Welcome to It’s Not About The Chair. I’m Lyena Strelkoff, a storyteller, performer, speaker, and coach. I believe our stories — the ones we’ve lived, that we can’t believe we made it through, or can’t stop laughing about, or just can’t stop thinking about —  are the greatest source of healing we have, for ourselves and especially, for each other. I started telling my own stories after I was paralyzed in a fall. My hope is that this blog will be a place to laugh, learn, heal and grow together. Because, ultimately, it’s not about the chair, or any other obstacle we might face. It’s about the choices we make, the spirit we bring, and helping each other thrive. I’m so glad you’re here.

If you were facing amputation….

“Can I ask you something?”

The question came from a man sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of a stack of children’s books at our local library. We’d acknowledged each other just moments before as I’d tried to squeeze by, asking if I could sneak behind him and then admitting that I hardly “sneak.” “You can see me coming a mile off,” I added playfully.

Even so, I didn’t at first realize he was talking to me when he posed his question. He never looked up from the books on the bottom shelf.

“Sure,” I said, when I finally figured it out.

“How long are you supposed to be in that chair?”

I was a little taken aback. Despite my very public sharing of my life, I don’t generally appreciate personal questions about my disability from total strangers, especially when those questions are among the very first things someone says to me. And it always surprises me a little. Being immersed in my big life, I forget that strangers often reduce me to what is most visible.

But I wasn’t inclined to shut him down summarily. Instead, I said something somewhat cryptic like, “That’s a good question.”

To which he replied, “I’m asking because next week, I’m having this leg amputated. I got bit by a black widow and the infection goes all the way up to here,” he said, indicating just below his knee. “And they asked me if I want to be in a wheelchair or if I want a prosthetic leg.”

Boy, I didn’t see that coming. Nor did I remember that I had, at that moment on my lap, a book about black widows. Aidan is obsessed with poisonous creatures right now.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s a big deal.”

“Yeah,” he said wistfully. “So I was just wondering…. I mean, I thought people would look at me differently in a wheelchair… Do people look at you differently?”

Apparently, there wasn’t enough bitterness in me to point out how he was looking at me. My only impulse was to tell him the truth.

“They’re going to look at you differently either way.”

“How do you deal with that?”

I quickly remembered being in a very crowded outdoor mall with a friend about a year after I was injured and her asking, quite out of the blue, “How do you stand the looks?”

What looks, I thought? I hadn’t noticed I was being “looked at.”

Now that was in part because I’m used to being looked at. For one reason or another, I’ve always turned heads. But it’s also because I wasn’t looking for people looking.

“You know,” I told the man, “That’s an inside job. If you’re not at peace with yourself, one look can floor you. If you are, even a hundred won’t matter.”

“What happened to you?” he asked, now looking right at me.

“I fell,” I said. “Climbing.”

It seemed only to slowly sink in, but when it did, he looked so sad for me. It was heartbreaking, really.

“It’s ok,” I said. “It’s impossible to imagine but it actually made my life better. I’m really happy.”

He looked stunned, and glad, and then back to lost.

“I don’t know,” he said. “They said it’ll take three months to learn how to walk again…. I mean, if you had a choice, what would you do?”

That was an easy one. “I’d take the leg. No question.”

“You would?”

“Absolutely. There are so many barriers when you’re in a chair. I mean, they’re everywhere. “

Suddenly I felt near desperate to convey this fact. Though it’s true my life is better in every meaningful way, there is not one single day that goes by that doesn’t present at least one barrier. The obstacles are relentless and their impact on my life is significant.

Of course, in that moment, I could hardly think of a single example.

I stammered something about the shortcomings of the ADA and limited public access. Neither seemed to register on the man’s face. But then I remembered something that had caught me totally off guard when I got home from rehab.

“Your friends’ houses,” I said pointedly.

Light bulb.

“Right,” he said dramatically. “You’d need ramps everywhere.”

For the rest of the day after we’d parted, a parade of meaningful examples passed through my mind – the play structure in your daughter’s park; the houses where her friends have birthday parties…. But that one example was going to have to do.

We talked a bit more — about his pain, about the challenge of explaining to his six year-old, of whom he had custody, what was about to happen – and then he and his daughter left while Aidan and I kept looking for books. But the encounter stayed with me for a long time.

What courage it must have taken for him to reach out to me. No wonder he didn’t look up from the books. And what must it be like to know that something so severe, permanent, and altering is about to happen? As shocking as my loss was, I didn’t have to deal with anticipation.

Amazingly, it didn’t occur to me to tell him I help people experiencing profound life changes. That’s one worth questioning, for sure.

But our meeting did really stoke the fire of my passion.

I believe so deeply that these kinds of challenges – the big divorce, the medical dramas, the financial crises – can be the most extraordinary opportunities. No matter what a person believes about the “why,” whether or not they resonate with a sense of “soul purpose” or any other spiritual perspective (or none at all), there is such extraordinary potential in these circumstances, specifically in the situations that bring us to our knees.

And at the end of the day, my heart just aches for anyone without access to that potential. If a person must feel the bitter pain of such events, s/he should also be allowed every last gift it has to offer.

I felt that so powerfully for myself when I was newly injured. If I had to live everyday with the crushing losses, then I better get something REALLY terrific out of the deal. And I did. And I still do.

I don’t know what potential lives at the heart of this man’s amputation; I only know that it’s there, waiting to be discovered; and I want that for him with every bone in my body. I want his loss to be the bearer of great gifts, in the same way paralysis has been for me. In truth, I want that for everyone.

I pray this man has the support he needs to make the journey with grace. And I pledge to keep preaching the Shero’s Way and making myself available. I would love to be a ramp for someone looking for a little access.

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Fou year-old makes 11 loaves!

Well, today was the day: Eleven pumpkin breads baked for his teachers and staff at school. This is my little guy, age 4, workin’ his math skills and making it happen. Eleven loaves. Holy cow.

We’re gearing up for our Solstice gathering on Sunday, and then a mostly quiet week as we settle into the dark of the season.

According to nature (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway), that’s what we’re supposed to be doing — resting. Not exactly what the holidays tend to look like.

For me, the next day or two is my last flurry of activity. Then, I’m going to do my very best to honor the season, to dream and sleep, rest and renew.

How about you?

Is there a moment in all the hustle bustle of the holidays to nourish YOU? A meditation break. A bath. An hour to sleep in. Maybe it’s not days but a moment, here or there, to give just a bit of what you’re giving everywhere else to YOU?

Finishing our call last Wednesday, I found myself thinking about all that we give at this time of year. Such a wonderful tradition and yet, how exhausted and depleted we sometimes feel when it’s over. We are spent, personally, financially.

I wonder if this year might be different.

Is there something you can hold aside for yourself? A commitment or investment you can make in you? What would that even feel like?

Maybe we can lean on each other, remind each other that we’re worth such investments, that nothing we care to sustain can last if we, ourselves, dissolve and fade away. Maybe together, in the dark, we can vanquish the shame and the guilt that creep forth. Maybe we can hold space and help each other take a stand for our own evolution, our own quiet — and beautiful — becoming.

What do you say? We’re both worth it. This, I know.

Early enrollment in The Shero’s Way — Starting on the Shero’s Path ends tonight at midnight. There’s still time to secure private coaching as a bonus simply for applying early.

Is that, perhaps, the gift you give yourself? A chance to finally step forward into the purpose you’ve been hoping for?

It’s not too late… And I’m standing with you in the dark.
The Shero’s Way – Starting on the Shero’s Path Q&A
Encore now available:

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I woke the beast

Well, the last 48 hours have been an interesting ride, to put it both gently and optimistically. Here’s what happened:

On Saturday morning, I did the Q&A call for The Shero’s Way — Starting on the Shero’s Path. It was bumpy, in my opinion: disjointed, less than articulate, awkward. I was surprised by that… Speaking in nearly every form is squarely in my “zone of genius,” if you’ve heard that term. Many things vex me but representing myself, my beliefs, and my work aren’t among them.

Still, there it was.

I heard from some on the line that the call was good so, yes, of course, there is evidence of perfectionism and being one’s own worst critic…. But that’s hardly the point, which you’ll see in a moment. There was something more.

Because even more surprising than a weak call was the spiraling hole I slid into afterwards. By evening, I’d been visited by Defeatism in a surprisingly strong show. I rallied a bit the next day, only to be taken down again this morning. And then, a few hours ago, I had the profound and utterly shocking thought that I simply can’t do this. I can’t keep making myself available for this work.

For so damn long, I had been sneaking it in, this work. Sneaking it into every story I told while I was being a performing artist; sneaking it into all the lectures I gave, the workshops I taught; sneaking it into my early coaching experience training entrepreneurs to light up the stage with confidence.

And the longer I snuck, the more quietly unhappy I became. I felt “off,” uneasy. I felt restless and frustrated. And guilty for the lot. I worried about wasting my life, my precious survival from that 25 foot fall. But the thought of going whole hog, of really putting both my feet into the work I survived to do, filled me with such terror, such crippling doubt, I found it hard to move.

Of course, I rarely experienced it as terror or “crippling.” Far more often, it felt like “not the right time,” or “I’m not quite ready,” or  “eventually/some day” or “it doesn’t make sense to do that because (fill in the blank with any number of perfectly reasonable justifications and excuses, most of which were affirmed and supported by those around me because they were so reasonable); or “it’s happening… it just takes time” or “I don’t know how”; or “I’m not sure what”; or any other mild mannered, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing feeling that could do the job. The job of stopping me in my tracks.

And then it changed, two years ago, when I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Sometimes, I am a profoundly slow learner so, apparently, I needed yet another slam to jolt me out of all that avoiding and resisting, that reasonableness.

And so I made a commitment then, to myself and to God, to do EXACTLY the work I came here to do: I would help people turn their adversity into lives of purpose. I would help them to make the same commitment I myself was making, to see their avoidance, resistance and reasonableness as the fear and doubt they were. And to rise. Finally, to rise, into the humans they were meant to be, the unique manifestation of God their own souls longed to experience.

And that’s when I began preaching — unabashedly, directly, up front and without sneaking — The Shero’s Way. And my coaching practice shifted and I started serving clients directly in this way, rather than folding it into something else I was doing.

And now I feel alive and relieved and so honored…. And also really, really scared.

And that brings us back to this weekend and that Q&A call and the emergence of a fact far more important than perfectionism or self-reproach: Simply, I woke the beast.

We have in us, all of us, this force. It strives to protect us from failure, from discord, from shame and humiliation, pain and loss. It is fierce in its efforts. Often, its job is not difficult. We are easily swayed by any of the thoughts I listed above. And when we are swayed, the beast is at rest, for we are not risking any of the things the beast seeks to avoid.

But when we forge ahead, when we take a stand for our evolution and stick out our necks in service to our purpose (as I did with that call), the beast is activated and gets busy trying to quash the uprising, to make us “safe” again.

This is what it’s like to stand in our purpose. To take a stand for our soul’s deepest desires.

I want to tell you that it is golden, elevating, deeply fulfilling — and it is! It is also terrifying, triggering, and challenging.

That’s why we don’t do it.

That’s why we tolerate the dim and dull light I spoke of last week.

It’s why we resonate to the center of our core with words such as mine, and then don’t take action: don’t listen to a call, don’t join a group, don’t invest the time or money or effort it takes to move forward. Because we sense in our hearts the stirring beast and we are afraid that we will suffer or fail or be hurt.

We are, in fact, so afraid that we don’t notice just how much we are suffering, failing, and hurting RIGHT NOW.

The most powerful place for our fear is buried underneath its many disguises. Because there, we don’t even notice how terrified we are. We are lulled by our excuses, our justifications, our reasonableness into staying “safely” right where we are.

If we could at least see our fear for what it is, recognize the beast both at rest and when active, at least then we could make a conscious choice. We could still choose not to move forward, but we would know that’s what we were doing.

I think that’s maybe why we don’t do it. We don’t want to own such a choice. The burden feels too heavy. It’s no mistake that the first step in The Shero’s Way is Radical Responsibility, which we have so much to learn about, most noteably how to do it without judgment toward ourselves, and with compassion instead.

But today… I am not walking away from this work. Beast or no, I will preach The Shero’s Way until I am blue in the face because I believe our souls are calling us forward and I CANNOT say no again. Not for my own sake… and not for yours.

For most of my life, paralysis was my biggest fear. Now that that’s happened, my biggest fear has become regret. I do not want to reach the end of my life and feel regret that I haven’t done what I’ve most wanted to do, that I haven’t fulfilled the purpose I feel bobbing at the boundaries of my life. I do not want to lament that I allowed fear to rule my choices. I can live with failure…. I cannot live with regret.

And so… truth be told, I am terrified and I feel exposed and vulnerable, because what I believe is on full display without any masks and I am putting a huge stake in the ground. Saturday’s call, whether good or bad, was only a trigger of fear living much deeper, much closer to the heart. But I’ve found again, at least for the next moments, my courage.

And really, it’s for you.

The truth is this: If stepping into a life of purpose was easy, we’d have already done it. We’d all have already done it long ago. It’s not easy. It’s actually quite challenging, and our human psyches are designed to keep us from taking the risks involved.

It’s also totally worth it and totally doable. Despite the challenges, despite our prehistoric wiring.

But we require support. We all do. And we deserve support. We all do. For people like you, I can be that support. And if I do not stand in these truths and do not take that stand for you, I will be filled with regret when I reach my life’s end. And that, I cannot abide.

So… We’re doing another Q&A call, this Wednesday, December 17 at 6:00pm Pacific. It’s another chance for both of us to do what we came here to do. Let’s not miss it.

With so much love in my heart.

The Shero’s Way – Starting on the Shero’s Path Q&A
Wednesday, December 17th at 6:00pm Pacific
Attend by Phone: (425) 440-5100
Guest pin code: 264451#
Attend by Web:

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Starting on the Shero’s Path — Q&A call

Did you catch my BIG REVEAL earlier today? I’ve been touched by the immediate response. What did YOU think?

I wanted to just quickly touch base with the details for tomorrow’s call, for anyone who’s interested in this work.

The Shero’s Way — Starting on the Shero’s Path
Live Q & A with Lyena

  • What IS a shero, a shero’s journey, the shero’s way? — And how can they improve the most important things in your life.
  • Why you and your life DO qualify for shero-dom (no matter what you think) — And the one simple step it takes to get there.
  • The true purpose of adversity — And why our typical response is sucking the life out of our lives (and what you can do to make it juicy again!)
  • Plus your questions, answered in detail!

When: Saturday, December 13th at 9:30am Pacific

Participate via phone or web.

Telephone call-in number: (425) 440-5100
PIN Code: 264451#

To attend via web:
visit http://InstantTeleseminar.com/?eventid=63431391

You can submit your questions ahead of time using the link above, or call in to ask your questions live.

I hope you’ll join me. This could be a big step in creating the life of purpose you crave.

With love,


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It’s finally here! — Starting on the Shero’s Path

Today’s the day — The Big Reveal! (Toot-to-to-toot!) (Seriously, where is a trumpet when you need one?)

And in the fanfare… all I can think about is YOU.

Lying in bed last night, with the rain pouring and the wind howling, I could see so clearly my desire for you:

A bridge, leading from where you are to where you most want to be. Solid and sure, smooth in its arch, clear in its path… A bridge inviting you forward.

This is what I most long to provide, and what — with hope — I am joyfully introducing today.


What if you could understand your soul’s purpose and be empowered to fulfill it?

What if your life could have more meaning and direction?

What if you could feel at peace – inspired, empowered, happy and fulfilled?

And what if…

Everything you’ve been through has been preparing you for where you most want to go?

Introducing The Shero’s WayTM: Starting on the Shero’s Path.
A 12-week group exploration to mine the medicine of your story so you can claim a life of purpose.

(Already intrigued? Check it out here.)

Does this sound like you?

You’re clearly surviving but you long to really thrive, to be inspired, give back… To live a more purposeful life.

You’ve gotten through your challenges but your life no longer feels like it fits you. You feel a bit lost, dissatisfied or unfulfilled.

Perhaps the stuff you’ve been through seems small compared to others and you don’t yet realize the potential you now hold to heal the world beyond you. You just feel restlessunder-fulfilled, worn out (and usually guilty for all three).

The Shero’s WayTM: Starting on the Shero’s Path is a 12-week group coaching program, designed to transmute adversities into personal power. Together, we translate our souls’ intentions, so that we can claim the purpose that was intended for us and truly shine.

Here’s what you stand to gain, my friend:

  • Make sense of what’s happened to you and find within it your true purpose.
  • Unleash the power of your past to propel you forward instead of holding you back.
  • Discover deeper meaning in your experience and unlock your potential to live a life of purpose.
  • And so much more (the literally gorgeous list is here.)

Everything you need to know is now available on our BEAUTIFUL new website (my darling, web designing husband truly outdid himself! Yea, DEAN!)

But don’t wait. There’s a BIG BONUS there for you and it disappears in ONE WEEK.


Every trial has the potential to move us closer to purpose, even long after the fact. That’s its job, its sacred charge. It’s our job to engage with those trials in a mindful way – The Shero’s Way.

Tomorrow, I’ll be live on the line at 9:30am PST to answer any questions you have. More details coming later today.

Meantime, know this: I have created this program for you, as a bridge from where you are to where you most want to be.

Is it time to let your soul finish the work it started when it brought hardship into your life?

Please take a moment now and check out The Shero’s WayTM — Starting on the Shero’s Path.

From my heart to yours, my friend.


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