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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Women's Wisdom and Writing the Body: Dialogue



“What is your truth? Ask your heart, your back, your bones, and your dreams. Listen to that truth with your whole body. Understand that this truth will destroy no one and that you’re too old to be sent to your room.” John Lee from Writing from the Body

What is Women’s Wisdom? It means learning to live consciously, in touch with our inner guidance through our thoughts, emotions, dreams, and feelings in our body. It means believing that our bodies are able to receive and transmit energy and information. Instead of feeling trapped by the cyclical nature, the ups and downs of our emotions, women can begin to know and understand the waning and waxing that is as regular as the moon’s cycle. A good tool is journaling, and dialoguing with body parts.

Here is an exercise I have used in Journaling Classes to help women listen to their bodies. (taken from the book Writing From Life: Telling Your Soul's Story, Susan Wittig Albert.

Take out your journal. Sit for a few minutes quietly before writing, to get you connected and thinking about a body part. Start with a centering breath exercise, hands on heart, upper and lower heart, just breathing in and out for a minute.

Then pick a body part and imagine it can speak to you. What would it say? What does it want from you? what does it give to you? How does it feel to be this body part? Example below is with breasts, our most visible part, and one which holds conflicting feelings for many women.


Dialogue sample:

What Breasts Say

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Anton_Nossik

We sing with milk for you, we love your caress. Sometimes we sag empty, other times balloon into gorgeous melons. When you lie down we softly melt into your ribs. We are a soft cushion for your son’s head, something to pinch for your daughter. Always a safe haven. 

We love to wear brushed cotton, hate metal under wires, undulate under sweaters, push out high beams in a T-shirt. Molded to wet skin in a bathing suit we are voluptuous. When expecting, you wait for our every twinge, hold us to yourself when running downstairs or in a field of grass singing. What do we fear? A stranger’s eyes undressing us. 

We were slow to come into being, ripened over many years into something you could be proud of. Our marvelous liquid is like love; hot, untamed squirts of bluish fire, we nourish, give life. 

We are called Wonder, or Fame.

If you want to continue with this, pick another body part and do the dialogue. 

Another creative idea: make a collage for this body part, and let your intuition choose the images and put them together on a page in your journal, or on a cardboard sheet.

See the Creative Soulful Woman Facebook page for an example of What the Uterus says.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Writing in Tuscania : Notes from SoulCollage(R) Conference 2016


Once there was a woman who traveled to the sacred land of Tuscania.

Along the highway from the bus she watched the hills roll golden against pewter clouds and sky, then the Pouring of Rain down on the windshield. She was sheltered and safe but newly landed, having hardly slept. She was alone but had been greeted, met and taken under the wing, so to speak of the small group of 3 women waiting at the meeting point, as instructed. One British, one American and one with tattoos on her arm.

The pilgrimage was on, although she hadn’t called it such, as yet. Every morning she walked down the road lined with small dark paving stones on her way to the Tower where the SoulCollage(R)  journeyers were, and every evening she walked up the hill back into the town.  In between, although she didn’t know it yet, her pilgrim soul was waiting for her in-between the lines and the cover of her golden notebook. Golden because she chose the yellow covered book over the red or blue. 


The first days were a flurry of collage, art making and meeting new companions on the road and in the Tower, over tea or cafe latte and breakfast, meals together, twilight suppers, fellow pilgrims and travelers who came to dance, take photographs or write their way home with SoulCollage(R) facilitators.

She knew, one day near the end of the week that something Big was calling her to Home. Homing in, and honing in, on the true nature of her calling – she needed a new relationship with the Self – she had been held hostage, too long, by the critic, naysayer and doubter. She had called on her angels and guides for protection, but in a very ancient church she heard the words  (La Grande Madre) and it sat right with her to pray in the middle of the night for a dream for a signal or a sign. We are here in the sacred land of Tuscania, she thought, as she held her hand to the ancient porous rocks of an Etruscan villa. We are here to hear the memories of the ancestors, but she didn’t feel it yet.

