Randi Buckley is a coach, teacher and writer, whose work points toward exploring one’s own divinity, in support of forging a personal identity that merges head, heart and intuition. Randi works with women who sense that their personal identity is in flux in unsettled situations and big life decisions. As the creator of the programs Maybe Baby and Healthy Boundaries for Kind People, she bases her private practice on a trinity of deep wisdom, intuition and playful mischief. She’s been described as “equal parts Pema Chödrön, Sophia Loren and Clint Eastwood, with a splash of George Carlin.”
CIGDEM KOBU: Could you start with telling us about your story? What led you to who you are and the work you’re doing today?
RANDI BUCKLEY: I’ve been coaching all of my life, in different forms, since I was hanging out at the playground. Kids would seek me out to help them with conflicts between each other, their parents or to learn how to approach a teacher about something, and teachers would consult with me on how to best handle conflicts. In time, the issues became bigger and my love for supporting people did too. It’s been natural and I’ve honed the wisdom and skill within it. It’s what I do and what I’ve always done but didn’t necessarily have the occupational match. (Except for my work at Skogfjorden, the Norwegian Language Village, where I now serve as Assistant Dean.) Eventually I thought I would become a midwife, then as a doula, I realized that calling was metaphorical.
My résumé and life sound like something out of a very eclectic movie (and include many names that you’d see in the movies). Everything from going to The Oscars to hot tubbing with the Grateful Dead. And lots in between. But my work has always come from a place of believing one’s truth is sacred. And that there is always a way. Maybe Baby came out of my personal struggle of ambivalence with motherhood. I like to stand in the fire with people on the big and defining decisions of their lives. I hold that space compassionately and lovingly.
And the writing is new. I’m a little surprised I’m doing it, but I love it and it has been generously received. That helps. There is more coming: writing, coaching, programs and retreats. It’s a treat for me as well as a vocation. A calling. A passion.
CIGDEM: What has the biggest challenge been in your journey and how did you deal with it?
RANDI: Self-sabotage and a rebellious heart have tangoed a bit in my life. They tend to dance together. I still deal with it and feel it’s more of something I manage as opposed to being done dealing with it. And that happens through awareness, allowing myself to accept help and not have to do it all by myself, having people and experiences that speak to my true name and see who I am when it gets clouded for me. And compassion for self and others.
CIGDEM: In your opinion, what are the elements of leading a positive life?
RANDI: Knowing your truth and values, and letting them serve as your compass. Being aware of and responsible for the energy you bring. Focus on what you love instead of investing energy in what you don’t love (or even hate). Kindness and compassion can transform pretty much anything, especially when it’s not expected.
CIGDEM: Vaclav Havel said, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” What is your take on that?
RANDI: I’m a longtime fan of Havel and much of my coach training was through his work in Theatre of the Absurd. I believe he is saying hope drives us because it is our belief that something is good. It’s hope for hope’s sake. Our having done (or doing) the work provides optimism. It’s like love, for the sake of love, not for the security of a marriage, even though love might be the ignition and fire that leads to marriage. I’m on board with hope for hope’s sake.
“I think the fear is in place to protect us from really seeking and knowing our truth so that we don’t get hurt in pursuit of it or from not being able to live it.”
CIGDEM: Do you think optimism can be learned?
RANDI: Yes. I think most anything can be learned even if it’s not your natural starting point. And for certain, anything can be leaned into, when you’re not sure you can fully embrace the idea on your own.
There is vulnerability in optimism, and consequently strength. But if that idea is foreign you don’t understand the strength part of that equation and are weary of going there. So optimism can be used as a tool if full embodiment feels overwhelming.
CIGDEM: You’ve said, “Truth is often buried under fear. Like, pretty much all the time.” How do you unearth your truth, and how does that influence the way you embrace life?
RANDI: I think the fear is in place to protect us from really seeking and knowing our truth so that we don’t get hurt in pursuit of it or from not being able to live it. I see it as something like in an Indiana Jones movie… and many fables and tales throughout time. We are drawn to seek something and discover that it is dangerous territory and surrounded by things that terrify us and if we do pursue it despite all of that, and face those fears, we discover something deeply vulnerable and innocent.
The fear is a thick membrane protecting our truth from mishandling or pain, as it is so precious and so important. Fear can be very effective in preventing us from really knowing or embracing our truth. If we can approach it as trying to be in service we can find empathy for it and dare I say compassion. We all soften with compassion.
CIGDEM: How do you rekindle your inner spark? And how do you get the negative out of your system?
RANDI: I’m past 40, and I still go to summer camp. I’m reminded of who I am at the core while helping lead a program for kids to learn and thrive, standing in a ring while singing around a campfire. (Running around the woods as a character from Norse Mythology doesn’t hurt.) I live where I’d otherwise vacation. I adore British comedy. I eat lots of dark chocolate. I invest in really good duvets. I’m pretty good about spending time with the people who delight my soul and, as I say, “know my true name.” Those who bring out the best version of you. And I spend a lot of time alone. I treasure that.
