Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Visioning 2020 and New Starts

"It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings." - Wendell Berry

SoulCollage(R) card: Take a Flying Leap 

It seems change is the only constant. We are in constant flux, even those of us who rigidly resist change will grow older, lose loved ones, contract illnesses that force us to rest or review our lifestyle; we watch our children grow up and become parents, and if you are a woman, you could potentially even go through at least three metamorphoses from puberty to pregnancy and menopause, where your body transforms and you lose an old identity to become a new person.

Here we are at the start of a new year, and perhaps the whole month of January is a good time to revision what came last year, and what is coming ahead in 2020. Perhaps you are in the middle of a reevaluation, a reinvention or transition of some kind. Perhaps you are ready to take a leap, but have a fear of the unknown.

I seem to go through transitions regularly - in the early fall of 2019 I remember facing the new season with a certain amount of resistance. There were big changes in my role as facilitator that made me uncertain, fearful or just plain stuck, blocked. Something new was on the horizon, I hadn't stepped into it fully yet, and it felt overwhelming or just mystifying. Who will I be if I let go of how I used to be, or what I was doing before? Who will I become?

The creative process of SoulCollage(R) is a great tool for exploring these inner parts of self - to use the random intuitive side of the brain to choose images, create cards for them, and dialogue with them to find out what new insights or perspectives my inner wise self comes up with. Especially when I feel stuck, I am always surprised by the depth and wisdom my own psyche discovers. 

Looking back from this vantage point, the frozen dam got unblocked and a wealth of new connections were made, the energy I needed arrived, and the new year has begun with many new opportunities for exploration and growth. I did get some counselling help, which was wonderful, to be able to say out loud what had been simmering underneath. And my daily card readings helped clarify my relationship to some underlying issues.

What transitions are you facing? Is there something unclear, some unknown future beckoning to you? A change coming that you are resisting? At midlife this happens frequently - and according to psychologist Elizabeth Strazar, the midlife shift involves the awakening and emergence of the soul - a longing for creative inspiration, meaning-making and spiritual connection. Our deeper self wants to be seen and heard.

Come explore those inner parts of self and let them out to play with a creative process I love, SoulCollage(R), on Sunday, Feb 2 at the Yellow Umbrella Center in Beaconsfield, Quebec from 1-4 pm. We will find some allies, discover what our challengers are, and find some of the gifts hiden in the bottom of our travel bag. No art experience is necessary.

You will be amazed by the surprising inner wisdom that pops up with the use of your imagination, your intuition and selected images. The soul speaks the language of images. And you may find some inner guidance that satisfies you in this time of transition. 

SoulCollage(R) is the doorway to your inner wisdom.

see the link on my Home page under Events

Heart Focus card 

"Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don't get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It's a very tender, non-aggressive, open-ended state of affairs." - Pema Chodron

Monday, January 13, 2020

Harvesting Inner Beauty Day Long Retreat Sunday March 29, 2020


SUNDAY MARCH 29, 10-4:30



watch this video to find out more about what Kim and I are offering. Our true beauty is shining within us, if we have the eyes to see!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sacred Feminine in the Center of the Circle

Dear readers,

I had such a beautiful morning and am feeling like sharing a bit of it with you. This has been my year of trying new things - a new Dance your Bliss class, seeing a counsellor bi-weekly ot overcome some writing blocks, attending a drum circle for the first time, and today I got brave and attended a Red Tent circle in Hudson, Quebec.

Run by Aine Sun, a beautiful heart-centered woman, this new Dana Center is a place for women to gather, listen to each other, share their stories and feel welcomed, seen and heard, with a minimum of ritual and ceremony.

Being seen and heard myself this morning, made me feel like a bucket of sunshine had been poured on my heart. I have been in a lot of circles in the past 20 years, lead some, started some, and I always come away from that deep listening space feeling renewed and happy.  It's simple, in a way, that really all we want is to be accepted for who we are, have a short space to express how we feel, and feel the invisible embrace of listening hearts mirroring back to us, I am valuabe, I am loved.

SoulCollage(R) card: Brigid 

On my drive home, I thought back to 1986, when I went back to University here in Montreal to study creative writing and a minor in women's studies. I already thought of myself as a feminist since my teens, bu my thirties I had let that slide a little. I loved the courses on mythology and women's religions around the world, and on women's literature. It began a life-long fascination with writing the feminine, writing about taboo subjects - breastfeeding, sex during pregnancy, the joy of children in their bodies, (although my daughter when she was seven or eight did not appreciate coming across my poem of her vulva dance, dancing with blue chalk all over her two year old body, like a little Goddess), and later a book on the emotional turmoil at menopause.

I have written about the feminine mysteries of menstruation and menopause, published articles and books, taken courses like the one I'm doing online right now called Goddesses of Self-Care, read a ton of books about When God was a Woman, and the 5,000 year period since the goddess has been demonized and relegated to the underworld as a witch or fertility figure. But now, today, I felt the light fill me up from within. I felt this sacred part of me could shine as I danced to some gentle music at the end, mybody was moving in tune with the heart-filled center, the feminine essence.

My struggles to understand both the feminine and the masculine as archetypes, and release myself from wounds and patterns instilled during childhood, have lead me here - to embrace the sacred feminine at the center of my being, as a living energy, not a stone statue, nor a picture on a wall, but inside my flesh and bone, my belly and thighs, my breasts and uterus, my legs and arms and all.

I can dance with my sacred feminine life energy in the center of my body. I share my appreciation, my wounded brokenness, my joy and my wild feminine life force with other women in the circle.

Next thing I'm going to do is take every book I have written, every poem, every class offering on the feminine, and dance around it, to celebrate my creative participation in awakening the goddess within, the sacred feminine energy of life within.


Watch me dance!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Healing the inner masculine, Journaling and SoulCollage®

Sometimes our inner world throws us a curve ball, we are thrown into chaos or confusion internally, the way ahead appears to be lost. I finally got up the courage to see a counsellor to work through some resistance I felt to starting my list of projects. It was the beginning of fall, and I was busy planning workshops, retreats, and proposing to write a book about my father. It’s difficult to not feel like my usual creative self. And it’s even harder to ask for help, to admit that I feel stuck, and uninspired. I set myself up as the Inner Wisdom Guide for Pete’s sake. It took me six months to make the call, but I’m glad I did, even if it feels very vulnerable to even talk about.

We started talking about my life, my family of origin, and of course, my mother’s alcoholism and how I was raised to be the little mother, a good Catholic girl, the eldest, responsible one. For a few sessions, she asked me to prod into any residual anger that may be blocking my energy. I couldn't feel any anger, just sadness.

Good Girl Saying Grace (angel watching) 

Because I work with SoulCollage®, I showed her some of my cards and she was willing to work this way. Talking was helping, but I needed to consult my cards to see what they had to say about how to deal with any simmering anger hidden under the surface. Who would help me deal with that?  The first card that appeared was one I named Healing the Masculine

The image on the card is of a bronze statue with a broken right arm, being cleaned by a female archeologist, against the backdrop of the Aegean Sea, or ancient Greece. My right arm has been chronically stiff, first with calcific bursitis, then a frozen shoulder and has been bothering me for almost ten years. I’ve had every kind of treatment, from physiotherapy, osteopathy, rolfing, acupuncture and now talk therapy. Looking at this card, I realized the one who carried rage in our home was my father. I looked up to him as a role model because my mother had collapsed, checked out in my teen years with drinking and depression.  My dad was an engineer, a logical thinker, an army captain, a man who always wanted to excel at what he did, who graduated with honours. But who had demons of his own.

Healing Inner Masculine

In search of more answers about this imbalance of masculine and feminine, I’m also consulting books, getting massages, and trying to figure out how to be less numb, more in touch with my body. 
What I’m learning and what I feel intuitively is that the way to heal the masculine is by approaching the inner feminine, those values I always forget are my healing medicine – rest, receptivity and allowing feelings to arise. Being at home allows me to take the time required, and embrace my Inner Hestia, the side of me that loves to putter in the house, who heals herself and others with chicken soup, slow simmered stews, herbal tinctures and teas (especially in fall and winter). The cozy home and sanctuary is already here, if I can only appreciate it. They say compassion begins at home, so Jennifer, it’s time to lay down the sword and mantle, the staff of being the one in charge, put aside the crown of Overarching Boss of Everything. Descend, my lady, to your inner comfort zone and refill the well.

This does feel awkward, not in line with the goal setting I’ve been doing.  Since last year I’ve been revamping my website, gearing up to lead trainings for facilitators, which involves more workshops, outreach and marketing. I also have a few creative projects, singing with my husband in a band, as well as a barbershop quartet, publishing a book of poems with translation, there are lots of pots on the burners. So it feels a bit backwards to be focusing on doing less when there is so much I want to do!

It feels absolutely unheroic and unproductive: instead of going up and at ‘em, dreaming big, and expanding my reach, for the moment, I’m headed down and in, asking questions of my body, and composting the dark shadowy stuff in the heart. I’ve always been one to counsel others to listen carefully to the body’s wisdom and practice self-care. Now it’s my turn (menopause was also a big teaching moment about descent into feeling).  It’s not time to Go Big or Go Home. It’s time to find out where Home is.

At 65, I have accomplished most of my dreams already: I am grateful for my wonderful hubby and grown children, beautiful home, a creative community of women, working with SoulCollage®, and journaling. There were a few disappointments -  two miscarriages, and none of the books I published were best sellers. But the books did bring me out in the public for speaking engagements. And I have had the opportunity to study with some amazing teachers, Dr. Clarissa PInkola Estes, Nathalie Goldberg, Joan Borysenko, Cat Caracelo, and Mariabruna Sirabella. Maybe this is a good time to digest what I have learned, and explore where my passions lie. I still have lots to share, and more to grow, but my soul purpose will only be achieved if live in connection with my heart and body, not just my head.

It’s not always about being productive, and doing more.

For some of us, who are always striving for bigger and better, an illness we need to be cured of  – embracing our flawed, imperfect selves and limitations can be a huge relief and healing balm. When I accept myself, and feel enough, when I know that I am small but mighty, I can relax. I can trust my intuitive knowing to lead me (which often goes against the received wisdom of coaches and marketing execs). I do not feel the need to go faster, dream bigger or be better than I am.  It feels like back peddling sometimes, this downward, inward work, but it also feels good, like a big release, like something transformative is taking place.

Ideally, I imagine standing up for myself with self-protection, rooting and grounding in presence and real-ness. Learning to acknowledge and know my limits, being able to say, I can do this and no more, and calling in my angels and guides to support me. Maybe I’ll even learn the ability to say no without feeling bad at displeasing others. Mostly, I realize, the one I fear displeasing is my own inner Father figure, who expected only the best from me but installed a very loud critic voice in my right ear.
I think it’s also time to release the superwoman rescuer.  I cannot take on all the woes of the world and still feel my inner Wow. I feel a deep need to self-nurture in a cocoon for a while, and have that be ok. I have one foot in the underworld these days, as I release the hold of the inner tyrant, and learn to snuggle in the arms of the Great Mother, the eternal feminine.  Some weeping happens, as I write in my journal and of course, having the support of a counsellor lightens the load.

Great Mother/Nurturer as Tree

I had a curious dream last night  – I was playing a violin in a trio with my husband, for a party indoors. We were looking in at them, from outside on the porch, and a very tall woman stood there, bare breasted, with large pendulous breasts, nursing a baby. I leaned over drew the bow across her breast and drops of milk came out through the skin. I was in awe of the power of those breasts. It felt like a puzzle, and I was not afraid, only curious. Intrigued. 

The power of the feminine is like the power of milk, it feeds our hunger. The power of the feminine is to nurture, hold, soul tend, be tender.

That is how my path is unfolding right now, on this healing journey, moving towards embracing what I am, and what I was born to be, a woman who forgives herself for not being perfect, who can hang out  here in the shadow realms as long as needed, so I can learn to love myself, just the way I am.

Battling Dragons collage

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Peace Day Video Prem Rawat in Conversation with Jeremy Giller

TimelessToday: The Message of Prem Rawat

Click on the link above to watch this heartwarming and touching vide,  the perfect way to enjoy Peace Day.

They talk about the importance of the need for action now, to reach each individual, the importance of love, and of family, very deep.

enjoy the video - about 22 min long.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Midlife tasks : Rite of passage, Crisis or Transition?

So much gold can be found in transition times, but mostly, we feel challenged by the unexpected shifts, changes and challenges - whether it's menopause, divorce, the death of a spouse, parent or child, job loss, empty nest or chronic illness - we are propelled into a process of Change, forced into letting go of the old way, and freaked out perhaps at what has not yet been revealed as the New Normal. 

This wonderful article really helped me reframe the mid-life transition, not as a crisis but as an opportunity for personal growth, a time to take inventory mid-journey and decide what is really important, finding meaning and purpose in the second half of life as a quest for authenticity. I especially like that she says creativity plays a central role in supporting this mid-life review. It also calls on our inner boldness and courage to be inventive and creative in the second half of life.

Here is a short synopsis of the tasks that help us do this: (ps journaling and SoulCollage(R) have helped me get started on these.)

Midlife is a time when our wisdom knocks at the door, sometimes forcefully in form of a crisis or life-changing moment. The following midlife tasks support a life-review and provide helpful signposts along the way:

·         Access Repressed Dreams and Unexpressed Aspects of Self
·        Tell and Revise Life Stories
·        Tend to Regrets and Shame
·         Name and Tame Fears and Inner Barriers
·        Make Peace with the Past
·         Clarify Values and Goals
·         Redefine Body Image and Sexuality
·        Deepen Confidence to Live Wholeheartedly and Authentically
·        Transform Anger into Self-Advocacy and Action
·        Identify Personal Gifts and Passions
·        Offer Gifts and Passions to the World
·        Balance Tending to Others and Tending to Self
·         Reformulate Intimate Relationships Based on Speaking and Honoring Core Needs and Personal Truths
·        Spiritual Quest: Define Meaning and Purpose
·        Nurture Creativity and Creative Self-Expression
·        Cultivate a deeper imaginary with self and others
·        Trust intuition and wisdom
·        Explore and create new possibilities. 
·         Discover more meaning and purpose

Journaling questions to help you gain clarity:

What are my unique gifts?
What dreams, goals and longings have I neglected? (ie what did I used to love, or dream of doing?)
What self-doubts and insecurities block me from being the best version of myself?
What beliefs undermine the expression of my full potential?
What do I need to give myself permission to let go of?
What do I need to give myself permission to embrace?
What are the missing pieces (unmet needs) from my childhood that I can now give to myself?
What feels challenging and leaves me feeling drained?
What brings me peace and satisfaction?
What brings me alive, excites me and gives me joy?
What do I value the most in myself?
What qualities do I admire in others?
What would I like others to have said they learned from me?

Allow any newly emerging ideas and feelings, goals and beliefs to surface. Honour and hold them safe, and if you need to feel held in a safe container, find a counselor who will do so, allowing your rite of passage to continue to unfold.

Adapted from an article Midlife: the Tasks of the Journey, by Elizabeth Strazar, MA, LPC Thimble Island Counseling   

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Here be Dragons: Transition Times, Facing the Unknown

SoulCollage(R) Card: Taming the Dragon 

“The human spirit is capable of an endless number of extraordinary feats. It is a dragon slayer, animating its presence within our being to challenge images and thoughts that arise from the depths of our darkness, intent upon reshaping how we see the landscape of our life.” -  Carolyn Myss

A few years ago, I took a class called Dark Gifts. I was intrigued by the title and ready to face my fear of writing the true stories of my childhood with a dysfunctional (but loving) family. I knew it was going to be scary, even though I had previously written a book of poems called “Little Mother”, and dived deeply in my journal for many years. But I also knew there was treasure to be uncovered in that dark cave.
At each transition point in my life, it seems, the dragons raise their heads and blast me with “thou shalt not pass here” messages. I am a brave and curious soul, usually, not reckless, not Game of Thrones kind of adventurer, but eager to understand my own processes and move onward and upward. Still, after the dizzying mid-life transition at menopause, I felt a bit weak in the knees, a bit less sure of myself, so this course beckoned to me.
Here’s the thing about dragons – what I found out when I asked it why I couldn’t pass (in a guided meditation), is that there was no good reason – and when I imagined my little girl self singing it a lullaby, the dragon actually lowered its hoary head and let me come closer. The tears that flowed from my eyes melted some of my own armour, showing me the true nature of courage; by allowing myself to be vulnerable, as Brene Brown says, more courage began to flow. It felt like a pivotal moment. (I’m still working on those childhood stories).
What I’m discovering with my creative practice of SoulCollage® is that the first step, after creating a safe space to play/work in, is to call in my allies and guides for help in facing the dragons. I have made several Protector cards, Wise Elder and Earth Mother cards, cards that feel nurturing and loving and accepting. I also have a few warrior cards, and a ferocious Mountain Lion who stands guard and protects my boundaries. Now I also know that my innocent girl child has a light and power that can fight the dark.
SoulCollage(R) Card: Mountain Lion Protector 

In the workshop I’m offering this weekend, called Darkness to Light, Navigating Transitions, we are going to name and claim our dragons, the boogeymen who say – Stop! You can’t go forward! There be dragons here!  And we will also find and name our allies. We have all been through many transitions in our lives, but in the face of the current transition or challenge, we sometimes forget the skills and tools we learned the last time around. For instance, most of us have survived a lot of challenges: we made it through adolescence, challenging relationships, illnesses, loss of a loved one, or a job change – but when we are in the middle of it, it feels just as scary every time to face the unknown, to be uncertain of the future. I remember Joan Borysenko describing it in a workshop on Change as being in the hallway, with one door closed and the other one not opened yet.  It’s normal to feel uneasy about what is not seen yet, and unknown.
SoulCollage(R) Card: Goddess Blessing Child with Sun and Water

This is why we need to call in our allies. We also need to name our challengers, pull the dragons out of the dark and ask them to speak to us, ask them: what is the treasure you are guarding? What gift do you have for me? What can I give you in return? There is always a gift in the darkness; hiding in the shadows is our gold.
Writing this article, I came across this powerful piece called Meeting the Dragon, by Robert Holden:  “’On the path of bliss you will meet a dragon. On the dragon there are many scales. Every one of them says ‘Thou Shalt Not’," said [Joseph] Campbell. The dragon may take many forms. For instance, a person who discourages you, who says “You can’t” and “You shan’t.” When I was 20 years old, I worked at a BBC radio station for the summer. I loved it. On my last day, the station manager asked to meet me. It was a short meeting. He told me I shouldn’t pursue my interest in radio as I didn’t have the personality or the talent for it. I burst into tears in front of him. What he said sounded like the truth; not just an opinion. This month marked the start of my ninth year hosting my Shift Happens! radio show for Hay House Radio. Not every “Thou Shalt Not” is true.

The dragon is, essentially, an inner experience. It’s often a self-doubt, a judgment, or a belief that breathes fire at you. One of my dragons is the “inner critic” that would roar at me when I sat before the blank page. Over the years, I learned to tame this dragon. Initially, I did everything I could to avoid it, to outrun it, to heal it, and to slay it. One day, I had a revelation. It struck me that the “inner critic” had never been published! I was released. The inner critic still roars at me from time to time, but it has no fire.”
This piece spoke to me personally, because I studied Radio & TV Arts for one year at university, but gave it up, thinking I was not the competitive type of person it took to make it. These days, I have the chutzpah that I didn't have at age 19.
While some people express and explore through words, others use images or dance, breathwork or yoga or any other expressive art to feel the fear, find their strength and glide around the dragons. No matter which modality you use, one thing I’m sure of, your spirit has more power in it than you know. Reclaim your inner resources, your inner wisdom and find your playful spirit of resilience. Perhaps you won't slay the dragon, but have a conversation with it. Use your intuition, your imagination, and most of all, use imagery and symbolism, the language of the soul, to get to the bottom of your treasure.
And of course, if it feels too overwhelming and difficult, consult a professional who can help you face your fears and move forward.
There may be dragons here, but there also be Transformation and Healing!
Playfully yours in creativity, 

Art Collage: Warrior Monk Flies down the Path with Eagle