Tuesday, April 11, 2017

To the Sensitive Ones, poem for Poetry Month

By Jeff Foster
Do not be ashamed of your sensitivity!
It has brought you many riches.

You see what others cannot see,
Feel what others are ashamed to feel.
You are more open, less numb.

You find it harder to turn a blind eye.

You have not closed your heart,
in spite of everything. 

You are able to hold 
the most intense highs
and the darkest lows 
in your loving embrace.
(You know that neither defines you.
Everything passes through.
You are a cosmic vessel.) 

Celebrate your sensitivity!
It has kept you flexible and open.
You have remained close to wonder. 
And awareness burns brightly in you. 

Don't compare yourself with others.
Don't expect them to understand.
But teach them:

It’s okay to feel, deeply.
It’s okay to not know. 
It’s okay to play 
on the raw edge of life.

Life may seem ‘harder’ for you at times,
And often you are close to overwhelm. 
But it’s harder still 

to repress your overwhelming gifts.

Sensitive ones, 
Bring some gentleness into this weary world! 
Shine on with courageous sensitivity!
You are the light bearers!

Monday, April 10, 2017

April is Poetry Month: Peace

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of why my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Heroine's Quest at Mid-Life

I'm facilitating a class online right now about the journey at mid-life, which I call a quest because of the challenges and tasks that we face - divorce, menopause, chronic illness, deaths in the family, job changes, reinventing ourselves, the endings and new beginnings seem to multiply.

The best tools I know for gaining perspective and understanding your journey better are creative ones - journaling and SoulCollage(R) in my case.

We follow the framework of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, the product of his study of myths and legends around the world.

At the end of the class, participants write their own story, imagined or real, about their Quest. Here is a video my son made for me, using my cards and the imaginary quest I made the SoulCollage cards for (from my first taught class).



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Writing down the body or The Story I tell myself is....

Ever since my first creative writing class and an exercise called the Taboo Journal, I have been fascinated with the power of memory held in the body, and the way our stories define us. The story I tell myself is, as one well known psychologist and author puts it. I have stored memories, hurts, traumas, griefs, and blocked energy in my shoulders, my belly, my ovaries, my pelvic area, my broken wrist and strained right knee and god knows where else. Clarissa Pinkola Estes has a quote somewhere that wherever we press on the flesh of the body, a memory surfaces....Healing through writing has always been an important tool for me.

As a writer and facilitator, this has led me to lead workshops using journaling prompts to write the body, and have a conversation with body parts that want me to shine a light on their neglected story. In one exercise, I named one breast Famine and the other Abundance and wrote a poem for each.

I had a dialogue with my vagina about what colour the wall paper in her room was, and what kind of furniture would be in there (red velvet, of course!). When I broke my right knee skiing, just on the cusp of menopause and a roiling mid-life transition, it gave me permission to take a lot of quiet time for thinking and writing about the connection between my body and my mind. I wanted to know why I broke my knee, was it significant? Was it a symbol for me needing to stand up for myself and ask for help when overwhelmed? At the same time, Louise Hay’s book and a few others came to my attention – giving me a kind of lexicon of the body-mind connection. A key resource was Dr Northrup’s exploration of the female body in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.

Mid-life brought up some more intense body wisdom and learnings. I was mothering two hormonal teen age children, while facing my own menopausal angst, as well as writing, teaching and volunteering to organize events. One particular project had become too large and unmanageable, but I didn’t know how to step down without looking unreliable and disappointing the others. My shoulders and upper back began to ache so badly that every night I needed a heating pad to fall sleep. When I finally made the decision to step down, my body aches disappeared. This happened at least twice, when I was over-committed to outside projects.  I began to pay attention and listen to my body more earnestly.

Recently I’ve been taking some online writing courses specifically centered on healing and releasing old family shadows. It has been very enlightening, to learn how the trauma and pain in one generation can get passed down to the next, until we become aware of it and break the cycle. Another course used the Hero’s Journey as an outline, and urged me to enter the cave of old griefs and hurts, and face the Dragon guarding my treasures and dialogue with him. During that five day class, I wondered at the marvelous ways my body was humming, buzzing, aching and releasing. Energy was moving, just by answering journal prompts and using my imagination to enter that dark cave of old beliefs about my “story”. Reading Women’s Intuition has further bolstered my faith in the embodied guidance and wisdom from within. (

The story I tell myself is....This is my old story: I was brought up the eldest of eight children (born in 10 years), in a Catholic family, and became the responsible one, the Mother’s Helper or Little Mother, out of necessity. My mother was alcoholic, and I stepped in to help out, putting a certain burden on my shoulders at an early age. This lead to a pattern of valuing myself externally in my life – the need to always feel productive, purposeful, and valuable by giving and doing, and almost never allowing myself to rest. My body had to force me to stop sometimes.  I look back now, and see that in my twenties I had become addicted to the high of self-less service in my spiritual life, finding great satisfaction (but also exhaustion and stress) in being always on call, evenings, weekends, and whenever there was a need. It was for a good cause but my body craved rest and a more balanced lifestyle. Once I got married, I threw myself into studying, going back to school full time, being an A student (overachiever that I am), then having two babies while doing my Master’s degree over several years.

Bringing up two children, born twenty months apart, was a wonderfully fulfilling role to play, and at the same time I was studying creative writing, teaching part-time and working on a master’s thesis, which became the book, Little Mother. I needed to explore motherhood: my mother’s alcoholism, my childhood, and my own birth journal while I was pregnant. I wrote poems about breastfeeding, sex, and the mothering overload. Writing the body was a life-saver, once again, and it helped me make order out of chaos. But becoming a mother was also my Waterloo. My wolf-mother instincts had been awakened, my hearing and eyesight were keener than ever. My nervous system went into overdrive; it was hard to sleep, hard to share the parenting roles when babies only want their mommies, even with a willing partner. That brought me to therapy, where the psychologist kindly said, you have taken on another mothering job with teaching. I was trying to be the perfect mom, you know how it goes. I ran up against my own human limitations, and more body wisdom.

