WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
63: Taking the Next Right Step: How a Mindfulness Practice Builds Alignment with Libby DeLana
“Each step is unique. Each breath is different. Every moment brings a new and unique scenario. So if we can learn the lesson and just take the next best step I think it’s really applicable to everything that we do.”
– Libby DeLana
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
How busy are you? How rarely are you able to cut through all the noise? My guest on this episode of What the Fundraising is inspiring us all to carve out a daily practice because – no matter how modest – our human spirits need dedicated moments and rituals. When Libby DeLana committed to taking a daily walk around her Newburyport, MA, neighborhood 10 years ago, she had no idea how transformational it would be. Without fail, she has integrated a walk into her daily life. Every day. No negotiation. The results have been life-changing for this award-winning advertising executive, who then created #thismorningwalk as a safe place for self-inquiry, reimagination, and liberation. Her daily ritual opens space to contemplate the literal ground on which she walks, the energy she brings to each step, and the constraints of self-definitions that no longer serve. And in this episode she shares her process, learning, and recommendations for us all.
Whether we’re courting a donor or racing to get to the airport on time, more often than not we have less control over outcomes than we’d like to believe. But by adopting a practice such as Libby’s we can claim some agency. We can show up and define the parameters of how we choose to be present – to ourselves, our loved ones, our colleagues, and the environment around us.
Libby exemplifies the power in putting one foot in front of the other. In her case, each next right step (even on the coldest New England winter days) has resulted in the equivalent of a global circumnavigation. We can start small, of course. It’s the intent that matters. So pull on your shoes – metaphorical or real – and join us for this energizing conversation. We’re being invited to step into our most aligned selves and create the spaciousness we all deserve!
This episode of What the Fundraising was sponsored by Neon One, the comprehensive platform for coordinating donor and member management, fundraising, volunteers, and grants as well as all kinds of information about the when, where, why, and how of giving. Head over to this link to learn more!
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Get to Know @BlinkNow:
The BlinkNow Foundation’s mission is to provide an education and a loving, caring home for orphaned, impoverished, and at-risk children. We also provide community outreach to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice. The Foundation fulfills its mission by providing financial support and management oversight to the Children’s Home and Kopila Valley School in Surkhet, Nepal.
Get to know Libby:
As executive creative director, Libby’s work has won many industry awards including OneShow, Cannes Lions, D&AD, Kelly, Webby, Hatch etc. She also has been featured in PRINT Design Annual, Graphis, Fast Company, Communication Arts, and Archive. In addition, she has been profiled by BBC for a series called “The Chain,” where leading women figures name the woman who’s inspired their success. Aside from all that one of her most cherished accomplishments is walking the circumference of the earth in a practice called #thismorningwalk.
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
Mallory Erickson: Welcome Everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Libby DeLana. Libby, welcome to What The Fundraising.
Libby DeLana: Oh, thank you. I’m really excited for this conversation.
Mallory Erickson: I am so excited to be here with you, your work and what you do and who you are spans so many different things and influence folks in so many different ways. But do you wanna give just a little introduction for everyone.
Libby DeLana: Sure. So my name is Libby. I live north of Boston in a beautiful little seaside community called Newburyport. I have spent most of my career in the advertising world as a creative director and an art director by trade, which is really the person when creating messaging materials worries about what everything looks like. That was my craft and world. I still do that to a degree.
But what I’m really focused on now is something that I started in 2011, which is a morning walk practice. So one morning I woke up and realized that while life was really grand. I had absolutely nothing to complain about, healthy family, good friends, lovely work, that there was something in my days that I wasn’t nourishing or hosting. And that was for me, being in the outdoors is where I’m really happy. So I decided one day that every morning I get up half an hour early and go for a walk and I’ve committed to that for 30 days. And here I am 10 and a half years later and I’ve never missed a day. The work I’m really doing now is just sharing with people the possible transformative power of a simple walk.
Mallory Erickson: I love that. And I love the book and we’ll make sure to link that below. And I remember I went and heard you speak almost a year ago now up at Campovida, if anyone’s looking for a wine subscription check out that one. And it was to benefit for Blink Now and Maggie Doyne folks, love the episode with her here. And you and Cheryl Strayed were talking about the book and you were talking about the journey and even just the idea of one foot in front of the other. And it was so interesting because as you were talking, I was probably the only one in the audience thinking, what she’s saying is exactly what my fundraising process was like. Like her one foot in front of the other, the transformation gauntlet that you went through so resonated with my fundraising journey. So will you just talk to folks a little bit about that?
