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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.




Saturday, August 12, 2017

Resources for Heroines at Mid-Life

Her Journey: Books and Resources for the Heroine’s Quest at Mid-life

A Woman’s Journey to God, Joan Borysenko
Animal Speak by Ted Andrews  (animal totems and descriptions)
Archetypes, A beginner's guide to your inner-net, by Caroline Myss www.archetypes.com
Circle of Stones, Woman’s Journey to Herself, Judith Duerk
**Goddesses in Older Women, Jean Shinoda Bolen. A Jungian psychologist
Descent to the Goddess, A Way of Initiation for Women, psychologist Sylvia Brinton Perera. (Explores the myth and symbolism of Inanna in great detail.)
Inanna, a retelling of the Inanna myth by Kim Echlin, with illustrations, a Story book
Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, her Stories & Hymns from Sumer, Wolkstein & Kramer
I am a Woman Finding my Voice, Janet F. Quinn
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life --by Dawna Markova
Listening to Midlife: Turning your Crisis into a Quest, Mark Gerzon
Persephone Rising, Awakening the Heroine Within, Carol S. Pearson
SoulCollage Evolving, Seena Frost
The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock, (and workbook)
Visual Journaling, Going Deeper than Words, Barbara Ganim & Susan Fox
Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds, Lynn V. Andrews (menopause as spiritual quest)
**Women’s Intuition, Paula Jeeves. “By nature, we women are highly intuitive.”
Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst on the Conscious Feminine, Books & Articles at https://mwoodmanfoundation.org/

Wisdom is Feminine
Wisdom is a woman, a crone, a goddess, and a feminine archetype. In Greek mythology she is a barely personified Metis, swallowed by Zeus. In the Bible she is a hidden Sophia, the goddess who became an abstract and ungendered concept. Wisdom may be found at twilight where the three roads meet as Hecate, or in the hearth fire as Hestia. She may be the invisible Shekinah who enters the Jewish home for the meal that begins the Sabbath. She was once the Celtic goddess Cerridwen. She is Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom and Erda in Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung.”

~ Goddesses in Older Women, Jean Shinoda Bolen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Musing on Feminine and Masculine Archetypes

I've been reading up on Sacred Feminine archetypes, in view of offering classes and retreats with SoulCollage(R) card to inspire women to make their favorite goddess images and find empowering symbols of the feminine. That leads me to muse on what IS the feminine?

The book, Goddesses in Older Women by Jean Shinoda Bolen http://www.jeanshinodabolen.com/ got me thinking about goddess archetypes beyond the Demeter, Persephone, Artemis, Aphrodite and Hera, and Hecate that I knew about.  She brings in the Dark Goddesses, the transformative wrathful Voices and the angry fierce defenders of Justice, protectors of the weak and disadvantaged like Sekhmet from Egypt and Kali from India.

the Magician (collage)
Creative Warrior collage

Years ago I wrote a long poem sequence about Eve, and also discovered Lilith, Adam's first wife, the rebel who refused to lie under him, and flew off into the desert. Her rebel energy is a bit like Eris or Discord, a little known Greek goddess, who, like the 13th fairy in Sleeping Beauty, was not invited to the party and got peeved with everyone, sowing strife and discord and causing the Trojan War.

In my quest for understanding on the feminine/masculine archetypes, I'm reading books by Marion Woodman, and discovering the wounded masculine is an important archetype too. Leaving my Father's House and The Maiden King (with Robert Bly) mwoodmanfoundation are full of great psychology and stories, dreams and metaphors of both Feminine and Masculine to unpack. Mother complexes anyone? It's all very Jungian, and I'm working at understanding the concepts.

Why? because in myth and stories and fairy tales, we reach back to the ancient archetypes to find images that empower, that speak to the Strength and Courage that also belongs to the Feminine Realm. In our current society, it feels like we are over-masculinized and out of touch with our true balanced feminine-masculine nature. We live in a culture that values productivity, and not rest. That wants to churn out business students, and starve the teaching of the arts in school. The women I meet who are successful in business are a little scary they are so strong. (That probably speaks to my own insecurities more than anything, since I am a poet, a creative type and although  an "organizer", have never worked full time in a business setting since I went back to school in 1986).

So what is the feminine energy? what is the masculine? Reading Woodman, I realize that men have been damaged by the lack of empowerment of their feminine side as much as women have. When we make the feminine second class, lower than, inferior to, and insist on work work work at any price, contract basis mostly, and no security lying ahead in retirement....we are not allowing the Feminine to breathe, to receive rest, to live in a balanced environment where downtime, music, reading, art, play, and picnics are valued too.

Perhaps using yin and yang, or moon rhythms and sun rhythms will help me get out of the binary bind of feminine and masculine. I want to look at archetypes that are not divided down the middle between Love, Compassion and Kindness on one side, and Strength, Courage and Warrior on the other. We all need to be warriors to protect the Earth, and those we love, at some point.

Strength (Tarot) Collage

We all need Courage and Chutzpah balanced with Kindness and Compassion.

We are all human.

We are all born of a mother, and conceived with a father, therefore a mix of both.

I, personally, am going to take this summer to muse on the archetypes that are calling to me. Artemis is a strong one, lately. And Eris/Lilith the rebel. And what about the masculine?

I've had lots of dreams about little boys, lately, and have been making SoulCollage(R) cards for my inner masculine, so perhaps, as Woodman says, once the feminine container is solid and can contain the Creative Spark of spirit, we can begin to assess, repair, rebuild our wounded masculine.

Athena/Justice battling the Dark

Another great book about that very thing: The Wounded Woman,, Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship, by Linda Schierse Leonard. That's where I am now, today, thinking about my father, and his legacy, both negative and positive. And how I have rejected my softer feminine side to embrace my warrior intellectual side. At age 62, way past menopause, it is time to Descend to the Feminine Feeling Realm. It is time to embrace my positive, healed, whole masculine energy too.

Right?

Happy Summer Reading
Jennifer
xxxooo