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Does “having it all” piss you off?


Do you get as irritated as I do when you hear the phrase “having it all”?
I have met that woman.
I have been that woman.
Madly dashing around, trying to look good, feel good, do good, be good.
There is nothing more exhausting, really.
Even thinking about “having it all” makes me want to take a nap.
And yet, aren’t there those confusing times where it seems that you have simply bottomless energy, and you are living your passion?
Many women say it’s usually after a great piece of ass.
Or a night of karaoke.
Or a rock concert.
Not many women say that being a wife and mom feels that way.
How do we bring ecstasy into our reality?
And bust open the narcolepsy-inducing myth of “having it all” with something bigger, something better, something less constricting, more practical, more ephemeral, more eternal?
Buckle up for the story of Sister Goddess Nell…

Before Mastery, I was living with my amazing husband and two gorgeous, brilliant kids (ages one and three) in a beautiful Brooklyn apartment, complete with a roof deck. People considered me a “rock star” in my career as a social entrepreneur and educational innovator, and I had just been featured on the Today Show. On top of that, New York University had just paid me to get a PhD. I had the kind of life that most women envy…

Despite all my accomplishments, I still felt trapped in a hellish situation where nothing was ever good enough. I exercised in the spirit of punishment for the body I hated and all I did was take care of other people, seek external approval, and blame my husband for everything. The most basic self-care, even just taking a shower and applying lotion, was an extremely rare luxury—far too self-indulgent and unproductive. A shower was something I had to earn by having a workout first (I do the very intense 90-minute yoga in a 110-degree room). I would go to Rite Aid and buy 25 different baby and toddler products and completely forget that I needed tampons. It was way more important for my kids to have that fun, new sippy cup or sparkly pacifier than prevent myself from ruining another pair of underwear.  

I had no idea what I really wanted from my life—I just knew it looked good from the outside and was convinced I needed to turn off my heart and all my feelings in order to keep functioning at a high level. I worked for everyone else, running on a lot of coffee, emotional eating, and little sleep. I still remember when my yoga teacher and friend suggested I check out Mama Gena’s first book. I picked up a copy and saw that one of the assignments was to write a Desire List, and all I could think was: “wearing sweat pants.” When that same friend told me she was going to Miami for the weekend and leaving her two-year-old with her dad, I was shocked appalled and thought to myself, “She’s not allowed to do that!!” 

I was at the end of my rope, starting to hate my life, and needed an escape. My career defined me and I got most of my fulfillment from the “high” of overworking. I had reached a point where I would put my kids to bed, go into my little home office, and cry and cry. Another yoga friend of mine happened to work at The Palace. She seemed to really understand what I was experiencing and what I needed—we must have talked on the phone about three times a day for a week straight. I will never forget when she came over to my house one night with a giant bunch of fragrant white lilies. We sat there together as I cried, and I finally decided to sign up for Mastery.

In my passive-aggressive, angry, rage-filled, victimy way, I showed up twenty minutes late on the first day of class. After about five minutes, I tried to run out of the room out of guilt for not spending “quality” time with my kids on a Saturday and Sunday. Being away from them seemed criminal to me. Little did I know that Mastery would save my life…. Weekend Two was hands-down the most pivotal time for me. It was the first moment I witnessed what it meant to really honor a woman’s dark side and emotions – shame, grief, self-hatred, rage. I had my share of those, coming from a toxic and abusive alcoholic family where my older brother committed suicide when I was 15, followed by my mother, who jumped out of a third story window when I was 26. Mastery helped me to find a way to honor these feelings and let them live side-by-side with me, instead of running away or burying them. I made friends with my rage, grief, shame, and self-hatred, and now they no longer have power over me; they are a source of power for me, and I’m using that energy in my work to make the world a better place for hundreds of teens. I’m able to talk about what happened with authenticity, instead of using them as “victim” stories to get someone else to “rescue me.”

Another way Mastery has changed my life is that I have connected so deeply with other women, which has changed all of my relationships. They are no longer about gossip, judgment, complaining, or trying to fix each other. The relationships I’ve formed in this community create space for the most outrageous honesty, trust, compassion and love.  Mastery was also the first time in about 30 years that I felt I was brimming over with ridiculous, silly, happy energy. It was like a power-surge of joy, and I vowed never to lose that again.

By far, Mastery has been the most profoundly positive experience of my life. What a sweet relief to finally stop working myself to death and running from myself. I did a complete 180 – I found myself, embraced all facets of myself, discovered my desires and feelings, and got onto a path of real self-love and self-care, with a group of 200+ amazing other women I could turn to for support, and an army of expert guest speakers who opened my mind to new ways to think about topics like my career, money, men, love, fashion, sensuality, orgasms, and the history of women for the past 3,000 years.