She asked for a sign and received a dream, a solid bull, larger than life, standing in front of the gates of an ancient city; a white horse harnessed, a line of men harnessed to it, pushing the mare into the bull, ramming it again and again and raining sweat blood and tears as she cried. Why can’t you stop? The men were also ramming their bodies and heads into the old walls.

So she sat with the question, in front of the old stone wall the next day, sitting with her back to the verdant landscape. What does the wall say? What does the horse say, what does the bull say, as Mariabruna suggested she ask the dream.


Her pilgrim self had wandered into the waking dream, in between ancient and new, in between past and present, in between her old self who rammed right on through things and people and got things done, to the new, softer around the edges intuitive person waking up, peeling off layers of Strong, Bold, Leader, and Commander to strip away a certain layer of Ego protection and rediscover underneath, the “authentica” or ancient feminine mythical layer, deep in her bones, in her heart and soul, the untethered, unharnessed, fluid, green as the grass bloodline that she felt when she looked out over the valley to the cows grazing below – Oh how soft the trees, Cypress, pine and oak, fig and corn, and vines, such fertile fields and harvests.

This land, sacred land, somehow hers, though not through any heritage or inherited lineage. Is it true to say, mythically connected to the land of the goddesses who came Mare ad Mare – Holy Mary as the guide said, before the Romans, before the Bull, before the conquering tribes and nomads who built the Wall, Under the wall, always down, down in the earth, the voices of the women singing, in long cool tunnels, in warehouses and storage rooms, where oil, wine and grain and sacred objects for ceremony, the baths, clean water, the Flow, in the midst of Stone Walls, a hollow space for the pilgrim to wander, to hear the melody of stillness, embrace the sacred in the sanctuary. 

Oh my Soul, pilgrim that thou art, I hear your voice, more clearly here than anywhere. It is not the landscape, that holds it, but the sacred stone walls have echoed my Name, announcing my place in the scheme of things, (as Mary Oliver says), the animal body of my soul, speaks again and again.

So I am happy to be writing (again) and listening for the Voice that speaks. I may forego the old story for a new one, as has been suggested to me by teachers wiser and older than I. I have been very stubborn, the Catholic child in me confesses, not a mea culpa, but an Ave Maria. 

Help me Sweet Feminine face of god. Help me listen to my real Voice, my intuitive layer, the strata underneath the wall I have built. Help me even tear down the wall (if this is recommended and necessary). May I allow “not knowing”, and learn to lead by surrender. May I allow allowing and receiving – it is my greatest wish that you write through me. And I will dance to the strings, I will chant and dance and swirl to your musica - in the sacred land of Tuscania, I heard this.



SoulCollage(R) card: Persephone in Tuscania, view from Tower





Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Particle of the Divine



Prayer for a Questioning Heart


May your journey
through the questions of life
bring you to a new moment of awareness.
May it be
and enlightening one.
May you find
embedded in the wisdom
of the past,
like all the students
of life before you,
the answers
you yourself
are seeking
now.
May they waken
that in you which is
deeper than fact,
truer than fiction,
full of faith.
May you come to know
that in every
human event
is a particle of the Divine
to which we turn


--- Joan Chittister

After reading a Facebook post on whether the goddesses in mythology are too ‘feminine’, I wondered, is the divine feminine? Then I found the poem above, and wrote this in my journal this morning.

I have felt the divine as a lover, as a Mother, as a Father, as a Friend, as a soft invisible Presence, as a singing silence in my inner ear, and a flutter in the ribcage of my heart. I have not imagined it as He or She in a really long time (except as manifest in certain teachers who have taught me how to center and be still). I am of the school of no religion, no symbols needed to feel or experience something real, the Radiant Mystery – not a belief, but a felt contact. Unseen, but felt in the heart. Unknown but inhabiting my presence. Untouched but moving within the boundaries of my body awareness, and beyond.

When I call out, I am answered. When I ask for help, I am guided from within and without (sometimes by a song on the radio, a chance encounter). Serendipity, synchronicity and alignment with objects, schedules, and people abound. When I am trusting and relying on being grateful, aware and conscious, all things flow towards me. When I trip, fall, bump into furniture, cut a finger or burn my arm, miss a meeting, lose patience, hurt a friend, I am reminded to come back into presence. It is a learning flow, always a teaching moment available, if I am on that wavelength. I am not always.