Libby DeLana: Yeah, what a great question. And I would say that the concept of just one foot in front of the other certainly holds powerfully true for walking. But I think the thing that’s so powerful about it is once you really embed that into your body and you really understand the concept, it applies to everything in life. The way I like to talk about it is just take the next best step, whatever that looks like, take the next best step.
And sometimes we have headwinds. Sometimes it’s raining. Sometimes it feels oh my gosh, I’ve walked four miles out. I turn around, the headwind is stiff. The only thing we can possibly do at that moment is get really present and think about that one step. Don’t think about getting all the way back to the car, four miles up the road, just that next step.
And I like the idea of the next best step because that means that each step is uniquely different. You flex depending on what’s happening. Is there a puddle? Is in your fundraising journey, is there a hurdle? Is the next uphill because all of a sudden there’s this situation you need to solve.
So each step is unique. Each breath is different. Every moment brings a unique scenario. And so if we can learn the lesson of just take the next best step, I think it is really applicable to everything we do. And the thing about a walking practice is. Doing it every day, every single step, every single day is unique. And just breaking it down to steps versus walks is the way I think they’re embedded really profound lessons in each of those steps.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. That makes me wonder what’s the shortest walk you’ve ever done to keep that goal.
Libby DeLana: Oh, what a great question. I think probably about five years ago, for some reason when I get ill, I get the same thing over and over. I get strep throat and then I get a sinus infection. Then I get pneumonia. So I had pneumonia and I was really not feeling well at all but I actually knew that what would make me feel better and maybe it’s more psychologically in terms of mental health, what would make me feel better was to go for a walk. And I literally had my jammies on, I put a long coat on. It was probably March and I walked around the block, which probably took me five minutes, six minutes, maybe. And as I love to hold, it’s not about the number of steps. It’s not about the number of miles. Really what I want to hold true is the fidelity to the practice. What’s most important is that commitment to myself to do this. Some people may have a seated meditation practice or a yoga practice. I view my walking practice as a similar kind of experience. And for me, the most important thing as I said is not miles or number of steps. it’s fidelity to myself and my wellbeing. And what makes, one could say walking from the second floor to the first floor go to the kitchen could be considered a walk. And if that works for you that’s great. For me it’s about intention and stepping out the back door and being outdoors and grounding in that place. So for me that’s what counts
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And it sounds like showing up for yourself in a certain way. Even when I think about doing this practice, the first thing I think is I won’t always have time, right? Like that narrative around how do I create time for that? How do I create space for that? And I think saying no I’m always gonna create space for this in my life because this is important to me is a type of building a relationship with ourselves that is so valuable.
Libby DeLana: I look at it as the equivalent of brushing my teeth. Or eating well each day, they’re non-negotiable. And I know that they are essential for my wellbeing, for my spirit, for my mental health, for my physical health, for my outlook on life. So they’re not negotiable. Brushing our teeth isn’t negotiable, drinking water isn’t.
So to me, it is a non-negotiable. And it is to your, as you said beautifully, it is about showing up for ourselves. And what I always like to say is the way I practice this, my practice is unique to me. It is what I do is not applicable to anybody else, how they might adopt or hold this practice. I happen to be 60 years old. I’m an empty nester. I have time in my day. It’d be very different if I had littles at home. It’d be a different scenario and I totally recognize that. So it really is about as you say, making that space and that time and to host this practice and it’s powerful.
Mallory Erickson: . Yeah, and I do small walks all the time. When I hear that narrative around I don’t have time. I’m like, okay, I can walk for two minutes around the block or just get outside, walk from the car to the gate, touch the gate, go in the house. Do what I have to.
Libby DeLana: Absolutely. Yeah. What I often say is think about if this holds true if this scenario looks familiar too, you go to the market you could park as far away as you possibly can from the front door. And as you put your feet on the ground to walk into the market, really it’s an invitation to really for that moment think about how your feet are going on the ground. Think about your breath. Think about, so it could be from literally the corner of the market parking lot to the front door of wherever you’re going and just attending to your own wellbeing at that moment. So it can look like that too.
