Wise Women Wednesday: Emily Stewart

Photo by Carolyn DeBerry

Photo by Carolyn DeBerry

It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions.  These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.

Q. Who are you? What is your background?
A. I was raised by writers in the literary capital of Alabama – Monroeville – which is the tiny little town not far from Mobile that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was written about.  If you’ve read the book, you’ve basically been there.  I grew up running around my family’s newspaper office, editing copy from about age 8 and writing a weekly column before I was tall enough to reach the time clock.  My parents were very adamant about making sure we learned to write and that we got an education beyond what Alabama public schools had to offer, so they got us very involved.  We spent a lot of time in the darkroom and the print shop there as kids and my brother drew cartoons for the paper.  I think that’s where I learned that if you want to do something creative, you just find the tools and put them together and make it happen.

Q. What is your work?
A. I’m a Singer/Songwriter as well as a Vibrational Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher at In Tune Reiki & Healing Vibrations in Winston-Salem.  I really view the healing arts and the performing arts as the same endeavor.  Music came into my life as a healing force after a car accident, and when I began practicing other forms of energy work and teaching others to channel healing energy, I quickly realized that this was what I had been doing onstage and in my songwriting process all along.  Music is medicine, and musicians are essentially just vessels for that healing energy.

I provide one-on-one sessions in my office at the Wellness Collective on 5th, including Reiki Treatments, Vibrational Therapy with Tuning Forks, and Tarot Readings, as well as workshops including Reiki training and certification. For folks who are unfamiliar, Reiki is a hands-on healing technique for improving the flow of life-force energy throughout the body.  It is known for helping clear energy blockages from the body’s energy field that can lead to mental, emotional and physical health issues.  Tuning forks work in a similar way, working like vibrational magnets to remove blockages and tune the body’s energy field.  Weighted forks are also sometimes used on meridian points in a technique similar to reflexology as well as on sore muscles and vertebrae to relieve pain, promote blood flow, and help realign the spine. Beth Blair of Seamless Living NC and I host a monthly Reiki Circle at the Wellness Collective for folks who want to give and receive Reiki or just learn more about it.

I also enjoy getting out of the office to play music weekly in the Psych Unit at Baptist Hospital and provide Healing Bedside Music Visits to folks who are convalescing in hospitals and nursing homes or seniors who are homebound and could use a little cheer and human connection.  It’s a service that works very much like sending flowers to a loved one, and I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding things I do.  People absolutely light up, and you can feel the rejuvenation happen as they begin tapping their feet and sometimes even singing along.  Especially in hospitals and nursing homes, music is really captivating and takes people to another place. 

I perform musically around the Southeast both solo and with a folk duet called Magpie Thief.  We just released an EP called Say What You Mean back in December and are enjoying the freedom to travel more as a duet.  I love connecting with new audiences and tapping into the vibe of different cities, and it’s made me aware that there’s something special about the music scene in the Triad.  We’ve nurtured each other’s songs and paid little attention to the notion of competition.  Because of that, the area is bubbling over with ideas, inspiration, and collaboration.  I think it’s important to take the magic that forms in the belly of a deep community like this on the road to inspire others.

Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. I am currently working on a full length record that is a series of human portraits – stories of people I’ve run into, told with a strong sense of empathy and compassion for their stories and their struggles.  I think it’s really important right now, with people so divided politically and other wedges being driven between us as humans by the perpetuation of fear, for us to be looking into each other rather than just seeing what’s on the surface. A song is a really powerful place to do that.

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. Sometimes it takes more courage to walk away from something that isn’t working than to start something new.  A little over a year ago, after putting many years of work into founding, building, and operating a yoga and wellness center in Winston from the ground up, it became very apparent that my partner and I had sharply conflicting visions and values.  I struggled with the decision for a long time before I was ready to move on, but when I finally allowed myself to see the possibilities beyond what I had created there for focusing more fully on my private practice and my music, the necessary pieces began to fall into place.  I learned a lot about faith and what it means to stand up for what you believe in while trusting the universe to show you where you need to be.  I immediately found a new home for my practice and, to my surprise, much of the community I had enjoyed working with joined me there.  It was a valuable lesson in following my inner compass.

Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you? 
A. Healing work, through music and holistic modalities, is really what I want to be doing most.  The only wish I have is to do even more of it for wider audiences.

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Start playing music now! You have no idea how hard you’re going to be bitten by the music bug in a few years.

Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. One of my favorite quotes is from Emily Dickenson: “You never know how tall you are until you’re called to rise.”  The challenges we face strengthen us immeasurably, so I always try to embrace challenges with open arms and notice how much more capable I am as a result of tackling them.

Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. I actually can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like it.  It seems like there are always more ideas stewing in this brain than I have time to manifest, which can sometimes be overwhelming and frustrating. When I don’t feel like working on one idea, I try to switch to another that inspires me more in the moment.  By the time I finish that, I’m usually refreshed and ready to resume where I left off.

Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I have learned through the often stressful process of starting businesses and managing many endeavors at once that self-care is key.  I don’t know where I would be without my daily self-Reiki practice and work that forces me to center and ground myself.  It can be hard to remember to take a break and recharge or even to allow yourself to do so, but working through an injury that has resulted in chronic pain over the past year and a half has really forced me to take time to replenish myself, and it’s been eye-opening as far as how much more I can actually accomplish after taking a break.  We live in times where stillness isn’t a luxury.  It’s a necessity.

Q. What's your favorite yoga pose? 
A. I have always loved child’s pose, particularly while massaging the third eye against the mat.  It’s a great way to get centered and clear the mind, which is really important for a mind that tends to constantly be cooking.

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. It feels really important to lift up the people around me and support them in their endeavors.  Since I generally have a surplus of ideas, for me it’s often about taking time to share those ideas.  When I look at someone else’s art or their endeavor, it seems to open up a kaleidoscope of possibilities in my mind as far as how they could connect with more people or make it more financially sustainable or think about it in a way that empowers them.  The more I share these thoughts with people, the more I find that that intention circles back around into someone lifting me up and helping me succeed in the work that I do.