Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Moors.
Stephanie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I found my way to yoga when I was 19 and living on an island in the Puget Sound. I had been living with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder my entire life and had reached the point where my life felt unmanageable. I was waking up with panic attacks in the middle of the night and walking around feeling energetically imbalanced. I had been raised in a conservative Christian home where things like yoga and meditation were taboo, but I was desperate to feel like I could breathe again, so I showed up for a class at the local athletic club. That was the first night I slept through the night in months and the beginning of my long, evolving yoga practice.
I got my 200 hr. yoga certification through a Christian yoga school when my oldest daughter was 18 months old, combining what I thought to be true about God and what I was still exploring through yoga. It became a slow process of considering ancient truths and shedding old fundamentalist traditions for me. And in the new world of yoga and community, and finding myself, I became aware of my then husband’s addictions. Everything in my life crumbled while I tried to navigate the heartbreaking realization of how abuse cycles through relationship with an untreated addict. I didn’t know then that I was so frustratingly codependent – it took me years to uncover that level of self awareness – but I knew that I was drowning. I was alone in my marriage, but I was tied to someone who resented me for existing. This was when yoga became a lifeline. I would use my time on my mat to shake anxiety out of my body, to breathe pain outwards and to cling to the nearness of The Divine. I slowly learned how to let my life become more like water and less like ice, fluid instead of rigid. And I wrote about it, first on a blog and then on Instagram. I wrote about marriage, about addiction, about codependency, about anxiety, about my intense desire to hand my kids something different than what I had been handed.
A few years into teaching yoga, I started a business as a natural light photographer. In the beginning, I mostly photographed yogis and families but eventually, I started offering Freedom Sessions. These were photoshoots that were designed to help people celebrate themselves as they are, not as they “should” be or as they once were. The right here, right now, perfectly messy, authentic expression of who they ARE. Like most things in life, I offered these sessions because I needed them. I needed to practice celebrating myself as I was: in a painful marriage, struggling with disordered eating, two babies in, immersed in a culture of comparison, stifled and shamed by the christian church. I needed to find a way to let my soul breathe and celebrating other women in their truest state seemed like a good place to start. I did hundreds of Freedom Sessions and would often hear their stories spilling out while we shot, crying with women I hadn’t known until that day. I still hold onto those stories, it was sacred ground we held together.
Fifteen years ago, I had started questioning the church, letting myself stretch past the tradition I had been handed as TRUTH. I read books by “heretics”, talked to people who seemed fringe to church culture and processed all of it through yoga. I didn’t know then that this spiritual process has a name, which is maybe kind of a newer label. We call this dismantling of faith with the willingness to be wrong “deconstruction”. It is wickedly isolating, frustrating and exposing. Sometimes I felt angry, sometimes I grieved, sometimes I felt alone – but I always, always felt liberated. I found a new groove for myself, one that clears the way for me to follow the Jesus path without any of the shaming, controlling, dualistic aspects of religion. I started writing about deconstruction around the same time I cut ties with the christian yoga school I had worked for. I started saying things that drew strong reactions from people. The comments on my posts were either, “Yes! I’ve been afraid to say this.” or “You’ve lost your way and you need Jesus.”. I took both responses as a sign that deconstruction is a growing experience, more and more people are waking up to what has kept them trapped in tradition for a lifetime.
So, I kept writing and even started podcasting. I partnered with a deconstructed pastor friend to offer online sessions for people who are in the thick of the process. I lost some friends who aren’t ready yet to consider a worldview that doesn’t create an us vs. them narrative. The church is built on dualism, on statements about who is in and who is out. I can’t live my life that way anymore, mostly because I can’t see Jesus having lived his life that way either.