Mallory Erickson: I love that because walking meditation has actually always been the way I feel the most grounded. And I do with clients a lot, even not walking but sitting in their chair, putting both their feet on the ground, closing their eyes, making sure every part of their foot is touching the ground on both sides. It’s just amazing, our feet to the earth. What happens in that connection.
Libby DeLana: Yeah, that’s right. For me it is actually the only way I understand what I feel, which may sound ridiculous. I spend so much time in my head thinking about things that I don’t do a very good job of connecting with what my body, my instinct, my grounded intuition and knowledge knows.
So for me as I said in our book, it’s only by adding motion to emotion, that’s the only way I understand it. So what happens is I’m able to connect to your point with my feet on the ground at the moments as I walk and at that point begin to really hear what that internal wisdom is. Otherwise, I spend so much time up in my head and with all these stories and narratives, which may or may not be true. And so for me at walking, I learned after a number of years is a way to get really connected to that internal understanding.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And Ethan Cross, who is the first ever episode of What The Fundraising, he wrote this book called Chatter. And he talks about going outside being a huge strategy around Chatter. So that also makes sense and he talks about different body connections so I love that. And I think one of the things that’s also really interesting about your story is you’re an athlete. And so when you first started walking, like many people think of walking as part of their fitness life. And so there was this unraveling, it sounded like that really needed to happen for you and this sort of separation around previous assumptions of what walking is and is all about and is for, and what goals there are. So will you tell us a little bit about that?
Libby DeLana: Yeah. That’s so well said. You’re absolutely right. So when I grew up in high school early title 9, I’m 60. And I played field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, and then I went on to college and I was a rower. I spent a lot of time doing that. I loved the world of athletics. I love that whole companionship, partnership, teammates. I love that world.
So when I started this practice, I’m not really super proud of this. It probably took me two or three years to get over my ego. My ego kept saying Lib, you’re an athlete. You’re a national champion rower, blah, blah, blah, blah. You’re just walking. You should be running. I’m doing air quotes. You should be running. You should be on a bike. You should be cardio at anaerobic threshold, all this stuff. And it took me a long time to unlearn that story and realize that this practice was not about a workout or exercise. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s a fabulous subtle, gentle form of moving your body. You can’t get injured. I think I’ll do it until the day I’m no longer on the planet, which is pretty amazing. But it took me a while because I think I thought it, to be perfectly honest, lame and not really something to be proud of. And that just was a humbling unlearning of identified with this label as the athlete, that champion, whatever it might be. And it took me a while to understand that actually what I was doing was not parallel to that or it wasn’t in that ecosystem of athletics, it was a very different kind of experience. Yeah. It took me a while.
Mallory Erickson: I actually think that makes total sense. Those things are so built into who we are. And probably even I’m thinking about this for the first time, probably even when a type of motion or type of activity is linked to a belief, starting to separate those things is really hard.
And maybe that’s also what really activated me thinking about it’s relationship to my fundraising journey because so much of that for me was about unlearning beliefs about money, about generosity, about relationships, about value. And it was this constant, okay here are all the things I have believed about these things. But do they apply to this or do I want them to apply or do they have to apply? There totally is a way to have a daily walking routine that is about fitness and athleticism in different ways but you were consciously that’s not what this is for me.
And I think I had that same moment with fundraising where I couldn’t keep going the other way. I was like I can’t do this the way everyone’s telling me, this is what this is for. This is what this is about. This is how you do this thing. I was like that feels wrong to me. And so I was like okay, what does it look like to do this in a way that actually feels good every single day. And then creating that practice for myself, which it’s so funny I was sitting there, I remember and just being like, no one else is thinking about how this links to their fundraising right now.
Libby DeLana: I was gonna say that is so beautifully stated though, right? I think as we just said that the lessons embedded within this practice, and I think it’s probably true for a seated, meditation practice too. There’s so many lessons embedded within it that are applicable to so many parts of our life. And I think you’re right. I think the narrative around fundraising used to have a certain sort of storyline, do we have to continue to believe in those storylines? Can we look at it differently? Can we begin to reshape it in a way that feels true for me and how I move through the world? And I think the lessons are exactly the same, just in different spheres.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And I think the piece that walking really adds to that piece around seated meditation versus walking is about motion. Because and I think about that with fundraising too, in terms of action, I say that to folks all the time, how do you stay in action? Because seated meditation makes most people wildly uncomfortable.
Libby DeLana: You need to add energy to it. You need to add energy to something to begin to activate it and ignite it, right?
