Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Take an Inner Field Trip With Leesa Renee Hall
[0:00:01] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 449 of Live Happy Now. If you’re looking for an adventure to start the new year, why not take an Inner Field Trip?
I’m your host, Paula Felps, and today I’m sitting down with Leesa Renee Hall, a mental health wellness advocate and author of the Inner Field Trip Workbook, which helps us explore what drives us, what oppresses us, and to recognize our personal biases. Armed with that information, Leesa says, we can change the way we move through the world and transform our relationships, which seems like a great way to start the year. Let’s find out more.
[0:00:38] PF: Leesa, Happy New Year.
[0:00:40] LRH: Happy New Year, Paula. Thank you.
[0:00:43] PF: It is. It’s a shiny, brand-new year. We’re all excited about that. We wanted to kick it off with you, because you’ve got this terrific workbook that really helps us explore a lot of things inside. This is a time when people are looking at new beginnings, and your workbook fits so well into that. To get started, tell us what an Inner Field trip is.
[0:01:06] LRH: The Inner Field Trip, it’s a way to go internal within, and ask yourself those deed questions about the internalized messaging that you have, that you hold, that you’ve been socialized to believe that hinders your personal growth. The way I conceptualize the Inner Field Trip, I’m a hiker, I hike all the time. The way I conceptualize the Inner Field Trip is like a hike. We go, we hit the trail, and we go along a rugged, rocky terrain, get to the lookout, and then circle back to the trailhead. The Inner Field Trip is similar to that, but instead of going and driving to a trail and trudging along the rugged terrain, instead we go inner, internal, and we traverse our internal rugged terrain, and see what sights and sounds are along the way.
[0:02:03] PF: What’s so interesting is a lot of times, even if we think we know ourselves, we might be surprised at some of the pitfalls, some of the uneven terrain that we encounter when we go inside.
[0:02:15] LRH: That’s one of the reasons why doing the Inner Field Trip, or any introspective work, is so difficult for people, because it’s Amanda Palmer, the musician said in an interview once that, it’s like you go in to confront your inner part of yourself, and they’re in the dark basement lifting weights. You confront them, and they’re like these big, muscly things, and it’s like, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa. So, it can be scary to go within and ask yourself those hard questions.
[0:02:51] PF: Well, tell me how you came up with this idea, because it’s very – I’ve seen a lot of work books I’ve seen – there’s so many ways that you can approach self-discovery and awakening and change, and yours is truly unique. So, tell me how you came up with this.
[0:03:04] LRH: I always held a diary, but I hadn’t written in one for a long time. I had one when I was young. The typical pink with a nice fuzzy exterior and a lock on there, when I was a teenager. I wrote in them a lot. You fast forward decades later, and I had a few personal setbacks, and I started journaling. I found that it was very therapeutic. At the time I didn’t even know it was a thing. I didn’t know that one can journal to improve their mindset, to improve their thought process, to improve their health. There’s a lot of study around it. It’s called expressive writing.
There’s a doctor or psychologist who’s done almost 25 years’ work of research into this. So, the time I’m journaling, and I’m just working through these personal setbacks. I was sharing my journey, or my log book, my dispatches, on Facebook at the time when I was using it quite regularly. People were asking me, “Oh, wow. I love what you’re discovering. Can you help me out, too? Could you take me on this journey as well?” I started a group on Facebook in 2015, and I offered some writing prompts that came out of my own experience, and people started doing the same thing, journaling.
A couple of years later, I wrote a blog post with some writing prompts. I had a very problematic interaction with a person who holds skin color, and gender privilege, and wealth privilege as well. So, I said to him, I said, “You seem so angry. Why are you so angry? Maybe take these writing prompts and sit for 15 minutes and journal.” He told me all sorts of terrible things about who I am.
[0:04:54] PF: Oh, wow.
[0:04:55] LRH: Yeah. It was terrible. It was awful. I threw the writing prompts in a blog post, and in the first three weeks, it was shared 10,000 times.
[0:05:03] PF: Oh, my gosh. That says a lot.
[0:05:05] LRH: That says a lot. Then people were sending me small gifts, financial gifts, $5 here, $50 here, through PayPal, saying, “This is such a gift. Thank you so much.” That’s when I started a paid community to offer more writing prompts to those who like the process of journaling and being introspective. Then that’s how Inner Field Trip was birth.
[0:05:32] PF: I love that it was so organic. How it started as your own journey, and then just became you, wanting to share it with others. Then others really clamoring for it. I mean, I love when it evolves like that.
[0:05:42] LRH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then it was during the pandemic when I started adding art exercises, because many in my community were sharing with me that their inner oppressor, and the inner oppressor is who we meet on the Inner Field Trip. This is a part of ourselves that bullies us and pressures us into aligning with the status quo. So, what we do is we use the writing prompts to meet our inner oppressor, as we go on our Inner Field Trip, and we capture the ramblings of our inner oppressor through the journaling.
Many during the pandemic said to me, many of my members in my community said, “My inner oppressor has become raging, angry, or nonverbal.” That they would sit down to journal to meet their inner oppressor, and nothing would come out. That’s when I started adding expressive arts. There’s a lot of research around the power of expressive arts and helping us to heal. Helping us to give language to what we don’t have words for.
Now, the Inner Field Trip combines the power of self-reflective journaling, along with expressive arts or expressive doodling to help us to have a holistic encounter when we go on our Inner Field Trip to meet our inner oppressor.
[0:07:00] PF: Yeah. That was something I wanted to ask you about, because you do use so many different approaches, like you have the journaling, there’s drawing, there’s music, there’s movement. Why are those different creative approaches so effective in that self-exploration?
[0:07:15] LRH: A lot of what we tackle through the Inner Field Trip is, as I said, internalized messaging, but also internalized biases. So, growing up in a culture that tells us that we need to be self-reliant and pull up your bootstraps, and all these messages of individualism. It can be quite harmful to some people who don’t have sheer – where sheer willpower is not enough for them to be able to create and maintain habits.
There are environmental factors that prevent them from doing so. There are systemic barriers that they face. Some people are experiencing generational poverty. When you don’t have enough time or money to create a space to create new habits, that’s going to affect whether or not you can go and do these things, whether you can go on an inner field trip. The power of using all these different modalities is to meet people where they are.
If you’re experiencing generational poverty, well, maybe you can pick up a marker and sketchbook or even a piece of paper and just do it all for five minutes, and see what happens. There’s people in my community who have been diagnosed with different mental health disorders as they’ve gotten older. I have a lot of my community that got a late-stage ADHD diagnosis or autism. If that is the case in how they learn and interact with content is going to be different. So, being able to do the dancing, or listening to music, or doing the doodling or journaling, helps again to meet people where they are.
[0:09:01] PF: I think the book is so well laid out as well, because you build in these what you call active rest stops. I love that. Going back to the hiking thing. They put little things in the trail where you can sit and drink your water and catch your breath. You do that same thing. Talk about an active rest stop and what that is. Because to me, as I was going through your workbook, I felt like, boy, this is something you could do, even if you’re not doing the workbook. You could build in like an active rest stop day where I do this. Tell us what it is.
[0:09:30] LRH: When I hike, I usually go out. I usually do day hiking. I’ll be out on the trail for two, three hours. As I’m marching along and hiking along, I will take a rest here and there. It’s a long enough rest, so that I can grab a snack, and check the maps to make sure I’m going the right way.
[0:09:52] PF: Important.
[0:09:53] LRH: Right. So very important. What I’m not doing is I’m not going to pitch a tent and throw up in a sleeping bag and set up overnight. So, the active rest stop is the same idea within the Inner Field Trip. When it comes to creating and maintaining habits, we often try to do too much too soon. Then we end up burning out along the way. In fact, there is a study or something or stat that says, that most people will abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February 12th. I believe that’s the date. Then you start a cycle again in the next New Year, where you say, “I’m going to do this on January 1st.” Then by February 12th. It’s done. It’s abandoned and you spend the next 10 months not making the change.
What’s important to add to this pathway of trying to create new habits is to incorporate rest and pleasure and play. I recently held a gathering with workbook participants, people who bought the workbook, and we’re doing what I’m calling a three-day jumpstart to help them get motivated to do the 30-day challenge in the book. One person said that as they’ve gotten to know themselves through the Inner Field Trip, they understand that they have this fun, dorky side. Then they said, “I’m a dork.” Then others agreed with them.
Having the active rest stop means that we can slow down, rest, have some play, incorporate pleasure, so that we are nourished, nourished enough, so that we go ahead and we meet our inner oppressor again. It can’t be all work, because rest is not a reward for the work. It’s part of the work.
[0:11:46] PF: I love that. That is something that is so often overlooked. I love that you’ve integrated that, and made it such a central part of this whole journey. That is so well done. Now was there a reason you chose 30 days?
[0:12:00] LRH: It takes 66 days to form a new habit. 66. At least the inner field trip will get you half way.
[0:12:09] PF: What do you do? You bring up a great point. We need this to be a habit. We need to change our way of thinking, but we get half way there. Do you go on the field trip again, or what do you do for that next 36 days?