After Mastery, I stood up to bosses who were bullying me, I stopped trying to manage my family in masculine, controlling ways, and I started to relax enough to sometimes let my husband take over or allow things to just be messy and imperfect. I now make choices in a completely different way; I no longer put others first, seeking external approval before all else, and build ‘rescue me’ relationships where I’m trying to be fixed or fix others. I now have a direct line of communication to my desires/instincts/heart and I put these first before everything else. I have confirmed through experience that my desires don’t always make logical sense and are often inconvenient or create friction with others – but they are the most important thing guiding my life, and I know now that the impracticality and friction are usually a sign that I’m on exactly the right track.

I now follow my desires as if my life depended on it – whether it’s going for a pedicure, a rendezvous with my husband, or signing up for a class to learn gardening. I’m not only an educator, but also an artist, and at one point I rented a studio and just painted for six months. I ended up having a big show and selling four paintings for $2,000 each! More recently, I’ve been planning a trip to Italy and reserved the house a full year in advance so that I could really savor the anticipation and my kids and I could learn Italian together. I’m inviting everyone I know because I want to have an “epic dinner party” on the top of a mountain at sunset—why not? In fact, I just invited an old friend who turns out to be a James Beard-winning chef! I am living my life with passion no matter what.

The old Nell would describe my life after Mastery as a huge success because I have a one-in-a-million prestigious job as VP of Education at one of New York’s top cultural institutions three days a week, while I spend the other two designing a revolutionary nonprofit. This new organization is a product design business run by at-risk teens so they learn and earn money at the same time. But I do this work out of joy and pleasure, not obligation or trying to seek approval or impress. After taking my power back around money, my finances have tripled. My husband has designed and built my dream house that we will move into in a month, and my fabulous kids are doing extremely well at a fantastic school.

But the real reason why my life is an outrageous brag is because of the way I love and value myself, and prioritize my self-care above everything else. I appreciate my husband so much more, and we deal with challenges as a team, instead of my attacking him. One of the juiciest parts of my life is simply that it is filled with gratitude and acknowledgement of all the amazing people I get to share it with and things I get to do. The littlest things like walking in the park or going to the farmers’ market or making art with my kids rock my world because I am able to appreciate them, now that I have stopped beating myself up all the time. All this self-love makes me a much more fun Mommy, wife, and friend.

Mastery is worth more than a Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD, plus a trip to Canyon Ranch combined! (I know because I’ve done them all!) It’s a leap of faith for sure because it’s impossible to explain, but it says a lot when you hear thousands of women from all walks of life share that this is one of the most valuable things in their lives. When I look around me, it’s almost too much to handle. Before Mastery, I was overwhelmed with serving everyone else but myself. Now I’m overwhelmed by all the joy and goodness in my life. I’m surrounded by the most lovely, generous, fascinating people and experiences, because that’s what I create now. 

Sister Goddess Nell

As you can see, “having it all” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The real work of woman is to dismantle that picture-perfect version of the life she’s been taught to want, and begin to both create and be re-created by each and every one of her unique desires. Is there anyone else out there who’s irritated by the idea of having it all? Or—and I bow before you—is there anyone out there who feels like they really do have it all? What does Nell’s story inspire you to reach for? Tell me in the comments below…

Mastery is designed to recalibrate you to your own truth, to the one-of-a-kind adventure percolating inside you that’s waiting to be lived. I would be honored to have you join us. It’s going to be unparalleled. Call the Palace at 212-787-2411 x1 to grab your spot, or click here to enroll online. And if you’d like to encourage another woman to forget about “having it all” and go for having the adventure of a lifetime, please share this post.

Counting down to Saturday…

With so much love and pleasure,
Mama Gena

P.S. The Mastery train is leaving the station—if you’ve still got questions about the program, our course graduates are lined up to give you one-on-one attention. Call us at 212-787-2411 x1 or click here to talk to a grad.

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26 Comments / Leave a Comment

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  • S.G. little jo March 18, 2013, 4:48 pm

    To do the Mastery is on the pole position of my wishing list (and the next one would be just perfect), I want to experience ‘the real stuff’ live with S.G.’s galore and Mama around and not the on-line bootcamp because I’m living in Europe… so I’ve got an idea: would it be possible for a S.G. to offer me a shelter* in NYC during the Mastery session and in exchange she could discover the magical Avalon for a month and a half any time she wants once I’m /we’re graduated?

    * Spartan accomodation don’t frighten me 😉

  • Dara Cole March 15, 2013, 8:53 am

    Thank you for the honorable mention. I remember that first day well. You’ve come a long way baby now paving the way for ecstasy for others. I love you so much.

  • Michelle March 13, 2013, 9:31 am

    Hello Sister Goddesses,
    I’m so thankful that I was told about this fabulous community. Though I’m still in my mid-20s I see that my life is starting to fall into the routine of womanhood. Putting other’s first. Worried about their approval for what I’m doing. Over extending myself. Needing to earn a shower (or maybe that’s just the camper/camp counselor in me) lol I know this isn’t how I want to live my life in the long run. Thanks to Mama Gena I’m asking myself what do I desire? The answer was easy- salsa dancing!….but my boyfriend hates dancing….what’s a girl to do?…. that’s to be determined. All I know is that when I go salsa dancing I GLOW. I’m going to keep tapping into that. Also, I’ll make sure I’m not going after external goals so ” I can have it all” but so I can truly enjoy the process.

  • SG Jane March 12, 2013, 7:16 pm

    Such delight to read your fantastic story, SG Nell. I am so honored to have gone through the experience of Mastery with you and share in your more recent happiness and success. Thank you for the inspiration that you are!

    Yes, Mastery has profoundly changed my life as well -delight in my womanhood, my marriage, my freedom and happiness. And the extraordinary community that is always there for you, for me and for every woman who chooses to join it. I wish every woman in the world could take Mastery!!!!!!!


  • Marie Clary March 12, 2013, 7:13 pm

    I loved reading what SG Nell had to say. Absolute resonance came when she spoke about being a victim and putting everyone first. Oh how I wish I had Mastery to turn to many years ago! I swear to Goddess, at 63 I still feel fresh and ready to learn new things! I want growing older to be something amazing!! It’s not been and I’m hoping to turn that around with Mastery. Nervous and excited and can’t wait! See you all in just a few days!

    • SG Marie the Dawn is Breaking March 12, 2013, 7:17 pm

      I should have signed with this name–SG Marie the Dawn is Breaking–a song my parents would sing to me when I was little. : )

  • Sister Goddess Nell March 12, 2013, 5:24 pm

    I am so grateful for the privilege of having the chance to share my story and for Mastery which changed everything in my life, and watching hundreds of other women be transformed into brilliant, radiant, confident, authentic women. For real.
    I encourage anyone who is undecided to just sign up while there are still spaces left and get your butt to an airplane, train, or bus to New York – the rest will figure itself out!
    XOXO Sister Goddess Nell

    • Rochelle Schieck March 13, 2013, 1:52 am

      I feel so blessed to be a witness to your epic and legendary soul’s journey and so honored to have been one of the many people in your life who had the good sense to bring you flowers.
      Love and light always and all ways!

    • Mama Gena March 13, 2013, 10:04 am

      dance breaking in your honor!

  • Dani March 12, 2013, 4:03 pm

    Hi. This is my first time writing and I feel very awkward about this, especially since this is my PMS writing!

    “I still felt trapped in a hellish situation where nothing was ever good enough. I exercised in the spirit of punishment for the body I hated and all I did was take care of other people, seek external approval, and blame my husband for everything.”
    I know this story all too well. Nothing, I mean NOTHING has ever been good enough in my life. I know it stems from my deep rooted feelings of not being good enough. I put others first always, I hate my body on most days and don’t even know why I get out of bed in the morning. I choose unhealthy relationships and jobs that underpay me and wonder why I feel like shit all of the time even though I eat exceptionally well, meditate, self-pleasure and exercise. I feel uninspired, dis-empowered , dis-enchanted, deflated, stuck and doomed to an ordinary existence. I have a library full of self-help books and have read them all at least twice (including Mama Gena’s book on the Womanly Arts). I “vomit” and “spew” new age text like it is my first language. Still, it isn’t enough to “fix”me. I have done workshops galore but never Mastery.

    Nell’s story inspires me to hang on and to set my intention for Mastery in 2014. I have wanted to attend for the last 3 years and let financial problems and where I live be excuses for not attending. For now, I will live vicariously through all of you Goddesses until I can remember and practice my own power.

    Thank you Mama and all you Sister Goddesses. I read these posts regularly and feel comfort in knowing this is temporary and I’m not that insane 🙂

  • Alice Rae-Flick March 12, 2013, 4:01 pm

    Any suggestions on how I could manage doing mastery from New Zealand??! 🙂

    Wow Goddess Nell, your story rocked me. Especially references to not having a shower until you worked out. I’ve been meaning to get my eyebrows threaded for 2 months, but I feel everyone else’s needs come before mine.

    Great food for thought. I need to do something, I would love mastery, but it’s more than a tad impractical for me to undertake international travel every weekend.