SoulCollage(R) Card: DizzyTizzy Self

Probably because I am enamoured of speed, of getting things done quickly, of flitting in and out of Noise and mindless activity. Lately, I am learning to appreciate the joy of slowness, stillness and surrender. I am practicing awareness, when I remember, moment to moment;  I am often brought up short by my shortsightedness or short temper. I am stretched and relaxed and massaged into stillness. I sleep and wake, and begin again.

There are no steps I am aware of, no phases, no progress, except Here, or Not. There I go again. Stop, breathe, repeat. Hello. Slow Down. Remember. You are not alone. In this sea of souls, remember. You can call out, reach for the One Breath, the One Sound, the One, will hear you. 
SoulCollage(R)  Card: Hearing the Call


Dance, as Hafiz and Rumi request, dance with life. Don’t sit on the sidelines anticipating the end. Dance, enjoy. Be in the swirl and whirl of it all, this myriad, colourful rainbow world; pain, sorrows, griefs, joy, love, simplicity – all turning on the wheel, Cosmic Ferriswheel of life. Now you are Up. Now you are Down. Do you still feel the need to control? How small you are in the scheme of things. Up, up, up you go – it’s a wild, smooth, terrible, wonderful ride. Yesterday I was struggling to master my panic at a supposed computer threat. Today problem solved, all is well, my heart beat is back to normal. Praise be. I appreciate the peace my morning practice brings.

Journey Card: root chakra, Red




Friday, October 27, 2017

Consent, Body Boundaries, Women's Words

The news is full of stories of sexual harassment and abuse these days. Women are standing up, speaking out, asking to be believed as they uncover stories they had silenced, hidden away out of shame or not wanting to rock the boat, or simply to keep their job. Millions of women are finally airing their pain and asking to be heard. Courage in numbers, they say.

It reminded me of my first trepidatious year in Creative Writing Class, writing a taboo journal that was to become my first book 10 years later. (a book of poems and birth journal, Little Mother published 1997). I remember mixed feelings about giving a voice to my female body. I had stories to tell, some of them about being pregnant, which I loved, and yet, it brought up scary dreams and I realized there were unconscious fears, especially as I got to the week before giving birth to my first child.

I was reading a lot about labour, of course, and what to expect. Also I was trying to understand how past sexual abuse or trauma to the body could delay or obstruct the labour process. I wholly wanted a "natural" childbirth, (having no idea what that meant). But in the effort to be cautious and prevent an oversized child, I was scheduled to be induced on Sept 19, my due date. After twelve hours of 'false labour,' and many derogative remarks from the two women obstetricians about my lousy, tight, stubborn cervix" I went home and tried to get my head around the resistance of my "failed induction". I had a feeling my uterus wasn't stubborn, it just knew it wasn't time yet. (I ended up dancing to African drum music a week later to get labour started).



Here is an extract from the book, and birth journal:

Sept 21, 1990: When God cursed Eve for eating the apple, he decreed: "In pain you shall bring forth your children." Our heritage as women. I want to look at my fear of pain, reasons for tightness. 

teenager's fingers [in my vagina] around 4 years old
trauma of first blood (15 years)
doctor's hurtful examinations: forcing a cold metal speculum when internally bleeding (ectopic pregnancy, age 22 years).
blood, sign of miscarriage (twice in two years)
amniocentesis: another violation, but by needle. 
Hanging on tightly to this pregnancy, fear of losing the fetus. I have to say goodbye to "Eustache" [foetus name] and hello to the separate new individual, Andre-Julien, the child-boy. Leave behind the known for the unknown. Birth = rite of passage. A Rupture.

Don't touch my labour pain! "Les femmes qui accouchent transpirent, gémissent, vomissent parfois, émettent des sons bizarres, perdent le contrôle qu'elles ont habituellement sur leurs fonctions corporelles."  (translation: Women who give birth sweat, moan, sometimes vomit, emit bizarre sounds, lose control they usually have over the bodily functions.)

