Originally, from West Los Angeles CA, Constance Leshin (Constancia) now lives in the Mojave desert in Llano, CA. She received a bachelor's degree in Social Welfare and Psychology from San Diego State University. Later, she went back for a secondary lifetime teaching credential in Spanish. For a period, Constancia ran her father’s alfalfa ranch in the Mojave desert and taught Spanish at Mojave High School. In 1967, she began traveling to Mexico, Central and South America. This gave her direction for her life’s work.
She is married to Robert, whom she says he the most interesting man she’s ever met. The one exception to Robert is her son, Vaughn, who as she says “ambushed them” when she was forty-one. She is seventy years of age.
“With the arrival of Vaughn, my whole life changed and it was as if I got jetted to another planet. He and his father have been the motivation for the blooming of who I am. They both caused me to deal with my "stuff". When he was born, I went into therapy, did workshops, and read books in order to clear myself so that I could be the best mother and partner I could be. The responsibility was one I took seriously. Actually going ahead with the pregnancy was the biggest risk I ever took in my life as it was a complete surprise. Otherwise, my greatest teachers have been experience, as well as being able to listen.
One of the things Constancia is passionately active about is her work in Guatemala. She works for an organization called "Friendship Bridge" (www.friendshipbridge.org), a microfinance plus organization that gives 30,000 Guatemalan Maya women loans and education so that they can create their own solutions to poverty. She also translates narratives from Spanish to English for clients that are posted on the KIVA website, (www.kiva.org).
“Every year we’ve raised more and more money from investors who can donate up as little as twenty-five dollars. Last year, we raised almost two million dollars. It really is incredible; it absolutely takes my breath away. It’s incredible when I think about how far my/our energy is going on behalf of these "voiceless women".
That is inspirational Constancia!
Can you tell me a bit about beauty and how you see it in the women there or in general?
Well, in our culture there is this emphasis on appearance. And you know this very well, because you’ve worked in the modeling business. There is this whole emphasis on looking a certain way. I think as you get older, you hear this but you don’t really understand it until you are living it. That beauty really comes from the spirit that illuminates from within. And yet, we have to look in the mirror, and yes, I still get facials once a month, and I get pedicures and I do yoga and I have a meditation practice, and I walk every morning.
But the nurturing of what’s inside, not a lamenting of what one lets go of, but what one is about to fertilize inside - that’s what’s important.
That’s beautifully said, thank for you for that! And what I’ve always felt about you is that you are bright example comfortably showing joy and laughter and lightheartedness.
And tears sometimes.
What is living life to the fullest?
Living life to the fullest is getting up each day with goals. They are either short term goals or long term goals. It’s taking care of body, mind, and spirit. It’s adorning your environment with color. It’s wearing beautiful clothes and jewelry. It’s smiling, sharing laughter, and listening, and speaking up when necessary. It’s about being in love.
Attending to mind, body, and spirit. How do you take care of your body?
I walk with trekking poles for 30-45 minutes every day. I have a yoga practice. I eat good food, I don’t eat red meat, I don’t do a lot of dairy. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Salad is my favorite food. I don’t eat a lot of sweets. I’m mindful of what I put in my body. I never go to a fast food restaurant. I drink a lot of water and I don’t do soft drinks. After I had a wake-up-call three and a half years ago, I decided I needed to support myself more with a private yoga class. I have Friday mornings with my yoga instructor. I have a mantra, ‘Long life, healthy body.’ I need to be here for as long as I can, so I do whatever I can to support my body. And, oh, I get facials using organic products from my friend Charmaine.
How do you support your mind:
I’m available to learn new things. That, and speaking and writing in two languages has supported me. And informing myself, I inform myself with a few media sources that I trust. I attend seminars and training, like the one I did last weekend combining writing and meditation. I don’t read books often because I’m always moving. I don’t sit unless I’m writing usually.
Being available to new things, being open and receptive, this feminine quality, can you tell me more about that?
My mother was a lifelong learner. Although she never said it, she had an open mind and always took extension classes from UCLA. It’s the first time I’m reflecting on this.
I think it’s vital to keep adding new information and stimulation to our brain. Like in my workshop this last weekend, I am beginning to learn about neuroscience. I’m fascinated by it, and I’m going to learn more about it. There is a person named Dan Siegel whom I’m going to learn more about. My husband too has immersed himself into quantum physics; we keep learning.
It’s about not becoming stagnant. It’s always adding fresh water to the pond, so that it never grows algae. It’s about keeping it relevant and current. If it means learning about technology when necessary, like learning something new on the computer or the iphone. Giving my mind new challenges, and stimulation, that’s important.
How do you take care of spirit?