    Thank you for the wake up call. I wish I knew what to do next.

    • Deb Castellano March 12, 2013, 10:12 pm

      Alice, talk to the Palace. There is at least one sister goddess in Australia (different country, but not far!) who did Mastery. It’s one weekend a month for 4 months, and the rest is on the phone and an online community. You never know!!
      SG Meow Meow

    • Mama Gena March 13, 2013, 9:51 am

      alice, a woman’s desire can move mountains in milliseconds. give us a call, and we can talk about your next step. 212-787-2411 x1 or

  • Deborah Smith March 12, 2013, 2:42 pm

    SG Nell.
    What a beautiful story. Reading it has brought up tears of sheer gratitude: gratitude that I might also get to your place of being so purely self-loving and trusting of myself and GPS that I will live in the same kind of glory you now experience.
    I want what you have. I want to suck every drop of re-creating, re-educating and self-loving I can out of “MY” Mastery 2013.
    Thank you.

  • mama gena March 12, 2013, 1:04 pm

    4 days and counting……

  • Luxurious Laurie March 12, 2013, 11:39 am

    Love you, Nell!!! You are a rock star!!!

  • Madly March 12, 2013, 10:38 am

    How I love reading this post, as one of your pod-mates in our first Mastery and now lifelong sister! You are such a delicious LIFE artist, you inspire me and I adore you!

  • SG Aynsley March 12, 2013, 9:48 am

    What a gorgeously abundant story Nell, I stand for all that you have become and the wonderful women you are.

  • Sister Goddess Laura March 12, 2013, 9:35 am

    It is such a gift to read your Mastery experience
    Sister Goddess Nell.
    I am coming to my first weekend this weekend and 50% of me says what why did you do this. The other 50% is you did it because of what you experienced in January and you KNOW Mama Gina has something you want. At 62 I want to experience the best me this life has to offer. Let’s do it NOW
    Thank you so much for making this an easier week.

    Sister Goddess Laura

    • Sister Goddess Rachel March 13, 2013, 2:55 pm

      Hi there SG Laura. Welcome to both 50%s of you, you are both going to have a great, great time.
      Go you for trusting your intuition and taking a chance. How utterly brilliant.

  • BSG Glitzy Cougar Karen March 12, 2013, 9:23 am


    I am SO excited for you because I meant up above “It will change your life.” It’s done that for me and continues to reverberate in so many ways. Go the distance, and savor all of it!

  • Lovely Rita March 12, 2013, 7:18 am

    Thank you Nell! Thank you Karen! I am kid-less, degree-less, and self-acceptance-less. And shaking in my pink boots -I took that leap of faith and signed up for Mastery after Miami. I am excited, scared, eager, scared, happy, scared, giggly and scared. Did I mention that I’m scared?? But stories like this lean me over to the side of fabulous fulfilling right livlihood-and I’ll have some of that please-and so so so so much more. I’m ready for my train ride to the city from Jersey-and what looks like the ride of my life once I arrive at 55 East 59th!
    In gratitude and pleasure,
    SG Lovely Rita

    • Hedonia March 12, 2013, 3:16 pm

      Lovely Rita~
      Welcome home! Scared? You’re scared of Mastery? I didn’t sleep the night before the first session. I’m not kidding. Not a wink. I was so excited, anxious, nervous… I was beyond terrified. I thought I was going to throw up. I knew that my life was about to change. Big time. Hugely. Exponentially. And I was right. If I had daughters, they would do Mama’s Mastery before they would go to college. Get ready, my beauty, to meet your True Self. She’s been waiting for you – calmly, patiently, and with so much love for you she can barely contain it. Together you will learn to let your love shine. This really is the beginning of the best of your life!

    • Sister Goddess Rachel March 13, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Hi Rita,

      I LOVE how you outed yourself here on the internet about being scared. Do you know how amazing that is? I had a “flu” before my first day of mastery, sat in the back wrapped in scarves, crying, and not realizing that this wasn’t a flu at all until the next day when I felt physically pulled to come back.

      Like Nell, I have a lot of degrees and have had some pretty prestigious jobs (though hers sound WAY cooler), and Mastery is in the top three best things I have ever done (marrying my husband being among the 3!).

      Savour that sensation of fear and anticipation, because it is that same energy that will transform you into the next beautiful stage of your evolution. You are in for one hell of a treat.

      Rock on!

  • BSG Glitzy Cougar Karen March 12, 2013, 6:45 am

    I honor you, Nell, in this amazing story, which resonates for me every time I see your radiant face, and remember other earlier times.

    And I write this every chance I get. Get thee to Mastery, sisters. I will change your life.

    BSG Glitzy Cougar Karen:)