what are the words I could use? And then, I just start putting them together in different ways and doing puzzles. And sometimes again, I could do that and it still wasn’t working. Then,  I go back to meditation. So, meditation is a big part. I think of getting those gems that are going to make you unique or make your titles unique, make what you’re doing unique. Whenever I’m not clear about anything, whether I think, “Okay, well what bonuses should I use for this?” Or, “What should I call my new membership?” or whatever it is, I always, almost always, either go back to writing or meditation. So, those are like the two biggest tools for pretty much everything that I do once I’ve done the research. So,

([16:32]) Rachel: yeah.

([16:33]) So, we talked about creativity. We talked about connection. We didn’t talk about yet about resilience. So, how does meditation tie into resilience?

([16:44]) Rachel: Yeah, so I think in particular, most of my work is with leadership, and so there’s a need for leaders to come to the workplace and really be strong. They need to be strong for themselves, they need to be strong for their teams, and that’s emotionally strong as well as physically to some degree as well. So, for leaders having meditation or really a deep practice that they do, it could be writing as well as we mentioned, is something that helps build that ability to come walk into the challenges, walk into the surprises, walk into the disappointment that happens and be strong for themselves, and then be strong for their teams, because a lot of people are counting on you and there’s not really an off for a leader. Of course, we get go home and all of that, but the teams are always looking to you, looking to how you handle these difficulties and yeah, they need someone that’s going to be strong no matter what kind of changes or challenges or confrontations come.

([18:10]) Ellen: Right. And when I want to remind people is if you’re an author you’re becoming a leader, and that was one of the other reasons that I wanted to have Rachel on, because as you become an author and people look to you, you do take on that role whether you think you do or not. And the proof is in how people then start relating to you differently. You know, when people start telling you that you’re inspiring them when people start telling you that they’ve changed because of something you said or something you did or something, something you showed them. So as authors, we do become leaders. And so, as you become a leader, then you have to consider all the things that Rachel was just talking about that are expected of a leader or what people are looking to, to you as a leader and also how you start to feel that pressure of being a leader. Because it’s true.

One of the things that always freaked me out a little bit, actually, it’s when I’ll see there’s a meme that goes around and it says, “It can take twenty years to build your reputation and two minutes to ruin it.” That’s a lot of pressure; that is a lot of pressure. So, you don’t want to put in all that work and then do something that really damages your reputation or your career. So, that’s why this is an important topic to me. So, what challenges are you taking on in 2020?

([19:39]) Rachel: Oh yeah. Great. So in 2020, I am working on a book actually. So,

([19:44]) Ellen: YAY!

([19:45]) Rachel: So I’m really, and I’m embracing the identity of being a writer. I’ve written for a very long time, and I think sometimes you have to publish that book before you’re like, “Okay, now I can really call myself this.”

([20:00])Ellen:  Right?

([20:01]) Rachel: So, I’m writing a book, it’s a memoir about my life, and then it’s an introduction to meditation. So, I’m very excited to release it. It’s going to have a lot of great tools to help people, anyone really start a meditation practice and experiment with different practices. And beyond that, I’m expanding my speaking,and it’s great being on this podcast and really having more speaking opportunities as, to go along with the release of the book.

([20:34]) Ellen: Oh, that is awesome. And I just want to say one of the main things that I always tell everybody, so I’ll tell you, like I tell everybody is the most important thing is to do the research. Because when you go to publish your book, you’ve got to have the seven keywords, you got to have the two categories, and you’ve got to figure out how to position it so that people know when they go to find your book that it’s a book for them and that it’s really clear about what the book’s about and how it’s different from the other books. Because again, that’s how people decide to take your book over the other book. So if it doesn’t stand out from the other books, if they can’t see how it’s different, if they can’t see how it’s unique, and if they can’t see how it’s the right book for them, they’re not going to get your book. So, that’s what I always say.

Note: I give the steps to doing this in my free Bestseller Title-Formula Checklist, which you can get at www.booktitlesecrets.com

So before we go, there’s a couple of things I want to ask you. One is you talked about identifying as an author. That is a really interesting concept to me because I never went through that. So, what do you mean when you say you had to identify as a writer? Like what was the difference between being a writer, and then having tried to identify as it.

([21:41]) Rachel: Yeah, I think it’s about capability and really, yeah, owning what you’re capable of. In graduate school, I did publish a research thesis that was a very comprehensive piece of writing, and I think that kind of gives a shock to the system because of what’s required for that type of writing. And I remember saying at the time, I said to my boyfriend at the time, I said, “If I ever tell you that I want to be at a writer, you’re going to have to kill me.” I think I said, I said that because it was so intense and it was so much energy and research, all of that.

But I don’t know, maybe it’s like an addiction because shortly after grad school I started this book that I’ve been working on for several years and I, it was more like I figured out how it was going to come into completion, and it took a long time for me to figure that out because it is a really personal piece of work. Yeah, I think it’s just the capability, like knowing that you can do it, knowing that it’s part of your identity, and like owning it as your identity. And so, I think I’ve really decided that that’s who I am, and I’m becoming a lot more comfortable with putting things out there.

([23:02]) Ellen: Oh, that’s awesome. So before we go, do you have any final tips for listeners on meditation, writing? Anything you’d like to share before we go?

([23:13]) Rachel: Sure. I think really getting in touch with your own style and your own voice and connecting with that, it’s going to be the best, have the best outcome. I think what type of meditation or what type of writing or all that is, you have to find what is working for you, whether that be poetry or newspaper writing or journaling. And just with the meditation, you might want to use a mantra or you might want to focus on your breathing. So, I think exploring is ideal and just stay open.

([23:52]) Ellen: Well that’s great. Thank you so much.

([23:54]) Rachel: Thank you.

([23:55]) Ellen: Oh, you’re welcome. That’s it for today. To get the transcripts, go to www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast and if you’re interested in becoming a number one bestselling author, be sure to pick up a copy of my free Book-Writing Blueprint, How to Create a Fast and Easy Roadmap to Success. That’s the first step and that is also at www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast to continue the conversation, I hope you’ll join us in our private Facebook group. That’s at facebook.com/groups/booksbusinessabundance. That’s where you can ask questions, don’t deeper into podcast topics and share comments and takeaways and we’re also doing book giveaways once in a while and I’m open to any other suggestions or anything else you’d like to see in there. So, that’s it. Till next time, Bye-bye.


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About the Author

Ellen Violette

Ellen is an 3X award-winning book, including being named one of the Top 20 Book Coaches of 2022 by Coach Foundation. She's also a multiple #1 bestselling author, a 3-time eLit award winner, podcast host, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. She has been helping entrepreneurs increase their credibility and expert status, become #1 bestselling authors, and make a bigger impact in the world since 2004. Her mission is to make the world a better place one author and one book at a time!



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