Taking care of spirit is reminding myself of who I am and nurturing that however I can. It’s having a clear idea of who I am and why I am here. I came into this world and was named Constance, and that was no mistake. I found my real name in Spanish which is Constancia. That is intertwined with my spiritual life. I am communicative, compassionate and caring. In order for me to fill those shoes, I need to polish that side of myself, however I can. It could be walking a labyrinth, doing meditation, or yoga. I have a friend who is a monk who lives ten miles away from me whom I sit with a couple times a month. He’s given me lots of food for thought. It’s picking and choosing what resonates with as experiences present themselves like the priestess program. It’s realizing that I am always a student, and never at the top of the hierarchy which is why I cannot classify myself as a priestess or a Queen. I am someone who has perspective and experience who will always be climbing the mountain.
You cannot identify yourself as priestess or queen?
That’s right, because that implies, Chris, a hierarchy. That’s not what I’m about. The older I get the more the level playing field becomes. I’m really aware of this because when I go to Guatemala. I’m sort of put up on a pedestal there, because I’m a white woman who speaks Spanish, and I’m educated, and I do a lot of good for a lot people, but that doesn’t make me on a different level than they are on. And, I can look at an indigenous woman who has bare feet and I can characterize her as elegant and beautiful and a queen perhaps. I hope you understand what I mean here.
I absolutely do! I understand that from the external, it may be perceived as hierarchical to say about oneself “I’m a queen or a priestess”. I completely understand that. So when I’m using the word queen, we can claim within ourselves to take ownership of our queendom. To sit on the throne of who we are. In other words, we recognize our divinity. We are moving towards death and this is when we recognize the spirit of who we are which is the same of the All in All, the I Am. It’s is everything you said actually, it is a dropping down of the perceptions of any kind of hierarchy. As a young person, I remember looking up to many of people for whom I saw as accomplished in this or that, as a teacher or model of what I was aspiring to become, etc.. That pyramid seemed immense and I was at the bottom of it. Now, I recognize the gifts and brilliance of those (of all ages) all around me - the playing field has indeed leveled, and that’s humbling. Still, I feel it's quite acceptable and necessary even for us to sit on the royal throne of wisdom with intention. Claim it and say yes to Oneness, to the I AM, an expanded consciousness, and within expansion, we claim or queendom.
Yes, and so, I completely agree with you, in that we are not putting someone above someone else but we recognizing and celebrating. I see you as a queen. It is my honor to celebrate you.
Yes! Power! Tell me about power Constancia.
We are more powerful at this time in our lives than we are any other time of our lives. And it’s because we have perspective and experience. We can be more honest about the inside of ourselves because the outside is changing. Depending on what light I’m in, I notice that I have fine lines on my face. But when I go into my little bathroom which doesn’t have great light (which I don’t know if it’s intentional or not) I don’t see them. (laughter)
It’s claiming our power. It’s so interesting to me to read on your facebook page-- the women who have had remorse over moving into this next phase. I never cried when I stopped having my period. When I realized that when I was going from one stage to another, although I thought when I stopped having my period when I was fifty that I was going to become an instant crone which drew a picture of this ugly witch, like from Hansel and Gretel. And I thought oh…, no, I don’t want to be that woman. But that’s what our society has laid out for us as women. And I say, Fuck that! (Laughter)
That’s what I’m talking about!
Chris, when I go to Guatemala, I see old, and probably they are aged beyond their years, and they are so magnificent in their beauty. And it’s not the same beauty that would come out in a VOGUE magazine. These women sometimes bring me to tears because they have their life story etched onto their faces. It reflects so much more than living in a culture where it’s a priority to get a facelift and not show wrinkles and not show gray hair. Which I’m still on a trip with, so, I can’t be put on too high of a pedestal (laughs) here. When I turned sixty, ten years ago, I thought it was time maybe for me to let my hair go and stop coloring it. So I started in a very cowardly way of letting it go gray from the back toward the front. It’s ten years later, and I still have a little color around my face with a lighter shade of brown. I’ve made a lot of progress in ten years. (Laughter)
Do you have anything else to say about Beauty and how it becomes a different thing as we become elders. Do you have any more thoughts about Beauty?
Color is really important. I think what we dress ourselves in, and the colors that we put on, and the adornments that we put on directly celebrate the outsides of ourselves. So beautiful colorful clothing, for me mostly ethnic, is really important.
Chris, how old are the women who are doing these interviews?
Well, the "Queendom" or crowned woman is an autumnal. So age range can vary greatly. It is the woman who is perimenopausal, menopausal, postmenopausal... So it can be late 30’s to late 70’s. It depends on the energy of the woman. Most women, I’m interviewing are in the mid to late fifties at least.
