Leela Francis is Goddess of the Week!

“The values and philosophies of the Sacred Feminine cherish sensuality, spirituality and creativity as the three most vital sources of a woman’s power and wisdom. These three fountains of health, abundance and well-being for women invite profound access for women to the sacred realms of our Goddess essence. When Woman connects to Goddess, we are living our personal as well as our transpersonal power; a force much greater than just one or the other.”

-- Leela Francis, founder of Vividly Woman and VividExistence

Interview by Tabby Biddle

 Leela Francis is a powerful feminine leader helping women stand for their own life and stand for the sensual, spiritual, and creative rights and freedoms for all women. She is the founder of Vividly Woman™ and VividExistence™, both created to help women live in their sensuality, dance their power, and thrive in their life. She has launched two dance initiatives to help women survivors of wartime sexual violence rebuild their lives, and facilitates the reunion of body, self and soul for thousands of women across North America in service of women globally. Leela is passionately devoted to creating community that models the values and philosophies of the Sacred Feminine and on a daily basis helps women get into their bodies to become more deeply connected to themselves!Tabby Biddle: Your tagline for Vividly Woman is “Dance Your Power.” How does dance connect women with their power?Leela Francis: Dance is a profound portal of entry for a woman to the sensual wisdom of her body, the creative freedom of her mind, and the spiritual aliveness of the collective wisdom body of the divine feminine. “Dance Your Power” is both metaphoric and literal. While the act of “dance” can have wonderful benefits for body, self and soul, there are limitless ways to access that flow and freedom and authentic expression. Painting, teaching, writing, doing business, these are all dances in their own right. Dance and other expressive arts are used in the Vividly Woman programs to encourage freedom and authentic expression. TB: How did you get into dance?LF: I started dancing as a child. I trained as a rhythmic gymnast. I like to say that I trained as a dancer until about the age of 16. Then at 16, I really started dancing. What happened was that when I was 16, I was at a wedding with my family. My father was very much the life-of-the-party kind of guy. We were all dancing and my father ended up having a heart attack. He took his very last breath on the dance floor.In my grief, I didn’t communicate well with all of the people around me. I was in shock, and I really shut down around my heart.It just so happens that because I was 16, all of my dear friends were having Sweet 16 birthday parties. These were really big when I was growing up in Montreal. After the initial month-long period of mourning, I would go out every weekend to these parties and go dancing. That was exactly how I healed my grief and managed to open my heart. From that time, my life journey has been about opening my heart over and over and over again. Dance is what does that most easily and effectively for me.

TB: You have said, “When Woman connects to Goddess, we are living our personal, as well as transpersonal power.” What do you mean by this?LF: We are walking on this earth as women, and we all have our journey and our roles that we are living out as part of the physical existence. We have our personal stories, we have the issues that we go through, and the lessons that we each need to learn for ourselves. But then there is the piece where we are learning and healing not just for ourselves. We are actually doing an enormous amount of healing for all women. When we step into the knowing of that -- when we step into the knowing that we are each being used as a channel for wisdom much higher than ourselves -- we are stepping into that Goddess awareness, which is the transpersonal. This means that our own personal healing can affect healing and change for all women and for all beings.TB: How did you first connect with the Goddess?LF: I went through a very painful breakup. I lived in a house with three teenage boys and their father. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, but in hindsight I see that it was very difficult for me to keep feminine energy alive in our household with all of this testosterone around me. Over time, I became more and more depressed.Because nature was always something that always brought me home to myself and always brought me such profound peace, I decided that I wanted to start creating my life so that I could spend part of the year in a beautiful tropical environment. So I created a job for myself on the beach in Mexico. My partner wasn’t really comfortable with me being away from home. There was already some static between us. Then when I decided I was going to go away for five months that really didn’t sit very well with him.So I came to Mexico with a broken heart, completely devastated. I did enormous healing with the ocean, the stars under the night sky, the sand and the warmth. I really reunited with my sacred feminine. So I guess that’s how I most profoundly came home to the Goddess in a way that wasn’t just about stories or ideas or theory, but was really about my own Goddess awakening.TB: You have launched two dance initiatives to raise awareness and funds for women survivors of wartime violence and sexual violence. Tell me about the initiative called “Dance Your Power Daily Dance at Home-A-Thon.” LF: This is about women making 15 minutes of dance a part of their everyday life for a month to help women in Darfur who have been violated sexually as a weapon of war and are trying desperately to rebuild their lives. Women can take part in this from home. When they register online, they agree to ask their friends, their families, and their colleagues to sponsor them and pledge a $1 a day for every day that they dance for a month.When you dance 15 minutes a day, it’s going to make a difference in your own life by getting you into your body moving sensually, spiritually, and creatively -- and you are also making a difference by getting a $1 a dance pledge from at least 10 people. So by the end of the month if you dance every day, you’ll have raised $300. All of that money will be donated to our sisters in Darfur who are living in a displaced persons camp. You really get the experience of what your dance actually means to other women.  