Mallory Erickson: Yes, that’s right. And some people are better than me at sitting through that discomfort. But I also, even when I was practicing yoga more regularly, did much more Vinyasa flow and it was less about the fitness and more about that level of motion allowed me to go there, to be super present. And I think that’s the same with fundraising it’s like when we’re sitting there thinking about all the things that we have to do or all the emails we have to send, it’s wildly uncomfortable. But the moment you start typing, the moment you start clicking send a few times, you pick up the phone, it’s you’re in motion. You’re in action. So I think it’s such a good example of that.
Libby DeLana: Take that next step. Write that email, take that next step. As I said earlier, you can’t get all the way back to the trailhead. Yeah immediately, you have to, each step is required in that process, in that step, in that journey. Yeah, absolutely.
Mallory Erickson: I’m really interested actually in those two to three years where you were telling yourself you should be doing something different but instead you kept walking. So how did you do that? How did you every day overcome the should.
Libby DeLana: That’s such a good question. I think ultimately at the end of the day, it’s parallel to what you just said, which is as soon as you start writing that email, as soon as you’ve picked up that phone once and made a call. And these are gentle, incremental steps but as you begin to do it more and more, there’s more confidence that builds. There’s more dopamine that shows up. There’s more belief because you’ve now done it a number of times. So for me I committed to doing it for 30 days, after 30 days it was very clear for me that I always felt better after having taken a walk. Now it wasn’t magnificent. It wasn’t fireworks going off. But I always felt better. And so despite the fact that the little voice in my head might have said, oh, you know what, you’ve done it for 30 days in a row, take a break, rest. You don’t need to do it. Remember just thinking, I literally would turn to that voice that said you should be running or take a break and simply say, thank you for that input. I know I feel better when I go for a walk, see you later, I’m going.
So it was acknowledging, hearing that voice, understanding in a way what my psyche was doing. And then really show, honestly showing up for myself and saying but you know what, here’s the thing when I pick up that phone and call that donor, when I take that next step and I haven’t broken my streak. You feel really proud about yourself. When that voice says, oh, you don’t need to do this. And then you believe it and you don’t do it. You don’t feel good about yourself after, I don’t.
Mallory Erickson: And then the voice comes back and it says, you’re so lazy. You didn’t do that thing. It’s a real trickster.
Libby DeLana: Exactly. It’s a real trickster. She’s convincing and coming at it from two different directions. So I think what I realized to your point that’s beautifully said is, once you give in then the voice says look at you, you didn’t go. You’re not committed. And all that trash in our heads gets really confusing. I just, I got to a point where I knew that walk was gonna be impactful. And I would almost say, and I think it probably holds true with development issues too, which is I can say that a majority of the time when that little voice showed up and tried to convince me either not to go, or to whatever, go shorter.
Or it was when it was on those days that when I did go, I always did go, that it was on those days that I knew I had to. That there was actually more to learn on those days because I looked at that little voice and said, I’m not believing you. And so now when I do it over and over again, when it shows up in other arenas and says oh, you don’t need to make that phone call. Oh, you don’t need to do whatever it might be. I now have the resilience and the muscle memory to say you know what little voice I hear you, but I’ve now practiced this for 10 years. I don’t believe you anymore.
Mallory Erickson: Ooh, to me that’s really like the whole thing is like developing a relationship understanding that number one, that voice is not the truth. It’s not some higher truth telling you the right thing. It’s not you, that’s not you saying that. I don’t know what it is. That’s not our truest selves. I love what you said, acknowledge and validate it. And then make your own decisions separate from it. That’s okay. That’s input but what do I actually want and why have I been doing this? And then what I hear you also saying is shifting your expectation then in all the areas of your life around what that voice means. Which I think is just, I don’t know, maybe the key to life because I say a lot too to my clients look I don’t think the self critic ever fully goes away. I’ve certainly never met anyone who doesn’t have that voice, but does it have the microphone? That’s what I’ll say when it comes up for me, I’m just like who gave you the microphone? Why are you so loud today? I’m just gonna take that back. You’re trying to protect me from something. I don’t know what it is. Thanks so much, but I don’t need you. I’m gonna be okay. And it’s just this constant dialogue,
Libby DeLana: And that’s why I call it a practice, a walking practice. Because when that voice shows every single time, it is a practice to say, thank you very much for that perspective. But you know what, I know I feel better when I go for a walk and it is in these moments when you tell me not to go that I usually learn the biggest lessons.
Yeah. And I think that may be applicable to your clients too. It’s when that little voice says oh my gosh, that donor that’s such a scary moment. Think how wonderful it feels when you actually believe in yourself to do it, to make that call, to send that email. That feeling is intoxicating but you have to practice it. It does get easier but it is not an overnight light switch. You know what yeah, that little voice, forget it. It shows up.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. 100%. So tell us about some of the lessons like when you say those were the days I learned the biggest lessons, what are some things that walking has really taught you?
Libby DeLana: I think in the last few years, a la pandemic, really focused on the quiet, the power of it being quiet. And what I mean by that is I wouldn’t have my earbuds in, I wouldn’t be listening to music or podcasts or anything in part because the news felt so heavy. So I walked a lot in the quiet and I would say what came up were specifics about my life that I never would’ve heard unless it was quiet.
They were subtle whispers. It was a bodily intelligence that in the Russian buzz of the day and the excitement and curiosity of the day, I didn’t know about myself. And so it was in that quiet, sometimes shadowy, but it was in that quiet where I was like oh wow, look at that about yourself. So I think it was the power of quiet which can be scary and beautiful. So I think that was one lesson is there’s a lot to be learned when it’s really silent and quiet.
And another is this notion that I hope this isn’t too heady, but you know how we talk about beautiful, sacred places where you feel a sense of belonging. Whether it’s under a beautiful tree or in the company of friends or the beach, wherever it might be. I began slowly to learn that actually the sacred places were internal as well. Sacred places weren’t just external points on a map. They were actually internal places where I could find comfort in my thinking, in my way of being. So that was another, I think at a very utilitarian level. What I love about walking is if we are able bodied and I do not take my ability to walk, I take it very seriously. I am very lucky to be able to go on these walks. I think what I learned is that in its simplicity is its potential transformative powerful capacity. One could say, I would say this in the first few years, it’s only a walk. But I think that is what’s so powerful about it. And there’s no excuse. There’s no gym membership needed. There’s no time slot to show up for a teacher. There’s no gear that’s required. It is available to us again if we are able bodied to do it always. And so that makes it really transformative.
And I guess lastly, there’s probably other lessons but the one that’s coming to mind right now is based on something Thich Nhat Hanh said which was really, be conscious of the energy you’re putting into each step because whatever you’re holding you put into the earth. So if I’m holding angst and anger and discontentment and as you step down, that energy is going into the earth and that’s not to say dismiss it, it’s just be aware of it. Be aware that what we’re holding becomes part of where we are. And so for me, walking is a way to soothe that a little bit and to be attentive to how my feet come to the ground, what am I holding? What am I bringing to a situation? I think that is probably relatable to your clients as well. How are you showing up in any situation when you pick up the phone to call somebody, do you have the proper mindset. And we can transform that. We have the ability to do that.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. I love that. I think the energy behind what we do is everything. And we focus so much in our world about what we’re doing, and yeah. And this comes up a lot on the podcast and my work is like was this the wrong thing to do? And the question I always ask is about everything behind that, how did you feel doing it? Why did you do it? How did it feel after, even with something like I watched five hours of Netflix. I’m like okay when you were done, did you feel refreshed and good and excited and creative and all of those things, then I don’t think we need to say that was bad. But did you feel stressed and anxious and you couldn’t sleep and all these things. Okay, maybe there’s something to look at there. And so I love that because I think we focus so much on the doing instead of what is behind, inside the action. What’s the energy around the action, which is what I think about when you were saying that about what you’re putting into the earth like what’s each energy you’re giving back to the earth. It’s not just about your step count on your watch.
Libby DeLana: No, it isn’t. And then when we think about how walking is so essential to culture in so many ways. So my practice is this sort of meditation practice but think about how walking shows up in our world. Think about activism. Think about making a statement culturally in the world. What do we do, we walk in the streets. It’s walking, right? Think of the streets filled with people around whatever subject it is, walking together, walking. Think about the spiritual pursuits of pilgrims, what do they do? They walk from a place to a sacred spot, right? Walking. Think about creative people. Think about Virginia Woolf, of course Henry David Thoreau, part of their essential component for what they did. And I think it’s about this energy, right? Was to walk to a place where they were able to express what they wanted to write.
