I met Hollister virtually when she was introduced to the Euphrates Institute community one day as the Communications and Community Engagement professional. To share a little bit about the Euphrates Institute, it is a not for profit organization based in the United States and a global network that I have been a part of since September 2016.
I remember admiring Hollister on that first introductory call because there was something very energetic about her personality, something almost infectious. She could light up the room with a smile and there was an element of personal presence that she would bring into her work while facilitating the community engagement calls that was unique and characteristic of her. It was evident that she knew how relational engagement works and knows just how to make anyone feel comfortable and cared for. If someone would have told me then that she is the mother of three and juggles as much as I learnt that she does in a day while still cultivating such presence in her work, I would have probably found it difficult to believe then. Beautiful in a strong athletic and deeply sensitive way, Hollister knows self-care alright. As she herself says,
"My physical constitution hasn't changed much even after being the vessel for three sweet beings. I have more lines and freckles to remind me how much I've laughed and enjoyed the sunlight. If you are able to look deep, I'm sure you might tell me that I've been the same all along, but just emerging gently into someone who is both indomitable and vulnerable, serious and facetious, cautious and hopeful."
In her own words, Hollister beautifully sums up her own self-image in the most poetic way. I could tell from her words, here is a woman who has deeply loved herself and her life.
As a young woman who is yet to step into the role of having a family of my own, women like Hollister make me hopeful that life could be lived so energetically and meaningfully if one could pool in the right amount of faith, planning, self-care and investment in relationships even when responsibilities threaten to overwhelm you as the one who started the family and are responsible for managing and attending to the same. In an interesting email interview where I reached out to her to learn more about her life, she engaged most authentically, bringing in her reflections and memories in an artfully visual narrative. Without any further delay, let us look deeper into this incredible multitasker's life through her own words.
Hollister: "After college, I met new ideas and new people with new ideas. In pursuit of that age-old quest to know who I am and why I'm here, I found myself diving into new spiritual resources, being open to new views of divine goodness. Cut to 2012 when my husband and I decided to hit the road with our three young children and find a new adventure and home for our family. We adopted the mantra "leap and the net will appear". This meant putting almost everything in storage, packing the minivan until it burst and being open to any adventure and opportunity we were certain to find. The first decade of marriage had been all about careful planning, saving and routine. This safe place let us unsatisfied and uncertain and out of sorts with our personal sense of purpose and identity. We had incrementally made changes that were already different from the mainstream American lifestyle - unschooling, home-birthing vegetarians :) We were now ready to take things to the next level and really trust the wind to direct our sails. This wasn't necessarily easy for the five of us, but my heartfelt free and my soul felt fed."
I personally found the idea of hitting the road and trusting providence for supporting the family incredibly interesting. I can scarcely imagine the thrill of taking such a step and what level of faith could possibly be needed to support such a decision. Hailing from a culture where our subconscious conditioning orients us to attempt to control everything, this experience that Hollister narrated drew me into her story even more. I wondered how the adventure must have unfolded for her, what lessons she could have derived from the same.
Hollister: "Over the next year, there were often tears and moments of pure panic, but day by day, step by step, I felt assured that we were being guided, provided for and loved. When I look back at that year, I know it reinforced this inherent trust in goodness and provision and love being the laws of God's universe. And this has shaped how alongside setbacks and arduous challenges, I have moved through the world ever since."
I was intrigued at this point about the way faith could have possibly supported her decisions and perspectives through life. Hollister had the perfect explanation. I don't think I could have put it any better.
Hollister: " The very experience of having faith to help guide and grow me since infancy has been a blessing. It has allowed me to trust in something outside of/within me that is greater than ego, brain and body. My faith practice taught me that I was an unlimited child of God. I was taught that I lived and moved and had my whole being within an omnipotent Love that held me, healed me, and guided me. Talk about learning to live life with an unobstructed view of the limitless possibilities for all mankind!??! At the same time, this faith tradition was associated with a religion that has structures and bricks and mortar and culture that haven't always been in step or matched with my evolution of thought and perspectives. I can easily get bogged down in the limitations of a human organization with significant shortcomings and frustrating contradictions, but when I return to my practice of what I've learned through sacred text, personal reflection, and shared insights from incredible individuals, I feel at peace. "
Hollister's experience of faith seems beautifully instinctive while also having an element of conscious practise. I could understand the source of her sense of cultivating presence that I had observed and experienced on the first call. She is deeply self-aware and consciously engages with life as a matter of spiritual practice. I was already taking notes. Soon the conversation moved on to roles that this brilliant multitasker had to juggle. This is the part that personally scares me the most. You can say, I was on the edge of my seat, hanging on to every word as I read through the email.