TB: You have said that women dancing together can change the world. How can this change the world?

LF: The human heart is the strongest electromagnetic field that there is. It is relatively stronger than the electromagnetic field of the earth. So what that means is that our hearts have the potential to affect change and affect healing. It’s a natural function of the heart to open and also to close. There is nothing wrong with the heart closing. We just have to find ways to open the heart.Through our initiative called Sensual Heart we do a dance practice called Radiant Heart Groove, which I created and have on DVD. It’s all about dancing with the intention to open the heart -- to radiate love and extend love from our heart center once it’s opened, once it feels safe, once it feels the freedom to express its greatest potential for opening.So that’s how we can change the world. By coming together as a group and amplifying each of our own potential for heart opening and then directing that to the purpose of our sisters who have been violated and our sisters who do not have the basic rights and freedoms what we have. We are raising the vibration of our own body and our own power, understanding that we pave the way for our sisters. TB: What do you think the dangers are for a woman personally if she is not in love with her body? LF: I think the issue of not being in love with our bodies is about not really loving ourselves. They go hand in hand, especially in women. It’s pretty impossible to separate the self from the body. We identify ourselves so much with our bodies. There is good news in that and there is bad news in that.The bad news is that our culture has this stereotypical image of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like, and if you don’t conform to that, then you often feel you are not adequate. For a woman who does not love her body, she will take that negativity and resentment and that judgment out on her whole being. She will come to equate what’s not good enough about her body with what’s not good enough about her. And of course the opposite works as well. If a woman doesn’t love herself or like herself, she’ll probably blame her body.But the good news of being so totally identified and connected to our body is our potential for sensual aliveness, for pleasure, and our potential for spiritual connection through our bodies. We don’t actually have to leave this vessel. We can actually find a spiritual connection through pleasure and the ecstatic awakening of the body. That’s the good news.TB: How do you think one woman not loving her body affects us on a global level?LF: We women are mirrors for each other. Ideally we live in a world where we can trust and support and count on our sisters. Ideally we can turn to our sisters and feel safe and welcomed and that we belong. If we don’t love our bodies, which gets translated into not loving ourselves, then what will happen is that because women count on each other being mirrors for each other, that’s what we are reflecting out to the world. The issue of not loving ourselves then becomes what we are spreading.The more that we don’t love ourselves, the more that’s going to be reflected in the bigger global issues like war, and abuse, and poverty. We are a microcosm of the bigger picture. So in order for us to really affect change, we have to do it with ourselves first.TB: In your work, you use the term ‘sacred sensuality’. What do you mean when you say this?LF: Sensuality is our way of connecting both with our world around us and the world inside of us. We can interpret and dance with our sensuality as just that relationship with the physical world, or we can understand it to be a portal of entry into our spiritual self, into our spiritual awareness, and into our sacredness.That defies a lot of what a lot of us have learned around spirituality, particularly in the world of yoga. We are taught that we should not be corrupted by the senses because they bring us to our desires – and that’s evil. In the world of sacred sensuality, desire is actually a portal and a vehicle directly to the Divine, directly to Spirit, directly to our sacredness.TB: Having worked with so many women, what do you think is most commonly at the root of women’s self-esteem issues? LF: Self-worth is at the root. Self-worth is where it all really begins. A lot of that has to do with our culture and how society feeds women about themselves and the way women should be, and what’s okay and what’s not.