Virginia Woolf would talk about a walk was essential to her creative capacity. And I think that has to do with the energy. It’s the energy of people walking in the streets together as we are side by side and passionate about this subject. This is collective energy. Walking forward, moving forward. And then apply it to different arenas. It’s certainly not just about the physical space. It’s about how we show up in the world, how do we harness this energy?
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And what you said a few minutes ago too, around the quiet piece, I’ve been thinking about that so much recently. For so many things, we talk on this podcast around a lot of different practices, even noticing your self critic or that inner dialogue we were talking about. Or we talk about a lot of different ways to be more in touch with your thoughts, your beliefs, your body.
And I think where folks sometimes then get frustrated is when they don’t have any space in their lives. And that’s like where all the integration happens, we’re not just gonna shift what we believe, what we think, how we behave, our habits, because we learned how to if we don’t create any sort of space to do it. And I think even what I love about the way you talk about the walking practice is that I think sometimes we think of space as really big things. Like we need to go on a retreat or we need to go on this other thing. And I think where I have found freedom for me really is in making my meetings from 60 minutes to 55 minutes and saying that space between those meetings, that is sacred space.
And that’s a little bit maybe to your point about the sacred is not just out there. The sacred is in me. And what happens when all of my meetings are 55 minutes instead of 60 or 25 instead of 30, I’m honoring the internal sacred space and saying that’s really what’s necessary for me to then have the energy I wanna have for the next call. Energy is so contagious, whether it’s to the earth or to each other. And so I love that reminder about quiet and space and not just being such a critical part of all this.
Libby DeLana: Oh, I love that it’s such a beautiful and wise concept, right? How do we, how can we actually in some ways generate new or understand if there isn’t the space to do it. So how in our day can we create those little pockets, those little moments where actually there is the space to either see clearly, to feel deeply, to hear the whispers. I’ve often said that for me when I go up for a walk is when I can hear the little whispers of what I instinctually maybe know but haven’t really allowed to be said out loud.
But yeah even just talking about Henry David Thero or Virginia Woolf, they needed that space and that place to create. So I think it’s an essential part of our day in order to live fully, holy. So I think that’s right. That is a very clear articulation of potentially what a walk does is to frame out a time period in which it’s a playground, right? It’s a playground of what you’re feeling, what you are prioritizing, how you’re thinking about your day, problem solving. It can host all those things but unless we actually set aside time to do those things, they don’t happen.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah. And listen to the birds. I think about my husband wears a hearing aid because he has Meniere’s disease and he just heard a story from someone who was born without the ability to hear. And just got hearing aids and I think she had some hearing capacity before but this has really transformed her auditory ability. And her reflection of the birds chirp all the time.
And he was just like weeping telling me this thing he read that she wrote and I was just like gosh, how many of us, auditory challenges or not, forget that the birds trip all the time. And I feel like getting outside is such a good reminder of especially when the world feels heavy and hard and impossible, that the birds are still chirping
Libby DeLana: Yeah, I love that. At the end of the day, I’m not very good at this, but to say it very simply it is that moment where you say holy smokes, I’m alive, right? It’s just, all we have to do is spend five minutes looking at the statistical possibility of us being here and wow.
But in terms of your clients and development, I think the thing about a walking practice or honestly any practice, quite honestly, where you as you said creates space. You allow some quiet to think through what it is that’s important to you, how you wanna approach the day. It’s all really valuable.
And I think for me it has led to a much more fulfilled, in many ways, calm life. And I have to say that this is funny language. It’s also something I have a splash of kind of control like to believe that I can control anything. Obviously we can’t. But the thing that feels really nice about a walk often is I get to decide when I go, how I go. I have agency completely over that. Whereas in many other parts of life we don’t have total agency over it, whether we’re responsible to our client search. So it’s a really, it’s a pretty profound time in that sort of having control over how you do it once you think about how you host it. Yeah.
Mallory Erickson: What’s so interesting about that, I’ve never thought about before is that you have control, but you zoom it just to you. Which is such an incredible lesson. It could be raining. The headwind could be really hard but you get to decide, do you put on a raincoat? What shoes do you wear? And so you’re not trying to look up at the sky and try to change the clouds, but you’re like what is available to me to show up differently in this moment given all of the pieces of this that are outta my control, which is the way in which I have control to show up in.
Libby DeLana: That’s so beautifully said yes. You just said what I was trying to say. So thank you.