[0:12:23] LRH: Yes, yes, yes. So, yes, going on a field trip again is a great idea. Some people will repeat the book and keep repeating it over and over and over. Another thing to do is to get into community with others, where there’s a chapter in the workbook that gives you some tips on how to form a book club, if that stuff interests you. You could do the first 30 days by yourself, do the next 30 days in community with others, and then that will get you closer to that 60 days.
You see, the problem, one of the problems with habits and the forming of habits is that it teaches us – most of the advice out there says that if you don’t have the willpower to stick to this habit, then you just need to change your mindset. Here’s some mindset work for you to do. As I had shared before that people are experiencing systemic issues, which are preventing them from using sheer willpower alone in maintaining habits. A de-colonized approach to habit forming is to get into communion and/or community with others. Because it’s when we are with others that we are more accountable, we’re more likely to stick with the habit and we’re with individuals who are also working towards the same goal. Doing this alone is not fun.
[0:13:48] PF: Right. There’s also a lot of research that shows just how good community is for our mental health. Just being with others and sharing that. That in itself, do you see changes in people when they’re able to, instead of writing – I love journaling, it’s such a valuable tool, but if instead of journaling, they’re able to sit in a group and say, “This is how I felt and this is what I said.” Then someone else is saying, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t know someone else felt that way. I have the same thing.” What does that do for them?
[0:14:18] LRH: Exactly. When I do the inner field trip, either in my community, virtually or in person in a workshop room, not only are we meeting our inner oppressor through the journaling, not only are we meeting the inner oppressor through the arts and the expressive doodling, but we also dance. After we journal and everyone’s in their emotions, I throw on Madonna’s Material Girl and we prance around the room until that song ends.
[0:14:47] PF: I love it.
[0:14:48] LRH: It’s interesting, Paula, because some people, there’s tears dripping down their face, because of the journaling has brought up things, and then you’ll see them with their shoulder slump down, their hands hanging at their side, like spaghetti noodles, but yet, and they’re still weeping, but they’re prancing about the room with everyone else. It is so funny to witness.
We do this, we do the music after such an intense journaling, because not only are we doing it in community with each other, but it helps us to discharge some of that energy that might be trapped within. So, that when we sit back down in community, we now feel more freedom in sharing what has come up in the journaling and the expressive arts.
[0:15:34] PF: That’s terrific. Can we talk a little bit about the effects that you’ve seen for people going on this journey? What happens when people start looking at their unconscious biases and really drawing those out?
[0:15:46] LRH: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. It’s so magical, Paula. It’s so magical. I love it. I love it. I love it. The inner field trip itself was developed in community. People will pick up the workbook, do it on their own and they’re great. Some people are like that. I’m a solo hiker. I prefer to go hiking by myself than in a group. Sometimes I want the group, because it’s all about the socialization and all that. Some of the things that I’ve seen happen with people who’ve gone through the inner field trip is that people’s relationships improve, so you can call me a relationship fixer.
[0:16:21] PF: Now, there you go.
[0:16:24] LRH: But also, for some people their relationships don’t improve. I know that sounds weird, right?
[0:16:32] PF: Is that because they recognize that they’ve been putting up with things that –
[0:16:37] LRH: Ah, yes.
[0:16:38] PF: – they shouldn’t?
[0:16:39] LRH: Yes. That’s what happens, right? There’s an awakening that they have that, wow, look at all this toxicity I put up within this relationship. Whether that relationship is personal, or whether that relationship is professional, like in a workplace or so on. Others have, for example, I’ve seen a few people in my community who have boldly come out and said, “The gender, or the sex assigned at birth is no longer the gender I identify with.” I’ve watched over several months, or years how they’ve transitioned and have become more confident and more assured of themselves.
Perhaps, that’s not going to be your story. Maybe your story is that you found your voice. I have a lot of people pleasers that come through my community. Weak boundaries, porous boundaries. Then they go through the inner field trip and they’re able to have much stronger boundaries. Not rigid barriers, but stronger boundaries.
[0:17:39] PF: Is that because they have a stronger sense of self?
[0:17:41] LRH: Yes. They have a stronger sense of self and they’re able to – they’re able to find their voice and use it in a much more effective way. Again, it’s not about creating rigid barriers. It’s not like, they come out with a much more angry, stern voice, but now they’re able to advocate for themselves.
Ultimately, when we do this work with the inner field trip, it’s about holding compassion for ourselves. It’s about recognizing our own humanity, that we are messy, that we will stumble along figuratively on this path, and then when we can see how messy our own humanity is, then we can look at someone else’s humanity and treat it with grace and love and compassion.