"There are three centers of vital power that live in our bodies: our sensual power, our spiritual power, and our creative power. They live in the pelvis, the chest, and the head. In most of our lives, and in most organizations, business or otherwise, we’ve been taught that our weakness is our sensuality, our spirituality, and our creativity. And because these are actually our power, we profoundly doubt our self-worth. This reflects itself in incredibly damaging self-esteem issues."

For example, when we have feelings about things, we are told that we shouldn’t have feelings. We might be told that this is a hard and fast business issue, and that we should separate the business from the personal. Well for women it’s not that easy. I’m not saying that there isn’t a level of productive value to be able to separate those things, but it’s not realistic for women. It’s not healthy for women to think that we can do that all of the time. In fact, it’s damaging for women.

"We receive vital information from our sensual, our spiritual, from our creative centers. To have to shut those off in order to “do business,” these are very damaging to our self-worth. This is a really big part of the Vividly Woman work."

TB: I love the name of your program “Doing Business The Goddess Way.” What is this exactly?LF: Doing Business the Goddess Way is a once-a-month free teleseminar series that I do. Anybody and everybody is invited. It’s about supporting women to understand that the way we do business and the way we thrive in business is very different from the way men will excel in business. The sooner we understand that and the sooner we embrace that, the sooner we will be in the fullest integrity with ourselves and achieve greater success with what we are doing. We will be in alignment with our true selves as opposed to having to deny who we really are in order to survive and thrive in the world of business, which women have done for so, so long.TB: How does this tie into Vivapreneur Academy?LF: The series feeds into the Vivapreneur Academy, which is a 7-month business academy that I started with my business partner, Randi Markel. What’s really special about Vivapreneur Academy is that it gives women one whole month to learn one topic at a time, and for seven months you are learning, applying, and growing with the same group of sisters.What I understand about the way women learn is, first of all, we need time to learn and to integrate what we’ve learned. In order to do that, we need to apply what we’ve learned. I think men tend to learn, or the masculine tends to learn in such a way that we can receive information and store it away and retrieve it when we need it. But women are much more hands on. We live through our bodies much more. So we have to DO IT in order to integrate it and to embody the learning.TB: What do you enjoy most about your work?LF: A big piece of what I absolutely love and feel so incredibly blessed about is the level of intimacy that I have with the women that I work with. Women come not only to one of my events, but pursue the entire Vividly Woman training. They really dive in and become major sisters in my life, and major friends. These are people that I think of as family and who I get to learn and grow with.Another piece is that pretty much everything I do in my work is creatively driven. I feel very blessed that I’ve chosen, or have been chosen, to serve in the world in a way that is a creative exploration in every single way. I’m not only talking about the teaching and the curriculum development, I’m also talking about the marketing. I love all of the creative opportunities for using words, for using pictures, for using music, product development. It’s all incredibly creative.The other piece that I love about my work is that I get to witness and facilitate women coming home to their aliveness over and over and over. I feel so privileged to be part of that.TB: What advice can you share with other women about being a feminine leader?LF: I think most importantly we have to be true to ourselves. We have to be present with ourselves. We have to develop the awareness to listen and to be able to decipher what our body is telling us. Our body is the greatest teacher we have. It is the most authentic teacher. The mind can sometimes manipulate things and make us believe certain things, whereas the body never lies.As feminine leaders, we have to model that respect and honoring of our authentic truth. The most important way to do that is to learn how to lead from an embodied place.Vividly Woman offers training programs for women to dance their power both personally and professionally, online and through live events throughout the US, Canada and Mexico. Learn more by visiting the Vividly Woman website, or click on the individual links below:Dance Your Power Daily Dance at Home-A-Thon & Sensual HeartMexico RetreatsWeekend WorkshopsDoing Business The Goddess WayVivapreneur AcademyTabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and reporter dedicated to amplifying the voices of women changemakers. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post on women’s issues, human rights, and organizations and individuals empowering women and girls. Her work has been featured by the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, Current TV and other popular media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband.