Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the wise and wonderful Karen Cooper, entrepreneur, artist, yoga teacher and spiritual guide. A courageous risk-taker, Karen first hit the local scene with her business On Canvas Art Gallery, which was the perfect setting for her Stretch Yoga Studio. It was here that she fostered a loyal, and ever-growing, following of wisdom seekers and creative devotees.
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I have learned that if I fall I can and will get up and I do. I have found that I can choose, that I am strong, that I will find a way to get up no matter what happens, I have learned to trust myself. I can be flexible; I will make the best of whatever is. I know that there is help and support all around me.
You worked in the fast-paced competitive business world for years. How did you get from that to yoga teacher, spiritual guide and fine artist?
My sister died of breast cancer, she was 40, and I was 39. That was when I chose to live life on my terms, for me, for those I love. As a result of that choice, I found the right books (which I think really saved my life), I quit smoking (that’s when I found out that I had strength), I spent a year in India (that changed my view of the world and, opened my mind), then I found yoga and spiritual practice (and that opened my heart my mind my body my spirit) and I have never looked back. It’s been a process, a journey, an amazing ride. It doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes or get scared, it just means that I find a new way to move. I will again take one step then one more and one more.
What has been your biggest challenge so far – personally or professionally?
I believe that my biggest challenge in life has been finding my self-worth, learning to believe in myself, to trust myself and finally to love myself unconditionally. It’s taken a long time with lots of experiences and just as many mistakes, the key is learning from them.
In my younger years I never forgave myself for any mistake that I ever made and I spent my energy and time trying desperately to never make another. I was so hard on myself. I remember thinking that if I quit or lost my job as a District Sales Manager that no one would ever hire me again, they would surely find out that I was a fake.
What obstacles have you overcome and misconceptions have you overthrown?
I have learned to breathe, to be still, and to listen to the whispers of my heart. This has been a huge undertaking. My Father (God bless him) believed that a knight in shining armor would come by, one for each one of his daughters, and care for them for life, that we need not worry. My Mother (God bless her) taught us girls how to be independent so we could rely on ourselves. As a result I had one foot in each thought process. Not to mention that I have lots of energy, and sitting still to listen long enough to hear the stirring of my own heart to find my own answers, to find my own truth, to see what is a misconception and let it go.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
Please sweetheart, be kind to yourself, don’t be so hard on yourself, you are worthy, you are lovable, you are enough.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Dear Girl Warriors, please above all else be kind to yourself, love yourself for all that you are with loving kindness and compassion, Live well, Love well, Be well. Find your gifts and give them, you do have gifts; remember this, with love.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s)?
My friend Karin, has survived 2 rounds of brutal cancer which has left her disabled and yet she is thriving with joy and gratitude.
Boo King, I have watched you over the years, get up from the fall, you do what needs to be done, you look after your loved ones and still manage to inspire us by living your passion. You do the work!
My sister Sandi and my girlfriends whose love and support never fail me, who make me want to be my best self, to stand tall in this life.
My friend and yoga student Elizabeth Wellburn who has stood by and supported me all these years and has done the same for so many, who gets up from all the falls and keeps going and lives her passions and supports her community living what she believes in.
In November I am going to Spain for 3 weeks with my sister and brother-in-law, a trip of a lifetime. When I get back I am planning my next big risk and challenge and adventure. I have no idea what that is at this moment but I trust it will come to me and I look forward to it. Food and shelter for all is a big deal for me, I’d like to do some work in that area. I believe there is a reason for everything and what we are doing in our lives right now is helping us to learn and prepare for whatever comes next.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to still be alive, living my passion, walking my talk more deeply, continuing to learn and grow, to be curious and look up.
What’s your personal mantra?
My mantra, to walk more softly on this planet, to learn and grow all the days of my life, to be a light, to share my gifts. My favorite quote, by John O’Donohue sums it all up, “May you experience each day as a gift woven around the heart of wonder.”