"The best way to get out of pain is to go into it." Say yes, accept. (advice from L'une a l'autre, Winter 1987, magazine for midwives).

I did not list all the ways I had felt invaded sexually, including an encounter in which I bit a man's arm so he would let go of me....but I was becoming aware that there was a connection between the fear of invasive "others" and my body's natural power to give birth. The whole book was a form of meditation on taboos surrounding the female body, sexuality and mothering.

It has been a life-long passion of mine to understand my body, its messages, signals, and symbols, and its relation to the larger world - (the second book is non-fiction look at menopause - The Tao of Turning Fifty.)

The question I have now is, is it even safe to be a female in this 20th century? perhaps safer in Montreal than in Mogadishu, Somalia. It seems like not enough has changed since I was a little girl or a teen aged one trying to negotiate her sexual boundaries. 

Maybe none of us is safe until we speak up, speak out and use our body language to clearly communicate what is out of boundary, what actions and words we refuse to acquiesce to. Even grown women need to learn this, and not adhere to the old "polite, good girl" behaviour, not stay silent and squirm with shame or rage.

I heartened by two educational videos I watched on Facebook today, one from Kenya, where boys and girls are both being taught to use their voice strongly to say no to aggression (sexual or otherwise) and stand up for each other. Check out their program at No means No! https://www.nomeansnoworldwide.org/

What I wish is that I had been coached on this as a child, instead of being told to be quiet, stuff my feelings inside, be good. Sure, we got the warnings about strange men and not talking to anyone we didn't know. But unfortunately, often it's the people you do know that are hard to say no to. The older brother, the babysitter, the uncle, the fathers and grandfathers, the step-fathers and friends of the family.

I wish the world were a safer place for women. Let's start by telling our stories, using our voices, standing up for ourselves.  Warrior Women find your Courage! Let all girls find their voice, be encouraged to defend themselves. May all boys be taught how to stand up for their sisters and friends, as well as themselves.






Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Celtic Pilgrimage into Women's Power

(photo by a member of our group)

There is a latent memory deep inside my soul of a kind of knowing, call it feminine intuition if you wish, a kind of ringing in the ear and buzzing in the chest that signals Presence, the numinous, or entering sacred ground.

On a recent pilgrimage to the sacred sites and stone circles of Ireland with Amantha Murphy at Celtic Soul Journies, I felt a lot of that buzzing, and rediscovered the magic of fairy glens. Some part of me, deeply slumbering, was awoken.

Ostensibly, I had flown to Belfast to be with this group of ten women in the land of my feminine lineage, to learn more about the Celtic Wheel, the goddesses and mythology of the land.

I had no idea what Celtic Shamanism was about, but I was very intrigued by discovering something more about the land of my ancestors. I was also intrigued by the description of the Celtic Woman’s Path - getting to know the deities, the Celtic Wheel of the year and the seasons, and how to access and deepen our communion by opening ourselves to Sacred Ceremony and Ritual.

I was not disappointed - my inner child was delighted with the discovery of magical fairy glens, mossy covered rocks and trees, and exploring the connection between the feminine life cycle and the land. As well as exploring two famous landmarks: the Giant's Causeway (one of the eight wonders of the world) and the Cliffs of Moher, a truly misty, mystical experience of ocean and rock cliffs.

The biggest revelation, however, was how 'things' like rocks can speak to us. 

Wrapping my arms around a huge dolmen in the middle of a field, the ancient rock covered in lichen and smelling of the sea, I meditated on my origins and somehow sensed the ancient sea that had covered this land, eons ago. There were moments tramping through tall, wet grass and fighting our way through blackberries and brambles that were less romantic, but the feeling of being rooted to the earth, and connected with Spirit, was very strong. I was there to receive messages from Spirit, and renew my belief in women’s magic.