Mallory Erickson: That’s what you made me, you said it, I guess too because that’s what it made me think of. I think about some of your photos of you walking which are so always so beautiful. But a huge variety of climates you’re on the east coast, you’re north of Boston. There are plenty of days that plenty of people would say it’s not a walking day. And I think that is a lesson that really applies to everything. There are plenty of moments in life where the external is uncomfortable and what does it look like to pick the pieces in that situation that we have control over and feel that sense of choice in how we interact with that environment.
Libby DeLana:That’s exactly right. How do we show up for ourselves in that moment? Yeah, there are plenty of times, even this winter where it was well below zero. The thermometer read minus six and the wind chill is minus 19 and it’s snowing out. And again the fidelity to the practice is what is nourishing to me. And to your point, what do I have control over? I have control over how long I go. I have control over how I layer up. How I make myself feel safe. How I make myself comfortable when I come home. And to your point, yeah I have control over each of those decisions and that always feels really great. So yes, I do. I have agency over the specifics of much of that and that’s an important component.
Mallory Erickson: Have there been any other habits that this daily walking practice has led to.
Libby DeLana: There’s one which is I’m now a very avid practitioner of cold exposure. Any of your clients have heard of Wim Hof. And because I live right on the Atlantic ocean for the last two and a half years, three or four times a week a bunch of us get in the water. And again this winter there were times when it was the thermometer red seven and the windshield was minus 18. Needless to say we’re all very careful. We’re now very practiced. We have a system where we’re all really safe. But we get in the water.
And the reason I started to do that practice was because again I was curious quite honestly, I had this narrative that you’re the one that’s always cold. You’re always wearing your puffy coat no matter what. It’s 80 degrees out, Libs in her coat. And it’s a subtle and whimsical thing. I thought I wonder if I can change that narrative. Can I change the narrative that it’s not unlike my walking practice. My narrative was you’re an athlete. So how do you change that? How can it be more malleable, flexible, so you can still be an athlete and be walking. So how do you change the narrative around, you’re always cold. I hate the winter. Lib, you live in Boston. So I thought okay what if I just regularly started to approach and get in the water? To be perfectly honest two and a half years later, I now crave it. We’re going in the water this afternoon.
And so it was a little bit of an experiment around self identification. I identified with that. I held onto that definition of who I was rigorously and I think it was limiting. It was limiting to how I approached the world. It was limiting in terms of what I did, I’d say no to things because I’m the girl that’s always cold. And so it’s really out of kind of experimentation because a number of things, other things in my life changed that changed how I identified myself. I thought here’s a good practice arena. Can I take the way I used to define myself and shift it. And shift it with approaching the thing that I used to think was how I identified and get over it. And the answer is yes, you can. One can.
Mallory Erickson: I love that story. And I take cold showers or I try the same piece, but it’s so interesting because I never thought about this. So I have Raynaud’s disease. I am also the person who’s always cold and I have white fingers and white toes. And I was doing some reading, probably watching a lot of your cold plunges thinking she’s totally crazy. But then I was like, but what is this? What is this whole thing about? Did some research and I was like, all right, I’m gonna try it. And it’s amazing. It is better than any cup of coffee, good night’s sleep, massage. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s the most amazing feeling in the entire world.
Libby DeLana: It’s all your light switches turn on. It’s boom up everything. Yeah. So we have a group that dips on Friday afternoon, plunges, whatever we wanna call it. And we call it happy hour. It’s our Friday afternoon happy hour. There’s no alcohol. None of it. Really what it is we’re serving dopamine cocktails, right? Like we get in the water, we have such fun. We play, we splash about, we get out, everything’s lit up and that dopamine lasts for a very long time. I highly recommend it. Yeah.
But again really the lesson is about what are those things that you hold onto as identifiers. And is there any place in those arenas where it limits what you’re doing in life? I was in the ad world as I said, co-founded an agency, left that agency at the start of the pandemic. For 30 years I was the ad girl, like I was a creative director in the ad business. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t. So how do you take those changing narratives about who you are and how can you shift them, love them into a new place. And so in a way this cold practice was an experiment in how does one love that former definition of what you thought you were and begin to host a new definition.