And then a year and a half ago, my marriage ended. It was one relapse too many and I felt depleted, like an empty well. I had exhausted all of my reserve trying to save the longest running relationship in my life, trying to salvage a family life for my kids that kept their parents in the same home, but I was done. If I had kept cycling, I would have lost my soul and I didn’t want my kids to grow up thinking that this is what love should look like. So, we mutually agreed to divorce and do our best to co-parent our kids in the very best way we can. At the same time, I stopped teaching yoga, I stopped taking photo clients. I went inward to grieve, ache and try to survive. Every inch of my energy went towards showing up for my kids, especially on the hard days and it took me a long time to be able to do anything other than move the truth of my life all the way through me. I started taking yoga classes at a new place with new instructors, I started writing more, I started receiving emails from women who had left or were trying to leave an abuser or an addict. I started practicing self care like my life depended on it. This season of my life is about becoming, about letting my heart be wild and about leaning into the healing of the world as creatively as I can. I’m clearer now. I’m still navigating days that feel hopeless and more painful than I know what to do with, but I’m free for the first time in my life. I’m awake and comfortable with who I’ve been and who I’m becoming. I’m untethered in the best way and grounded in a brand new way. So, at this point in the story, I can say that I know what I’m doing now: I’m becoming self aware, broadening my perception of The Divine, shedding old skins, growing creatively, parenting like a badass and learning how to find myself when I’m alone.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve started to believe that the obstacles in life are not put there by divine love, but they are capable of teaching us something about ourselves. We’re going to be in a state of constant growth if we believe that everyone and everything is our teacher. In my own life, I have struggled with anxiety, depression, codependency, a long painful marriage, shame inflicted by the christian church, betrayal in deep friendships and romantic relationships, a near death experience for my youngest daughter, a messy divorce and learning how to be a single mom. I genuinely think the best thing we can do is FACE the pain. Let it be pain, let it ache, let it burn, give it a moment to say what it wants to say. Those experiences and emotions are speaking to us and there may be something we need to (and probably don’t want to) hear. But THEN (and always) we release them – as many times as it takes. Nothing negative gets to live in our head or take space in our hearts.
We often think that the way to live free of conflict or pain is to ignore it, to not give it any attention. In some ways that’s absolutely true, but we’re skipping a step. If we don’t let our authentic pain or fear speak to us we are essentially just packing it down into our own energy, silencing it but not releasing it. Instead, try letting it speak so that it can more through you. Give yourself a moment to feel it, touch it, breathe it, hear it – and then release it. And hear me, we aren’t meant to do life alone. We all need someone we can trust to walk through life with us, so choose your people wisely. YOU choose who has access to your deepest process and it should always be the people who live out exactly who you would want to be. I read something once that said, “Don’t have sex with someone you wouldn’t want to be” and I think that is true of all intimacy. You can have tons of peripheral friends who don’t influence the energy of your life, but the ones who you align yourself with, should always be people who facilitate growth and forward movement for you.
And one more thing: cheer for each other. Choose to be for the expansion, growth and freedom of EVERY woman. Don’t waste time comparing or competing. Women are intuitive, creative, powerful forces. We work so much better when we are linking arms. Remember that feminism is a spiritual belief, one that embraces the divine feminine in all of us. It is an inclusive, intersectional act of equity and equality. No matter what you were raised with, if you are female identifying, you are a part of something wild and sacred.
Please tell us about your business.
I love this part! And I love it because it used to be the hardest question to answer. It took me awhile to be able to pinpoint exactly what I call what I do. But I got it now! 🙂
I call it creative mysticism, which means that I use creativity to cultivate a deeper awareness of The Divine. When I photograph clients, I am celebrating their unique design and inviting them into that same celebration. When I write I am pouring my own story about how I see the world, divine love and myself into the world. I’m creating space for other people to see themselves in the reflection of my words or to follow a spark of inspiration towards their truest selves. When I practice asana (the physical part of yoga), I am letting my mind, body and soul intersect to create a flow that helps me release what is stagnant or lost in me. When I talk about deconstruction at events, I am creating a safe atmosphere for other people to question what they’ve been handed and to explore the broadness and inclusivity of The Divine.
Were there people and/or experiences you had in your childhood that you feel laid the foundation for your success?
The other day, one of my girlfriends told me that watching me rise up in the pain of my divorce has made her think that I may not have expanded so much if it hadn’t been so dark, that I may have always stayed tethered to the ground as long as there was ground to stay tethered to. I remember reading a quote once that said something like, “I have come to love the darkness of sorrow for it is there that I see the brightness of God’s face”. It’s in the darkest parts of my life, that I have been able to recognize how vast, wide and bright, love really is and I think that this is the most lived truth of my life. If not for the things I’ve lived, I may never have recognized the need to begin the process of spiritual recovery. I may have missed out on the opportunity to cultivate compassion and empathy for what other people are experiencing, It’s not that I’m fully grateful for the loss or trauma – it’s just that I have a deep amount of gratitude for who I’ve chosen to be in the aftermath. Every single human being has suffered and will suffer in some way. We all carry memories in our bodies and live out our own pain in different ways. I don’t know that I would have been capable of seeing the pain in other people if not for having been familiar with my own darkness. So yes, I see every single moment of my life as something that has taught me resiliency, compassion, kindness and self love. And I think, that makes me so much more available to the possibility of doing good in the world no matter what avenue I’m currently traveling.
- Desert and Urban Photo Sessions start at $325
- Website: stephanieMmoors.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Facebook: facebook.com/StephanieMoorsPhotography
Stephanie Moors Photography