At the end of one afternoon, after tramping around and through seven stone circles in one field, we sat in our own circle around an ancient pile of rocks or cairn, and re-remembered the women’s rites for birthing and dying. We sang, ‘The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot!’ while waking in a circle. Then we switched directions, walking widdershins around the stone circle, asking for a dream, a memory, a song or something to come through. I left a gift inside the cairn, letting my little gold painted rock fall inside the pile of dark rocks, down a crevice, to feed the dragons underneath perhaps. Sounding, voices and inner focus filled my heart, despite the chilled bum from sitting on damp grass.

I felt blessed to have someone so knowledgeable about the myths and stories of the land with us.  After three or four hours of drumming, ceremony and reimagining women’s ritual in the birthing and dying places, it was time to go home and have tea.



We often met in the morning before our treks into the countryside to attune, to sit in silence, then speak from the heart, and perhaps sing a song or two before getting on our mini-bus. Every day was a new adventure, full of surprises.

One morning, after slipping down a very muddy, wet path into a lower level of ancient rock and moss-covered trees in The Glen, on the side of Knocknareaa Mountain in County Sligo (http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/ireland-glen-knocknerea),  we sat and listened to an insistent drum beat while we journeyed inwards towards the ancestors. I saw flashbacks from my childhood home, saw myself playing in the woods outside, and then heard voices singing on a hill, around a fire at night. It was hard to tell if the voices were inside my head, or coming from inside the drum.

Note from my journal: The split between the logical side and the intuitive one is sometimes painful, the harsh inner critic so loud. Yet, she feels herself melting, she sings, she opens, she forgets her separateness, her defenses disappear or melt into the constant rain, the green green moss enchants and delivers her over to the silent space just between head and heart, the observer self, the open-handed receiver, the Feminine, the wonder it is all here, only a breath away.

It was a strange and wonderful journey – we not only communed with fairies and spirits, but shared delicious meals in restaurants or the homes we stayed in, making new friends in friendly conversation on one level, and dancing with the fairies on another. A seaweed bath in Strandhill spa was another kind of magical moment, calling up the selkie in me.



In a private session with Amantha, I learned that intuition and dreaming are strong in me, and to trust the energy of things: rocks, trees, but also inner feelings. The woman's creative center or womb is a source of guidance - I can ask inside about how I feel, and if those feelings belong to me. Guidance is always available. I am learning to trust my inner knowing and let nothing get in the way of that. 

As we sang one day:

We are sisters on a journey, walking now as one
Remembering the ancient ones, the women and their wisdom!

On my return, I pledged to keep an open heart and mind and resist withdrawing and hiding myself away. Now my challenge is to find the magic in my own ‘home’ landscape. With the changing leaves and colours, that shouldn’t be too hard.




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

SoulCollage(R) making art for your soul

The video linked below does a very good job explaining and showing what SoulCollage(R) is and how to use it. If you are interested in self-discovery and creativity, this is a great process and easy to use.

SoulCollage(R) is a fun, creative collage process using intuition, images and imagination.  I discovered it while browsing on-line about 6 years ago. I ordered the book SoulCollage(R) Evolving on the www.soulcollage.com website, and spent one whole summer ripping out images from magazines and making my own cards.

Watch Mariabruna Sirabella, a wonderful facilitator and trainer, as she is interviewed in this video from Santa Cruz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvu_KHh5BiE&feature=youtu.be


S.C. Card made for my Companion Suit, 2nd chakra, Cheetah & volcano





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why we need Enlightened Warriors of both Genders

There is a lot of talk in the news lately about corporate environments like Google and Facebook, and which gender is most likely to exhibit strengths in their leadership styles, i.e. compassionate and caring based on feelings vs an assertive and technical or scientific approach based on ideas.

Personally, I am tired of using the binary opposites  to describe human traits – women and men both can develop the so-called soft skills and hard skills, both rational thought and emotional capacity. Isn't it limiting and ultimately destructive to try and cage and clip the wings of these two birds called feminine and masculine or even yin and yang.  Why not free them from their labels and restrictions and allow them to fly free and land in whomever they are needed.

Both sets of skills and qualities are in great need today.  But do we have to name them along gender lines? Traditionally, we have seen plenty of examples of  what has been called by psychologists "the immature masculine":  represented as someone who’s sense of self is aggrandized with the judgment and belittlement of others, as well as attempts to control and dominate, leading to aggression and violence.  And yes, there are also studies that show  that women excel at “tending and befriending”; perhaps there are even genes in our DNA evolved from the Paleo age that increase those tendencies. But today, if we want to live harmoniously, we need a larger vision, a more inclusive one, that doesn’t pit one gender against the other by labeling these characteristics along gender lines. We in our 21st century globally challenged world have an increased need to cooperate with each other, to learn to use diplomacy instead of aggression and weapons, and aim for better understanding amongst co-workers and citizens alike. 

The recent event in Charlottesville VA, a violent clash between white supremacists and those picketing their march, is proof in point. The more we attempt to divide and conquer with hatred and exclusion, the more wedges we drive between gender, cultures, races, age groups, the more violence is generated.

In this battleground, where is the Enlightened Warrior and how can we cultivate this in both men and women?


A recent article in Psychology Today magazine (August 2017, Down with Extremes) suggests Moderation is the key. Those who express too much courage become reckless, and those who are too afraid (cowardly) only run and hide. Pleasing others too much, bending over backwards or being obsequious is no better than being surly and unapproachable.  Call this yin and yang if you will....but what we really need is balance. 

The Warrior stands in the middle – practicing presence, discernment, bold courage, with compassionate wisdom and heart. It’s a practice of being mindful, visible, allowing oneself to feel emotions, not hiding them, nor lashing out in reactivity. Mastery of self is required, and the enlightened, or peaceful, warrior needs awareness of his/her shadow side, the unlovely parts of self or flaws that may throw him or her off-balance. Centeredness and self-control, not control over others, is the answer.

In these days of volatile, emotionally charged twitter feeds and news flashes, we need less talk about what is feminine behaviour or masculine, and more talk about how to cultivate this centered presence and fierce compassion. Standing one’s ground belongs to every gender, even those who are non-gendered. Protecting the weak and voiceless, defending the core values of diversity, inclusion, democracy, and speaking truth to power requires courage with a Capital C from women and men.

In her book The Four-Fold Way, Angeles Arrien describes the Warrior as the archetype of leadership without once naming these qualities by gender. “We come into our leadership skills by staying in our power, by showing up and choosing to be present, by extending honor and respect and by being responsible and accountable.” It is the path of the Warrior to embrace both her/his strengths and weaknesses, the light and dark side of human nature, not to be caught in self-denial or self-indulgence.

Claiming our personal power, being responsible for protecting Mother Earth, and the vulnerable, showing honour and respect to others  in spite of our differences, is something that people of all gender and race can aspire to.

Let’s embrace the code of the Enlightened Warrior, embrace the middle way, and not be reductive in labelling our actions and attitudes with the old monikers of masculine or feminine. “...it is the work of all human beings to attend to the health of both our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ houses: the inner house of our selves, the limitless world within, and the outer house of the world in which we live our daily lives.”

To live in harmony and balance with our own nature, and our environment if the goal of human life. It’s time to bridge the gap in understanding with some ancient wisdom from the Enlightened Warrior.



On a last note, Seena Frost, founder of SoulCollage(R) also sent out a call to unite the opposites, perhaps for the first time in history. SoulCollage(R) is one of the best creative and intuitive tools I know for discovering and dialoguing with parts of self. 

“Science is now supporting some aspects of intuitive knowing: one, with evidence that the earth is indeed a living organism; two, with proof that humans have evolved over eons and are still evolving; and three, with clear evidence that the planet is in dire straits and we must change how we treat Her. It is becoming more and more evident that Yin and Yang can and must become partners, that the masculine and feminine elements of thinking and intuiting, of acting and of imagining, of doing and holding, of giving and receiving can dance together, perhaps for the first time in history. The feminine is rising now, no longer to be dominated, and also not to dominate. We want to partner and to correct the imbalances of these last thousands of years.”

 Perhaps if we can imagine this dance of the opposites and hold the two as partners, we will find that harmony and balance within which is necessary to create the one in the outer world.