Hollister: "I find that when I am true to who I am as a human being, following my intuition and innate sense of purpose, all the roles I play - daughter, sister, wife, mother, leader, co-worker, carpool driver, teacher, friend - are symphonic. I would not profess that this is how my life actually feels most days. There are many moments that feel imbalanced and often chaotic due to the challenges of having my 3 homeschooled children in my presence each and every day while maintaining a full time, a work-from-home job with a partner who travels more than 100 days of the year. I'd be lying if I said the roles of wife, mother, and professional don't feel like they clash frequently. In fact, I've been interrupted 3 times while responding to this question. But truthfully, at this deep cellular level, I know everything is in harmony and unfolding just as it should in every moment. I remind myself not to argue with the reality of the present moment I'm in right now. If I'm really paying attention, the conflict I feel is when I'm arguing with reality - wanting things to be different than they are. Sometimes I'm going to be late, the kids are going to eat take out, I won't get a shower in and the 58 emails in my inbox will remain unread and unanswered. I take lots of deep breaths and sometimes a long walk to hit the reset button. I've been keen to adopt almost daily spiritual practices that ground me - journaling, long walks, yoga and waking up early for quiet contemplative mornings before everyone else is awake."
I cannot say that I can reasonably imagine the amount of work and concerns that Hollister handles in her regular day. But I do know how growing in self-awareness is a product of practising the art of reflection and taking the time to understand the needs of the self through all the activities. Hollister beautifully outlined her practices to acknowledge how getting overwhelmed is only normal for someone who has to take on so many roles.
My next prompt was about connecting with other women. Speaking for myself, I find it very interesting to learn from other women how connecting with each other serves them individually. Hollister shared her memories from the time when she was in her early twenties.
Hollister:"Deep intimate connections to inspiring women have become increasingly important over the years. In my mid-twenties I worked as an administrator for a publisher. I was the headquarter's support staff for a group of field sales managers who happened to all be women and my manager and senior manager were both women as well. It was a deeply spiritual and dynamic group of women with a wide range of personalities and ages. They all became mentors to me and I remain in touch with most of them to this day. There was so much shared wisdom and powerful love in this group. Looking back I see how they help shift tried thought models that I was clingy too and shaped me into who I am today. From these women, I learned (and am still learning) that there is no one right path. We are all striving and growing just as we should. We need to bolster one another during challenging times and celebrate with unabashed joy in our successes. I used to think this is what my marriage was for and I didn't need to go outside of it for support. Being introduced to this group as a young bride helped me understand that intimate connections outside of my marriage were not only possible but necessary to the health of my partnership and my personhood. "
I found much wisdom in the wisdom that intimate connections outside of marriage are necessary to sustain a healthy partnership. As an outgoing woman myself, this is definitely a point I am going to reflect more deeply on. Our email sharing had by now come to a close. Hollister was ready to engage with the last prompt asking her to reflect on her own leadership style.
Hollister: " When I'm feeling healthy, confident and balanced, I would say my leadership leans in the direction of servant leadership. A servant leader moves with deep integrity, compassionate collaboration, and mindful communication. Empathic listening is the cornerstone of this leadership. A servant leader asks, "am I listening with deep engagement and free of judgement? Am I providing a space for individuals to grow into their innate greatness without being coerced or modelled into my best version of who I think they should be?
I strive to embody this model in my parenting and professional life. It is so easy for me to fall out of balance and find myself in a more autocratic and task-oriented approach. This usually happens when the to-do list feels insurmountable and I haven't taken enough time to for rest and contemplation. I can spot it very quickly and then know I have the opportunity to move into a more gentle, compassionate space that taps into a greater sense of balance and harmonious activity for all of us."