On Thriving

Harnessing Joy Through Life's Great Labors

About the Book

A renowned doula shares powerful lessons on healing and thriving through the murky seasons of life in this moving, intimate guide to deeper self-awareness and radical joy.

“This book is a beacon of resilience. . . . A must-read for anyone committed to growth.”—Erica Chidi Cohen, author of Nurture

We’ve all been there: We take a pause, look at our lives, and desire more—more from our relationships, more from our wellness journeys, maybe simply more from ourselves. For some, it might be more fun, more peace, more exploration—but what does it take to get to the other side of living in survival mode? In On Thriving, Brandi Sellerz-Jackson helps us wade through what she calls the four great labors of our lives—labors that she’s had to overcome and that she has led many clients through.

Drawing from her experiences as a doula and intimate storytelling from her own life, Sellerz-Jackson guides us through the many phases of these great labors—labors that we can get stuck in, stunting our ability to thrive. Across age, gender, economic status, or background, we all move through the great labor of our relationships, our mental health, grief and loss, and the feeling of being othered. Sellerz-Jackson doesn’t shy away from the pitfalls of these labors but rather challenges us to actively remain present within them and ask ourselves: What do I need to thrive in the space I’m currently in? In On Thriving, you’ll come to recognize the survival tools you’ve picked up along the way and exchange them for thriving tools and “rich-uals.” You’ll commit to no longer making a home out of chaos and rediscovering sanctuary within yourself. 

Comparing our thriving to that of plant life, Sellerz-Jackson simplifies the complicated—and oftentimes overwhelming—journey as we attempt to grow in an inhospitable environment. With insightful and vulnerable storytelling, she invites a deep, soul-stirring investigation of our past and present to gather all that we need to thrive right where we are, right now.
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Praise for On Thriving

“This book is a beacon of resilience. Brandi Sellerz-Jackson offers vital and tender insights for navigating life’s challenges with grace and strength. . . . A must-read for anyone committed to growth.”—Erica Chidi Cohen, author of Nurture

“Sellerz-Jackson’s book is more of an invitation than homework. She encourages us to embrace the darkness as well as the light. Both can be our companion. She is the ideal guide to usher you across the threshold of a new kind of self-discovery. Her mission is for people to stop going through the motions and to finally start savoring their lives.”—Lena Waithe, Emmy award–winning screenwriter, actress, and producer

“An honest, kind, and powerful book to get one’s life back on track . . . Sellerz-Jackson reminds us that thriving is not something that we ‘achieve’ after we do the work. Rather it is something we can experience during all seasons of life, no matter where we are on our healing journey.”—Angela Rye, award-winning host, commentator, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies

“For those of us who need watering, for anyone who is still undone, On Thriving will doula, support, nourish, and grow even the most fragile of us. By providing easy tools, probing questions, and the clarity of a wise-woman, Brandi Sellerz-Jackson elevates us to a place where we are belly-full and thriving. I devoured it in one sitting! On Thriving is now my blueprint for rebirth.”—Jodie Patterson, author of The Bold World
On Thriving offers guidance for flourishing in relationships and with one’s self. . . . Sellerz-Jackson uses a conversational, direct tone and tremendous empathy to guide all readers to live as the best versions of themselves.”BookPage
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On Thriving


When I was a little girl, my mother had a song that she would sing whenever it rained. According to her, the church’s old folks would sing it, welcoming the clouds’ sweet salve. I imagined the rain baptizing the flowers and blessing the hearts that had harvested them. As my mother sang, I would daydream of the rain’s droplets softly kissing the grass that I played on with my cousins in the hot summer sun of Alabama. Our clothing’s grass stains would sanctify us and set us apart when we first emerged from indoor comfort to outdoor adventure. I’d imagine the rain sinking deep below the surface, watering the roots, whispering “Grow.” The surrounding trees, whose branches would swing low, made it easier for me to climb within them. Their roots, intertwined beneath the surface, held the story of those who came before us. These trees had more than likely seen so very much. I’d imagine the secrets told behind their backs, the kisses exchanged between lovers, and the umbrellalike shelter provided as the rain fell.

Earthworms would make their way aboveground, offering their uninvited hello. As I sat at my mother’s feet, allowing her words to wash away the childlike fear that may have arisen regarding the storm ahead, I would close my eyes and listen to the rain as it fell. The initial pitter-patter and rhythmic salutations were tolerable. It felt like home. However, the sudden thunder and the ebb and flow from the familiar to the unpredictability of the unknown would cause fear to make its grand appearance within my little body. It was the feeling of being so small and helpless, a sensation felt many times at such a young age. This feeling I experienced as a child happens to most of us at some point, when life seems to be out of our control, when the storms threaten our roots. We feel small as life presents itself in all of its terrifying largeness.

Amid nature’s chaos, the sound of the rain mixed with my mother’s voice called forth a symphony of calm in an otherwise chaotic world. The thunder would clap; my little shoulders would jump. I didn’t feel brave. Her song would cause a welcome distraction from my imagination of giants wrestling above. I continued listening to her voice as the rain fell harder upon the roof of our home and knocked against our windows. In that moment, my mother’s voice and the steady drumming of rain calmed me.

The lightning bellowed. I remember thinking that, indeed, the sound of thunder was the direct replica of the voice of God, commanding all to stand at attention and in awe. Thunder was the glare that a mother gave during church service, commanding her child to sit up and acknowledge as the preacher delivered their sermon. The thunder was the spoken yet unspoken command to be alert and the directive to act as if you had some damn home trainin’. As the rain fell, I felt a sense of renewal and fear. The rain represented all things clean and the washing away of yesterday. The thunder felt scary and holy at the same time—as our own inner storms often do. I continued to sit, glued to my mother’s voice, calling forth the nurturing spirit of the rain for me. Oh, how its presence would call forth nature’s growth.

Decades later, on a crisp, wet January morning in 2018, I would find myself standing beneath the rain’s guidance, palms open, requesting that just as nature experienced her renewal, I would too. I’d miscarried for the second time. As the spring rain poured outside my home, I recalled the days of my youth sitting at my mother’s feet. I ventured out into my front yard and allowed the shower to wash over me. I wasn’t sure if the rain could heal my broken heart or if it had the power to cleanse my grief. However, I knew what it could do for the daffodils, the California succulents upon my doorstep, and the sun-scorched grass that needed its care. I, too, was depleted, bare, and dry. I also needed watering, and so here I was.

Hey there, my name is Brandi. I am a birth and postpartum doula who became what I call a Life Doula. This means I have the privilege of supporting people as they journey through this life adventure. We are all giving birth to something. Conceiving a new reality. Laboring through our days as we attempt to capture our joy and hold it close. A doula is quite literally a person that guides and supports people through various life transitions, be it literal birth, postpartum, or death, or a figurative rebirth of oneself into our next path. I help people as they learn to capture said joy, transition through the various rooms of life, and cultivate their highest selves. Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients, and what has remained true is that we all, no matter the room of life we find ourselves in, want to go from simply surviving to thriving. But it takes work to get there—work we’ll do together here to get you to more joy, to a life that thrives.
What’s the difference between surviving and thriving? Survival is instinctual. We all want to live. It’s in our bones to reach for the sun and oxygen to fill us with life. But thriving is different. It feels different. Thriving is the intentional gathering of all things possible and creating the best-case scenario for growth. It looks like using what you have and fearlessly creating more. It’s asking yourself “What do I need for the present journey and the road ahead?” Thriving is a rebellious middle finger to the expectation (societal or internal) that we must only exist, sacrificing our experience here on earth. Simply put, I describe thriving as our will to live and breathe and taste life fully, savoring it on our tongue, leaving us full in our belly. My hope is that, with the stories and lessons nestled in this book, you find ways to thrive in the spaces of discomfort. That’s been my life’s journey.

As a Life Doula, I’ve witnessed four great labors that we all must move through. Sure, there are likely more, but these four come up again and again across age, background, economic status, and all walks of life. These four great labors of our lives push us to our superpower of vulnerability and her not-so-distant cousin, solidity. These two are often revealed only as we traverse these great labors. However, we can sometimes get stuck in the struggle of it all if we get into a pattern of only weathering life’s storms, as they pass over us, instead of giving ourselves precisely what we need as we birth ourselves through to the other side.

Okay, I know you are probably wondering what these four great labors are. First, there is the labor of our relationships. Whether familial, platonic, or romantic, I’ve learned that relationships can be our most extraordinary hardship or teacher. And when we’ve yet to really unravel how intimacy and our unhealed wounds play a part in our relationships, we risk not experiencing the freedom of a healthy relationship with ourselves or those around us.

The second great labor concerns our mental health. Understanding our mind and the power of our self-belief is half the battle. We find ourselves in ruts, searching for peace of mind. And while there are modalities to cultivate our mental health (many of which we will discuss in this book), the real work begins with the simple acknowledgment that sometimes we all need support, compassion, and a little bit more, and that there is no shame in that.

The third great labor is dealing with grief and loss. Death is the great uniter. We all get a turn in the laborious work of grief and loss. None of us are exempt from this work. And the question is, “How does one continue after experiencing the breath-taking shift of such labor?” How do we carry on in this world while mourning the departure of what was into another? There is a way, and we will talk through it together.

And finally, the fourth great labor is contending with the title of being othered. Being a member of the marginalized and dealing with the potential weathering that comes with it can leave you feeling depleted and worn. However, despite the beautiful skin we are wrapped in, gender, sexual orientation, or the body that houses the essence and beauty of who you are, you are worthy of divine bliss, and defiant freedom. You are worthy of taking up space and taking in love. When we truly embrace this truth despite the world we live in, we too can thrive.

We will walk through each of these laboring rooms of our lives to finally get off the birthing table, sweaty and out of breath from just trying to make it to the next day, beyond the subsequent frustration or discomfort, and move into a thriving life that is wholly ours.

About the Author

Brandi Sellerz-Jackson
Brandi Sellerz-Jackson is a storyteller, birth and postpartum doula, and the creator of Not So Private Parts. Initially created as a women’s lifestyle blog, Not So Private Parts has evolved into a resource removing the shame and stigma surrounding women’s issues. Sellerz-Jackson is the co-founder of Moms in Color, a Black mom collective centered around celebrating diversity within the motherhood space. She is also the senior manager of social media for Ergobaby, a leading brand in babywearing and attachment parenting. Brandi Sellerz-Jackson lives with her husband, Jon; their three boys, Jax, Jedi, and Jupiter; and their labradoodle, Chaka, in Pasadena, California. More by Brandi Sellerz-Jackson
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