I don’t try to get all of the negative out of my system. I try to convert it to fuel and let it become a driving force toward something positive or important to me. Some of my greatest feats came out of emotions that might be considered “negative,” but I used it as fuel. I don’t really believe that there are “bad” emotions, though we do have preferred our ones. Emotions are great barometers for when wants to happen, what is trying to happen or what needs to be acknowledged. I’m willing to be in them rather than dismiss them or feel bad for having them.
CIGDEM: Do you read or watch the daily news? How do you stay hopeful and optimistic when so much bad stuff is going on all over the world?
RANDI: I’m a news junkie and I always have been. I am very aware that for me, the news source is just as impactful as the news itself. I’m pretty consistent about getting the bulk of my news from outside of the US (usually The BBC). I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are wildly healing comic relief that provide temperance without tuning out.
I don’t lose hope because I think there are solutions. In my coaching practice, it’s so clear and easy to see that despite challenges, confusion and pain, people want and know that something else is available. They want to know their truth so they can live by it. Our truth and values guide the solutions.
I work (and get to be with kids and amazing colleagues) during the summer. It’s through the lens of foreign language and cultural education, but it is ultimately personal discovery and transformation. You can’t not carry hope with you when you witness or even better, get to be a part of kids connecting with something really important to them and having that passion, and in turn themselves nurtured and accepted. That rekindles your spark and keeps the batteries of the soul fully charged like nothing else.
“The absence of some feelings of overwhelm or stuckness would be indicative on being on autopilot. When you have a lot going on, things you are trying to figure out, things you love, things on your mind, you name it, they will bump into each other like logs being floated down the river. Sometimes it just takes a poking at one or two logs to get everything flowing again.”
CIGDEM: Do you ever experience overwhelm or stuckness? How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
RANDI: Absolutely. It’s a reminder that I’m alive and that there are so many things I care about and want to do. To me the absence of some feelings of overwhelm or stuckness would be indicative on being on autopilot. When you have a lot going on, things you are trying to figure out, things you love, things on your mind, you name it, they will bump into each other like logs being floated down the river. Sometimes it just takes a poking at one or two logs to get everything flowing again. And again, compassion.
CIGDEM: What are the methods you use to deal with your inner critic?
RANDI: I trust that it is trying to be in service of me and have my back, but it’s just really bad at it. So, I listen to what its deep concern is, what it’s trying to protect me from and, we negotiate what it needs from me in order to back off. My opportunity is to recognize it when it shows up in different guises and see it for what it is. Once I can name that this is the voice of an inner critic, it loses its power.
CIGDEM: How do you take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally?
RANDI: These are very elastic concepts for me right now. I have a small child, no childcare and a full-time business. So what this used to mean to me is very different than what it means now, but is no less important. I’m rebuilding this. It was torn down through sleep deprivation and exhaustion, but I have the gift of a reset and intention. At the core is and will be compassion.
I rekindle in the moment right now (day trips to Big Sur, Skype with loved ones, the weight of a small child sleeping on me, amber candles, rose oil) but also have things I look forward to. And I connect with people who feed my soul. And I feed my soul… delicious food. But there will be lots of sleep, Scandinavian soil underfoot, a business I love, and pizza.
CIGDEM: Cultivating gratitude and practicing true forgiveness is easier said than done. What are your thoughts on gratitude and forgiveness and the way they affect our joy of life?
RANDI: I love that you recognize these are easier said than done. I think our cultural reverence for gratitude and forgiveness can make them seem like a magic pill for our woes and suffering. There are many “shoulds” around it (and “shoulds” make me weary). When employed as a means to an end, we become aware of how many blessings we have (not a bad thing) but likely remain unresolved.
You said “true” forgiveness, and that’s just it. It has to be true for us. I believe gratitude and forgiveness are deeply transformational when willingly and uniquely embodied, and offer a freedom we are unattached to. They joy in the gratitude and forgiveness is for the sake of gratitude and forgiveness.
CIGDEM: What do you suggest to a woman who wants to lead a more positive life and keep her inner spark alive?
RANDI: Feed the white wolf.
While I was raised with the idea if this (thanks, parents!), it was in coaching with Steve Mitten that I learned the tale and Native American (Cherokee, I believe)/First Nation legend.
A young boy told his grandfather, “A fight is going on inside of me. It is like a fight between two wolves. The black wolf is anger, envy, sorrow, and worry.” He continued, “The white wolf is peace, love, hope, and kindness.” The boy asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”
And what has been so true for me is finding the place, the people, the experiences that remind me of my ‘loveliness’, my gifts, my soul. I get to have the hand on my brow and be the hand on the brow of others. And that is my hope and enthusiasm. I’ll leave you with an excerpt of one of my favorite poems by Galway Kinnell.
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing