THE BRA THAT CHANGED THE WORLD… The 1970s saw women coming into their own, working hard to create new roles at home and in sports, culture, politics, and business. It was also the start of the “fitness revolution.” At this unique intersection of feminism and athleticism, Lisa Lindahl’s game-changing entrepreneurial journey began. She invented the first sports bra, the “Jogbra,” in 1977. It was the right product at the right time, throwing Lisa into a high-stakes world of business and power—a world for which she was not fully prepared. Unleash the Girls is the improbable story of a young artist with a disability who used her powers of creativity to solve a vexing problem and ended up leveling the playing field for girls and women across the globe—literally, unleashing the girls. Her invention would become a feminist icon and the company she founded would change an industry. But amid the success, Lisa continued to search for meaning and the true nature of power and beauty. This is the untold story of the invention of the sports bra and how it changed the world for girls and women...and, along the way, changed Lisa, too.
Life went on and was filled with adventure, accomplishment and, also, disappointments. Meanwhile the importance and significance of the sports bra grew and grew. Its granddaughter, "athleisure wear" was born. People wanted to hear the story, over and over again. Acknowledgement is uch a powerful and precious gift! A bit of grace from others who "see" us. When I was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame -- the ceremony, the gala, the copious well-wishes and thank-you were, frankly, overwhelming. I was not accustomed to the gift of acknowledgement.
Today, June 23, 2022 is the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. You may ask: "So what? What is it?" Title IX is the most commonly used name for the federal CIVIL RIGHTS LAW in the US that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It is important because it prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. Yet today, 50 years later, girls and women still struggle with and in their pursuit of athleticism. Discrimination and discouragement are still too prevalent.
Mark Nepo refers to them as the "deep teachers:" fear, pain and grief. For me these are my "shadow teachers," as having epilepsy employs all of them. Recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of fame I took the opportunity of my acceptance speech to share that fact with the audience of 350 scientists, sponsors, inventors and press. Specifically, that the obstacle/challenge of being "differently abled" has helped me (forced me?) to create new solutions to old problems as well as everyday challenges; to never take anything as a given, or as predictable. It has allowed me unique perceptions and gifted me an innate compassion for others' differences. Dare I be grateful for this shadow teacher, that despite the fear, pain and grief I've experienced, has also gifted me with deep reflection and perception.
Another woman now over 70 recently noted that "these are the wisdom years." I find this so true. My writing now is infused with reflection -- not just on the past or my past -- but on all the dynamics of life and living that occur daily. In his poem "Anthem," Leonard Cohen opines: "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." I find myself peering into those cracks. Join me.
This poem by Rumi is such a relevant reminder for all of us these days. Enjoy it, and best wishes for you in the New Year.
The turning of the seasons always effects and directs me. The natural world is my constant counselor, as it was on this life-changing day.
And fear -- constant companions. Courage doesn't enter into our scene unless fear has arrived first. And who of us happily welcomes fear into our day? Yet courage is only able to be present when fear's shadow appears. And that shadow is more ubiquitous than we may realize, or want to acknowledge. When we reach the edge of a comfort zone and push beyond it, that is courageous. When we inquire beyond the "usual" or "status quo," that is courageous. When we choose to stretch an old familiar (comfortable) limit, that is courageous. When we accept a daunting challenge, that is courageous. Courage, and its partner fear are our everyday companions. We choose which one to play with..
Revealing myself via publishing a memoir-laden book was not easy, and still sometimes feels awkward. This is because it seems I keep changing, morphing — hopefully growing in a positive manner — but nonetheless not entirely the same person now depicted in print, through the lens of THAT story in THAT time. But stories are powerful and inform our culture -- and why "Unleash" needed to get written.
This was a bittersweet section to write. A "typical day"? While an exhilarating and powerful decade, the transitional nature of the 1980's presented some serious conundrums for women. We twenty-something women libbers wanted to support our "sisters," but had to compete for recognition in the male-dominated business world. A world in which sexual predation, devaluation and co-opting of achievements were usual, ordinary occurrences. Many women felt we had to compete with one another for a piece of the proverbial pie. And there were unspoken but implicit agreements that we understood we were to remain silent about. Confusing times!
This paragraph garners many comments from my readers. "gave me chills!" "Yes!" "Thank you! "
"Unleash the Girls" is a story of women and their issues, and women's issues can manifest in many diverse iterations. How we confront or deny our challenges is important to share & investigate so that we may learn and, hopefully, evolve. This is what "Unleash" is really about.
A friend recently asked me, "What did you mean in your book when you wrote about not wanting to learn some of the new skills, new lessons you were learning, or learning about?" I had to think for a moment, and then realized ... oh, yeah: that dynamic. It was how my business partner taught me who I was and, more importantly, who I was NOT simply by being herself. And I chose not to pick up (i.e., learn and integrate) some of her behaviors and habits, often to her great annoyance. Now I know, of course, that it happens to all of us as we live our lives: we encounter others who are so different from us that their light or their shadow helps illustrate for us who and how we intrinsically are. Sometimes these people are simply friends, or we might marry them, or as in my case it may be a business partner. Really, it is often all of the above in varying degrees and importance. We learn about ourselves through our relationships. What is important is what and how we take away from our relationships and what we share and bring into them.
"Kleenex" for facial tissue; "Googling" for researching... and "Jogbra" for a sports bra! Neologisms: new, made up words—in this case brand names —that come to mean the thing itself. I had no idea during that phone call with my business partner back in 1978 that we were creating a new word along with our new product.
At this particular time, with so much concern, anxiety, threat of illness and actual illness surrounding us, it is important to try to practice these responses: optimism, bravery, love and compassion — and do so simply because they are effective antidotes to our fears and can actually augment the body's resilience and ability to heal. With this in mind, I share a section of my book about China and a small but joyful discovery of an aspect of the Chinese culture I experienced.
Last week I had the privilege to see one of my original Jogbras and the business' archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Polly, Hinda and I had a chance to tour the National Inventors Hall of Fame, where we will be inducted later this year. Later we spoke to an audience of about 150 at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, an amazing organization housed within the Smithsonian. These celebrations of invention and innovation are amazing and inspiring to see. To encourage, acknowledge and celebrate creativity and creation in the culture is essential to our conscious evolution.
No TV. I had no television — let alone any other sort of screen— in 1980. The only telephone I had was hung permanently from the wall in my kitchen. But in 1980 I not only got a TV to watch the Olympics, I went across Lake Champlain to meet with the Olympic Committee and then later to see some of the events. Truly a whole new world was opening up to me.
In both "Beauty As Action, The Way of True Beauty & How Its Practice Can Change Our World" as well as in "Unleash" I stress the all-important nature of relationships and their great significance, the dynamics of relationship effect everything. While in "Beauty As Action" I share ways to practice creating harmonic relationships, it was actually my entrepreneurial problem-solving years at the helm of my Jogbra business that brought the deep and far-reaching importance of relationships forward in my consciousness. Not to mention the often tempestuous nature of the relationship operating at the top... "...most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others." -- HH Dalai Lama
Have you ever done something and been unaware of the consequences of your actions? Of course, we all have. Well, I had no idea that inventing the sports bra in 1977 would have such far-reaching and long-term impact. I was just solving a problem for myself, and acted on my hunch that other women might have this concern as well and so started a business... And then in 2014 the Jogbra, its patent and business files were archived in the Smithsonian. And just a few months ago when I was just finishing up writing "Unleash" I was very surprised to get the call telling me I was being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.! Really, who knew my idea, my bra would be of such import!
The light touch. Play. Lacing one's day with a touch of silliness. So important, and often the lopsided, loopy portal into the new, the next, the solution -- as happened here, after too many frustrating and disappointing attempts at trying to come up with that first sports bra (which, at the time we were referring to as our "jock bra").
Yeah, yeah, I remember rolling my eyes as my elders reminisced about their past, their "heydays" and here I am doing the same. The 1980's were a curious time. For me and women of my generation it was unmapped territory -- not only did the old rules no longer apply, but any new guidelines were only that: guidelines. Anything seemed possible, and while freeing and exciting on one hand, for me it also felt like a big challenge and not a little frightening...
Holidays are always a time of reflection for me, especially the Winter Solstice and turn of the year. The upcoming year 2020 invites us to have "20/20 vision," to see as clearly as possible. Perhaps this section of "Unleash the Girls" makes a bit clearer and affords an insight into why I chose to tell this tale now, some 40+ years later...
Yup. Fun. I am so grateful for all the fun that greased the grinding wheels of the plain old hard work it was to get the unusual business of Jogbra Sports Bras up and running. Yup. We (also) had fun! Here's a snippet of a story of some such fun...
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month, so it's appropriate to share this section about how Epilepsy influenced me -- in general as well as an entrepreneur. This is only a bit about this large and influential dynamic in my life. In fact in "Unleash The Girls" I wrote an entire chapter about it, titled "My Lifelong Partner." We all have challenges; this is one of mine.
Inventing the sports bra back in 1977 was just the beginning of this story. The real story is about the societal climate and challenges of the women of those transformational times, and to consider the import 'then' is having on 'now'. It is, however, my personal story, and I was unsure whether or not I would ever really publish it until I wrote the last sentence appearing in the excerpt here...
My editor wasn't sure this section should be included in the book. I felt strongly that it should. What do you think friends and readers?
Too much and too little is said about women's breasts...this is a reason why the sports bra wasn't invented and marketed until 1977. Here is what I have to say about breasts and our relationship with them.
Women and power. Women and ambition. Women working together...or not. These are a few of the topics I had to explore to adequately tell my story in "Unleash the Girls." To grow a business the entrepreneur has to grow herself...that is one of the true bottom lines.
What motivates you? I've noticed that sometimes the original motivation becomes so irrelevant, so inconsequential — lost in the impact of the eventual outcomes. It's almost as if the initial motivation is a con, one I'm pulling on myself, to get me to do something I think I should do. At least, it seems that was the case for me here. The fact that my motivation for starting to run was to lose weight became totally irrelevant and obscured once I experienced the joy I felt while running... and all the other positive effects running had on me in so many diverse areas of my life at that time! Heck, it resulted in the invention of the sports bra!
"The sports bra was and is more than a piece of sporting equipment, it has become a symbol and a vehicle for women and girls to propel themselves forward without inhibition towards the future that they are creating." —Brandi Chastain, American retired soccer player, two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold-medalist, coach, and sports broadcaster "With cogent reflections on American cultural history and the shifts that laid the groundwork for women’s liberation, Lindahl weaves a narrative that is both intimate and topical....[A]n inspiring narrative about changing the world through fearless innovation." —Publisher's Weekly, BookLife Prize The 1970s saw women coming into their own, working hard to create new roles at home and in sports, culture, politics, and business. It was also the start of the “fitness revolution.” At this unique intersection of feminism and athleticism, Lisa Lindahl’s game-changing entrepreneurial journey began. She invented the first sports bra, the “Jogbra,” in 1977. It was the right product at the right time, throwing Lisa into a high-stakes world of business and power—a world for which she was not fully prepared. Unleash the Girls is the improbable story of a young artist with a disability who used her powers of creativity to solve a vexing problem and ended up leveling the playing field for girls and women across the globe—literally, unleashing the girls. Her invention would become a feminist icon and the company she founded would change an industry. But amid the success, Lisa continued to search for meaning and the true nature of power and beauty. This is the untold story of the invention of the sports bra and how it changed the world for girls and women...and, along the way, changed Lisa, too.
What really matters? Surprisingly, it is beauty—True Beauty. We have all experienced moments of True Beauty—whether seeing a field of flowers, hearing a child laugh, or feeling in harmony with everything around us. Practicing True Beauty—not to be mistaken for glamour—puts us in synchronicity with the healing of our planet as well as on the path of spiritual evolution. Most importantly, by learning to engage with beauty more often, we can heal our cultural dysfunctions and transform our world and our role within it to be more positive and generative. Beauty as Action guides us on the journey to become practitioners of True Beauty through simple, everyday actions that don’t require esoteric tools or objects. With humor, anecdotes, and dashes of philosophy, author, shamanic practitioner, and inventor Lisa Z. Lindahl shows us how we can: 1. Consciously practice the pursuit and cultivation of True Beauty beyond surfaces and appearances 2.Recognize and honor the presence of True Beauty while we actively engage in creating it 3. Preserve and return the prominence of True Beauty in our global culture For the sake of ourselves and our world, we must act now. Beauty as Action shows us how.
The Beauty referenced in "Beauty As Action" is not superficial or trivial. Quite the contrary. It is a manifestation of harmony. It is many different & distinct elements coming together harmoniously, creating not cacophony, but a positive cosmological flow. In these days of upheaval and cultural paradigm shifts we need to be practicing True Beauty more than ever before in our lifetimes. Practice True Beauty!
"The only constant is change" -- we've heard it a thousand times. But what needs to be more widely recognized is that entropy and its attendant outcome, evolution (read: change), require us to be brave. Courageous. It takes courage to handle change; human nature likes predictability.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" my mother would admonish me when I did not do something I had said I would. It is one thing to have a sense of what could/should happen next,,, and another to figure out how to DO it, how to move something from idea to action. Words have power, but transforming them into action broadcasts that power. It is for this reason that the Practices of True Beauty exist...
...and more than ever before: Beauty. Experiencing, promoting and practicing TRUE beauty will save our planet and preserve humanity's welcome on it.
What do these have in common? They are all fueled and formed by one rich nutrient: imagination. Can we imagine meaning harmony? Intending Goodness? Having a constructive purpose? Yes. Go imagine. Dream it.
I was fascinated to learn that brain imaging studies have shown that feeling compassion may not come naturally to all people. But it can be learned. While this might be an unsettling thought, it is also hopeful: compassion can be learned, we only need exercise that muscle, practice that tech. And for those for whom compassion does come naturally, practicing makes it come more readily, more easily. I'm guessing this is a practice we might all benefit from these days.
Relationships. Swirling around in my psyche these days is pain, fear, outrage as well as empathy, guilt, shame and an overarching sense of helplessness. How did our human-ness become so gnarled and corrupted? So unrelated and distant from compassion and simple common sense? Of course I see it as a direct result of our disconnect from true beauty. To quote the poet John O'Donohue: "All contemporary crises can be reduced to a crisis about the nature of beauty." And lest anyone still thinks true beauty is trivial, look around at what its opposite has wrought.
Being mindful, off our “automatic pilot,” helps to reduce stress. Several years ago at a pivotal point in my life when I asked myself "What REALLY matters?" I got a weird answer that took me on a decades-long journey and morphed into a how-to book for bringing greater awareness and connectedness into everyday living. Part spiritual, part practical this path -- The Way of True Beauty – is useful now. Practicing it will help create the balance we each need, especially now. Here is one of the more unusual ways to practice True Beauty: Practice Honoring Entropy.
This is what I have witnessed: just noticing true beauty lifts one's spirits. Helping to create beauty creates happiness. Making more beauty dispels depression. The scientists can investigate and measure the fields and vibrations, chart the evidences and write the reports... but this I know: True Beauty is what really matters, and we humans can nourish it, make it, celebrate it. Or not. It is our choice. These days it is a very important choice.
Do you take notice of what you are seeing, or are you on "autopilot" much of the time? I know I am guilty of that too often! This first practice of active Beauty is a really fun one. Try it -- maybe right now!
Often when I tell people I've written a book about practicing beauty the first thing they think is: "Oh, how to practice being pretty!" There is the assumption that beauty is only about appearances, mostly our own appearance. No. Oh, no! Yet it is a totally understandable assumption in our current culture of implanted buttocks and boobs! No, True Beauty is about cosmology, not cosmetics. And it is free, no installment plans or kits to buy. Sweet!
What constitutes truth? What is real? What is correct? And who or what decides this? We live in a "both/and universe," NOT the "either/or universe" that fuels divisive duality that births conflict and can escalate into extremist behavior. Can two yolks appear in one egg? Is one economic model superior to another? One faith "truer" than another? Does the white paint cover the wet black medium already on my palette or blend into gray? In every war both side believed themselves to be righteous, the one with God on their side. The source of such divisive attitudes and behavior is the attendant belief that we live in an either/or universe rather the both/and universe. Practice operating in the both/and universe!
Do you think material "stuff" isn't important, special, at all? Or are things -- "stuff" -- important to you? Both ends of the viewpoint miss, I think, the essence of the matter (pun intended)... Because at less that 5% of the known universe, all luminous matter is precious. Whether toaster oven or emerald, maple leaf or plastic wrap -- matter, luminous matter being a tiny portion of our universe is rare and therefore very special. Some go so far as to say sacred, though most of us think it quite profane, common, everyday. This simple yet astounding fact makes me look at everything.. all "stuff" very differently.
Beauty. Beauty is what really matters because it is the signature, the expression, the talisman of authenticity, of a truth, of order, of harmony. I wrote this book because right now we need the magic elixir and panacea that true, authentic beauty affords humanity. And we need it now. And it is so simple: find the beauty in all situations and relationships. Practice beauty. We can heal ourselves and our cosmos by simply reclaiming true beauty. Really.
Yep. I really said that: tricky authenticity. Being "authentic" has become such a buzz-word. As if it is a destination, or state one can arrive at, settle in, BE. Another achievement. Nope. That's why it is tricky. Authenticity isn't a static state. We evolve, and in that process change our minds, our preferences, our partners and what-all else? Black and white become nuanced grays. The obvious becomes less so. And so, our NISTs evolve as well, often becoming more self-imposed. Ah! Another clever trick we play...this time on ourselves.
Is it only the brain that gathers and processes the information and perceptions we process? No way...uh-uh! In fact now there's a name for other ways of knowing that modern science is busy confirming... .
Do you know anyone who has not had an experience of discovering the beautiful? Remember their delight? The surprise? Laughter? Smile? It might have been the sudden appearance of a rainbow, or a piece of music, or a warm hug from a loved one. Doesn't matter the form...doesn't matter what or when or how. It is the effect of true beauty that is magical, the juice of shared life and livingness and perhaps fuel of the life force itself.
It makes us uncomfortable. It isn't neat and orderly. Liminal space: that time and place between what has passed and what has yet to be born... Challenging, uncomfortable, liminal space is our powerful petrie dish of infinite possibilities.
Recent news is full of True Ugly, as defined in this section. This book's message -- to the high school students currently speaking out and all those trying to correct imbalances -- is that the Way of True Beauty is an effective form of sacred activism available to everyone, anyone.
I know I have been on automatic pilot when: I pull into my driveway with no recollection of the past three blocks… It is only the red jam I contemplate buying at the grocery store… I am annoyed when something is not in its “usual” place and I actually have to look for it! Oh, it is so much work to stay aware … let alone woke! LOL!
And how are we going to live it?This is one of the most challenging practices in my book. And most important I think. Why? Because we all make a zillion decisions every day... big and small, automatic or thought-through. Every day is an adventure in the Both/And Universe...
"Why do you label it 'Dynamic Self-Acceptance?'" someone recently asked me. I responded in part by citing the dictionary definition of 'dynamic': "characterized by energy or effective action...forceful...relating to power." Self acceptance is action, not a thing or state that can be achieved, archived, and put on a shelf with the declaration, "Whew! Got THAT done!" It is an ever-fluid dance with ourselves and life on-going. And as this excerpt highlights, as we encounter life’s inevitable failures and losses, that dance of self acceptance is a dynamic and integral of our conscious evolution.
Bringing True Beauty into your life is simple. Literally! The holiday season can overwhelm me -- both emotionally as well as physically, and practicing the K.I.S.S. method ("Keep it Simple, Sweetie") is a useful practice this time of year especially!
"Everything is in relationship to everything else!" and boy don't we feel this during the holidays! Or "holi-daze" as I am likely to say. Whether warm family memories, current family expectations or the lack of either, somehow the holiday season heightens our awareness of each other, doesn't it? So walk in Beauty, SEE one another and take care of yourself in the process! Happy Holidays-
While still in draft form I read the first lines of this chapter to a friend and she said, "Whatta mouthful! Really!?" After laughing together I thought, okay, how can I say this more simply, more directly...and found I could not. Can you? Because really: If True Beauty is our guiding principle and idea, the earth and all its species will be okay. Let me know your thoughts at www.lisalindahl.com.
The beauty of the natural world has very personal meaning for me. It is not just observational or academic. I experienced the connection between nature, its beauty, and our consciousness as beings when still a small child. I was 4 or 5 years old, standing alone on a second-story balcony. The top of the white wood railing was just at my eye line, and the trees beyond were still green. I liked being up high, noticing the leaves moving in a slight breeze, fluttering between sunlight and deep blue shadows. A blue jay call suddenly pierces the light… …and I am of it. All at once I am leaves-light-birdcall-breeze-me. I was one with all …. Then, in the nanosecond that I became aware of that oneness, it dissolved back into separateness. Leaves. Sunlight. Bird. Breeze. Me, standing there, hand on warm wooden railing. Separated again, looking out at, no longer with. What that sense of oneness felt like has stayed with me. The beauty and power of the natural world has stayed with me. The fact that I am a part in and of it is viscerally real for me. It fuels the passion behind this book.
When writing this section I was enthralled with this idea of maintaining awe and wonder in order to combat being critically judgmental of others. Reading it now I feel that, while engaging with awe in this way is a cool tool, I missed calling attention to the very essence of awe itself. And its intrinsic importance. Awe is reverential. And thankful. And neutral. When we choose to be grateful, we are in part being in awe of what is on our proverbial plates, both the bounty and those pesky “lessons” life keeps handing us! There was a time in my life when I forgot about being “awe-ful.” It was too easy to see all the ways in which things, people and the world in general were not measuring up to my expectations. Had I let a little awe in, I might have found the way through a little faster. Hmmm. I may have to do Practice VIII and engage in a bit of dynamic self-acceptance here! Learn...evolve...learn...adjust...repeat! Ain't life a hoot!
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