You mentioned earlier that when your periods stopped, you thought you were going to be immediately thrown into the crone stage. One of the things that we in our culture really don’t address the idea of our mooncycle to honor it. We only address it in a very matter of fact, biological way. We don’t do it at the onset and we don’t do it at the cessation. What is the wisdom you can share on that?
On a purely physical level, when I stopped having my period level, it was a huge relief because at the end, I would have these rivers of blood pouring out of me. So it was really great when I stopped having my period. And that was the same time when I was having some gatherings. So I did celebrate the transition. And actually, I did a crown ceremony. I and the women who gathered, we all made crowns out of different things and we sat in the dome house, which I don’t think you ever saw.
I would have loved that.
Another thing that I feel is important is increasingly belonging to women’s groups. Right now, I’m with Jean Monte and her shaman group once a month. There is another group who meets at Lori Picolotti’s place, and by the way she and I have become close friends since the priestess training. I think women meeting with women, women supporting women, and women connecting with women, and being available, and meeting in groups is so important. We gather and we celebrate ourselves and the Divine Feminine.
There is something that we haven’t talked about at all yet is becoming political. It’s important we do. I have to show up in a political way, and that’s not always popular. I have a niece who is not talking to me right now because she is on the opposite side of the political spectrum...
Yet, it’s terribly important for us the show up politically. Anyone who is not talking about the political situation is not thinking about the kind of world they want to leave for seven generations from now. It not about us any more. It’s about our kids, grand kids and great-grand kids. It’s about influencing them however we can. It’s about weeding the garden so that they don’t have to inherit tons of weeds.
Right, it takes courage and vision to see into the future. And follow through with the actions to support the sustainability for future generations.
It’s very "carpe diem" time and it’s very important that we speak up and use our voices. I really have to show up and my actions have to speak louder than my words. I have to be who I say I am. It just can’t be a bunch of pretty words.
What do you have for final wisdom Words?
Never stop growing, always keep learning, and remember how powerful you are.
Thank you, Constancia!
Besides being a humanitarian and philanthropist, Constancia is an example of a woman dialed into her passions while being in service to her world. She shows us they can be one-in-the-same, and that's admirable. Constance Leshin is truly a remarkable woman not only in her accomplishments, maybe even more importantly in simply being anchored in her humility, clarity of purpose, and strong resolve in the arena of politics. I see her as the queen of her world, and her crown is constructed of power, wisdom, self-respect, and compassionate intelligence. And she wears these colorfully, elegantly, powerfully and most beautifully.
Friendship Bridge: https://www.friendshipbridge.org/
More info on Friendship Bridge and how Constancia’s involvement:Constancia first traveled to Guatemala in the early 1970’s & fell in love with the stunning textiles...especially the woven & embroidered rectangular blouses called “hupiles” that she has worn all her life. She chose not to return because of the horrific civil war but always kept Guatemala in her heart. After a wake-up call in 2006, she found Friendship Bridge on the internet & instantly knew she found the perfect vehicle to symbolically thank the women who had given her such beautiful textiles to regularly wear & she could to return to Guatemala with a purpose which she did in 2007! In 2008 with help two well connected members of the community, she formed the first Southern California Support Circle of Friendship Bridge, called “Flor del Desierto” or “Flower of the Desert”. In 2013, she assisted two friends who live on the Central Coast of California & formed Support Circle, “Perlas del Mar” or “Pearls of the Sea”. Friendship Bridge (www.friendshipbridge.org) is a Microcredit Plus organization that combines small loans & educational trainings. These educational trainings are designed by a Facilitator from the organization who uses pictures, diagrams, games & role playing to transmit the information. Topics are drawn from an aspect of 4 main topics: business, family, health & women. The meetings are held monthly. Constancia has returned to Guatemala 10 times since becoming involved with the organization. She a translator for “Insight Trips”where a group of interested travelers meet clients & attend Trust Bank meetings. She also buys “tipica” that consists of traditional textiles & handicrafts that is resold in our country to raise funds for the organization. Constancia regularly works with Friendship Bridge Communications Manager, Marta Julia Ixtuc Cuc & a small team to translate & edit reports about Friendship Bridge clients & their Trust Banks for KIVA. KIVA is a worldwide microfinance organization & Friendship Bridge is their field partner in Guatemala. Because of their efforts, $222,000 was raised from KIVAdonors for Friendship Bridge clients in 2013. In 2016, just under $2 million was raised by Constancia & her team. The future looks bright for the nearly 30,000 women who participate in the “Microcredit Plus” program of Friendship Bridge. Constancia is thrilled to share her energy, her experience & her education with these women!