[0:18:30] PF: What are some of the stories? Is there any one that stands out of this incredible transformation that you never would have anticipated would happen by someone going on this field trip?
[0:18:43] LRH: Yeah, there’s several. There’s someone who used to be in my community, and unfortunately, she passed on. Just a wonderful advocate for the inner field trip. Her first name was Rachel. When she first came across the inner field trip, she was very timid, very timid, and broken as well. As I got to know her, she shared more about her experience, her life. Over and over, just many people taking advantage of her kind spirit. Once she went through the inner field trip, and she’d been in part of the community for many, many months, and she, in one of our gatherings, in one of our circles, she shared that she was able, finally able to communicate with her ex-husband, what her needs were around the co-parenting.
She broke down in tears with us, because she said she had never before stood up to him that way. She thought he was going to rage, or get upset. But instead, he accepted her boundaries. She said, “Wow, who knows how different our relationship would have been,” had she known how easy it would have been to express her boundaries around co-parenting.
[0:19:58] PF: That’s amazing.
[0:19:59] LRH: We cried, yeah.
[0:20:01] PF: It sounds like, going through the field trip doesn’t just change internally. It really changes the way these people are moving through the world. Then they are having an effect on the people that they come in contact with, because they’re interacting with them differently.
[0:20:19] LRH: Exactly. When people go through the inner field trip, one of the things that comes out is that they recognize that how they take direct action, whatever that looks like, that they feel more confident doing so in a way that aligns with their personality and their uniqueness. There are a lot of causes that we care about. Whether it’s about saving the trees, or saving the pets, or maybe there’s a conflict happening around the world where you really care about the plight of those who are suffering. Whatever that cause is, we each have something that we care deeply about.
The way that people believe direct action should take place is you’ve got to go up there and march. You have to hit the – bodies on the line, boots on the ground is what I often hear. For some of us, that’s not a form of direct action that we can take. Either, maybe you have a disability and you’re not able to put those boots on the ground. Perhaps, you’re not able, maybe you’re time deficient or under-resourced in terms of time and you can’t get to these marches and sit-ins, and so forth.
When you can understand yourself better and you’re able to work through your internalized issues, that confidence builds because now you know that, hey, my form of activism is writing letters, or my form of activism is holding space in a therapy room, in a session with someone who’s gone through some trauma. If, as a therapist, you can sit there and provide compassion and help that person heal, that’s your form of activism. Activism, taken direct action, doesn’t have to look like this. There are so many different ways that we can show up in the world to help those who are suffering.
[0:22:11] PF: I love that. I love that. Again, your workbook really lets people discover what’s right for them. They’re going to run into some uncomfortable characters on rough terrain inside that field trip. Again, what’s so wonderful is there is a community that you’ve built, that they can reach out to and they can become part of and they can help process it with someone else.
[0:22:34] LRH: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
[0:22:37] PF: As we start this new year, what is your wish for the people who are listening to this? What do you hope that they can do and accomplish by going inside themselves?
[0:22:49] LRH: What I wish is that we stop trying to become allies. Instead, we look at becoming better ancestors. My wish is that we stop passing on pain and we start to pass on healing. That even if you don’t have biological children, or you’re estranged from your biological children, we each have something that we can pass on to the next generation. That’s what I would like to see us do, that we look ahead and we take on the Iroquois Nation thinking, which is all about looking seven generations ahead and asking ourselves, “What decision am I making now in terms of the habits I’m going to form that I can pass on healing that will resonate seven generations from now?”
I wonder how much different we would all be if seven generations ago our ancestors did that. They looked ahead and said, “Okay. I don’t know what their faces will be. I don’t know what their names will be, but I want to make sure I make a decision now in terms of the habits I develop, so that seven generations from now, my descendants look back and say, “Well done. Well done.”” I think a lot of the things we focus on and the things that are grabbing our attention is a distraction. A distraction away from the work that we need to do, so that we become better and we pass on better things to our descendants.
[0:24:23] PF: That is so well said. We are very fortunate to have you in this tumultuous time on our planet –
[0:24:29] LRH: So tumultuous.
[0:24:31] PF: Yeah. To be able to guide us through this. I mean, this is – your timing on this and obviously, you were put here at this time for a reason and this workbook is such a wonderful way to help us navigate it. I thank you for doing that and I thank you for joining me here today.
[0:24:48] LRH: Thank you, Paula.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:24:53] PF: That was author and mental wellness advocate, Leesa Renee Hall, talking about her Inner Field Trip Workbook. If you’d like to learn more about Leesa, follow her on social media, or learn more about the Inner Field Trip Workbook, just visit us at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.