And I can imagine for your clients, I think sometimes we define ourselves as, I don’t know am I scared to make that call? Am I? And how can we shift that so that the world is as spacious and we can step, we can take that next best step into a really spacious place. So now I don’t have to define myself as the cool girl. In fact, right now it’s pretty warm. It’s not super warm. Like I can’t wait till the winter again.
Mallory Erickson: I love that. And I think sometimes there are definitions of ourself that we are attached to in a maybe not positive way. I would say attached to consciously or attached to unconsciously. Like for me with fundraising, it was people pleasing. Like I wanted to make everybody comfortable. And from that part of my identity fundraising was really hard because there is the risk that other people are going to be uncomfortable.
Libby DeLana: That’s right.
Mallory Erickson: At certain points. And so for me it was about identifying what does it look like for me to, number one, mitigate discomfort for everyone by creating a conversation that feels actually really good. And then also dealing with that people pleasing tendency that recognizes that change making is inherently going against the status quo. Going against the status quo is inherently not gonna please certain people that like the status quo. And so I have to decide, do I wanna be a change maker or do I wanna be a people pleaser? Because I can’t hold onto that identity if I wanna do this work. And so it’s so similar to that.
And it didn’t happen overnight and it was about play and experimentation and seeing what worked for me and for me messing up and being like oh, it wasn’t that, not that one. But then really finding those practices that brought me into that alignment. And this goes back to the cold plunge or my shower brought me online. That’s how I feel after a shower, a cold shower. I walk out and I’m like I am online. And that is just such a meaningful way to live.
Libby DeLana: Yeah, it truly is. So to weave some of this together. So think about if you were to go for a walk and you were to really enjoy the quiet. And one of the inquiries in that quiet might be, and I remember doing this, what are the things that I hold onto as the way I identify myself. And are they in fact limiting how I approach the world? And then is there a way to begin to shift that? So to your point, am I a people pleaser? Am I a caregiver at the expense of myself? Am I whatever the definition might be, you can begin to identify those in the quiet with yourself kindly gently, no judgment to me. That’s what happens in the quiet of a walk.
Then begin to look at each of those and ask yourself okay, is this my best and highest self, am I expressing what I have to offer at its fullest? Or are some of those definitions really holding me in a place that’s too small. That’s to your point, not allowing me to fully show up. So then you can say okay, that definition that I’m holding onto maybe is limiting me. Okay, so now how can I gently hold and love that definition and invite shifting in that so that it’s more expansive. So that it’s no longer limiting, so that I can take that next best step and not say that doesn’t align with my definition of myself. I can’t do that. But in fact I can do that. And so that’s how that all went on lock side, identified you’re always cold. Okay, let’s experiment with that.
Mallory Erickson: I love that. I love that let’s leave folks with that practice and tell everyone where they can find you, about the new podcast, how they can connect with you. And if you’d like to highlight a nonprofit as well we invite everyone to do so at the end.
Libby DeLana: Yes. Thismorningwalk.com is a hub for a lot of this information in my practice. Also I’m in a wonderful partnership with a woman named Alex L around a podcast where she and I are in conversation about some of these lessons that we’ve learned on our walk. She has started her practice, she’s almost a year in. I’m 10 years in. I have a lot to learn from remembering those early days of walking. So the podcast is also called This Morning Walk, it’s on Apple and Spotify. There’s also an Instagram handle This Morning Walk where we host community, Alex and I share what we’re up to. We share this community which is ever growing and beautiful. And then my personal Instagram is Park Here. Park’s my middle name. And actually the reason I, what I did when I started my practice 10 years ago is I just said to myself as an active accountability, I was gonna take one picture of my walk, every single day. They were terrible. Don’t scroll back 10 years. I mean they’re just, they’re not valuable other than to say it was a tool that for me as a visual person was really helpful. I didn’t wanna, I wanted to go out and it was my visual journal. And yeah ThisMorningWalk.com, podcast This Morning Walk, Instagram handle.
And of course the nonprofit that I would love to highlight is Blink Now. And our dear friend, Maggie Doyne and her co-founder Tope Malla who are really changing and supporting the lives of so many in rural Nepal. And I adore them and I adore that whole crew. They’re doing incredible work.
Mallory Erickson: Thank you. Yeah. And we’ll put links to everything below and in the show notes as well so folks have an easy time finding you. Thank you so much for this conversation today.
Libby DeLana: I love it. And I will say your questions are so thoughtful and I hope they’re helpful to your listeners. I hope the answers are helpful to your listeners.