Menopause, that other womanly rite of passage, threw my body into hormonal chaos and sent my heart and mind onto a rough rollercoaster of ups and downs, highs and lows. Some days, I felt like I was going crazy – shrieking at my kids about crumbs on the counter. Mild depression swung me on a hook for a while. I was saved again by the writing. I started a blog, interviewed other women to find out if it was the same for everyone, researched and read a ton of books, and finally wrote my own, The Tao of Turning Fifty. Since then, I’ve given lectures on the mid-life transition and written a few hundred blog posts and articles. (

My life has been a search of that mysterious answer or clue to what ails me....for instance, a frozen shoulder, shortly after my book came out, prevented me from working on the computer for any length of time. It took five years of journaling, osteopathic treatments, shamanic journeying and finally I felt I got to the bottom of that shoulder issue.  I was in a workshop exploring the Inanna myth and down in the underworld meeting Erishkegal when I realized that the pain in my upper back was from the good girl archetype tightly wedged between my shoulder blades! Some very simple exercises from a physiotherapist helped me strengthen the back muscles. Now I sit at a desk with better ergonomics, and a good height for the keyboard. Plus, my adorable shitzu Mollie forces me to get up and take walks, and take a break from the computer regularly.

After the wild mid-life transition, in my sixties, my continuing curiosity led me to take classes to help find my inner child artist. I have rediscovered a love of artistic expression with SoulCollage and Art Journaling and once again, been catapulted back into the body, into the wild joy a child’s body feels while finger painting, drawing, or cutting up bits of images and pasting them onto cardboard. Time does not exist when I am in creative flow, and I stop feeling those aches and pains. I am grateful for the wise body guidance I receive, when I listen to it, and I want to commit to staying close to its wisdom every day.

Your story has a surprise beginning says this collage from my art journal, with a naked woman riding a white horse, facing backwards. Yes, it is a surprising rewrite. For instance, I have loved singing and music all my life. Where was that in my old story? The story I tell myself now is different from the one I have been telling myself all these years: eldest daughter, little mother with an absent mother, carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. I have found my joy in the magical child, the story teller, the little girl who sings to the flowers, la petite fille qui chantait aux fleurs.

Embodied wisdom, the body’s wisdom, is still something I am exploring. Creativity and Flow have become my go-too therapies. When I am stuck in the writing, I immerse myself in making collage, in playing with images instead of words. I am learning to speak the body’s language – it uses imagery, metaphor and symbols. Myths and the imagination emerge from the collective unconscious, as Jung taught, in the same symbolic language that speaks to us through dreams, in poetry and art, in our body’s intuitive knowing... Now I know that anything is possible.

See my website at for a free excerpt of the book, The Tao of Turning Fifty, and to register for my latest class offering, Her Journey, the Heroine’s Quest at Mid-Life.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

February, Restart your Year

How did it get to be February already? I'm just pulling out of the fog of January, ice and snow keeping me indoors, rain, freezing rain, falling slush....then a week of sunshine.

Miraculously, creative and inspirational projects are simmering anew, my brain energy has been reborn. Was it the week of restful reading in the sun, or perhaps seeing my teacher Prem Rawat give an inspirational talk on Essential Gratitude in LA?

All of a sudden my calendar is filling up with workshops and retreats, plans as far ahead as June. My schedule has jumped from 0-60 km an hour overnight, or so it seems.

A life coach once recommended that we wait till February to restart the year. I think that is a very good idea, and it happened by itself this year without me planning it.

What's intriguing me right now: healing old family wounds and finding the gifts of shadow. I've been taking a course on Daily Om called Releasing Family Karma (or Shadow) - they list the 7 shadow energies as: illness, addiction, abuse (physical and sexual), violence, poverty, abandonment, and betrayal.

It's been a very informative exercise to make a family tree with all the generations I know of, and their subsequent shadows.  I saw depression, anxiety, addiction, abandonment and illness come up in several generations, on both sides of my family tree.

Sometimes these were closely held secrets, until one current family member became ill or depressed, and the stories of aunts, grandmothers, great grandmothers began to surface. I have read on other websites that these traumas are stored in our DNA and carried down. Apparently neuroscience is catching up here, with experiments on how rats parent when they are deprived of basic nurturance and affection by their own mothers.

Another course I have just signed up for will help me write, make art, do more SoulCollage (R)  cards around these shadow energies - wherever there is conscious awareness and transformative art brought to attend and tend, it allows old wound to heal. I have been aware of most of these for over 30 years, and began writing about it in my 30's (am now 62). What I see is that deeper acceptance and  grieving the losses and old 'story', allowing feelings to surface from out of the depths, brings lightness of being, renewed joy, gentle compassion for myself and others. We spiral upwards, around our stories, seeing them from a new angle each time.

Or like they say, you need to deal, to feel and heal.

Here's a poem I found on Facebook today, posted by a fellow SoulCollager, that says it all.

The Joy of Incompleteness
Albert Crowell

If all our life were one broad glare
Of sunlight clear, unclouded:
If all our path were smooth & fair,
By no soft gloom enshrouded:
If all life’s flowers were fully blown
Without the sweet unfolding,
And happiness were rudely thrown
On hands too weak for holding–
Should we not miss the twilight hours,
The gentle haze and sadness?
Should we not long for storms and showers
To break the constant gladness?

If none were sick and none were sad,
What service could we render?
I think if we were always glad
We scarcely could be tender.
Did our beloved never need
Our patient ministration,
Earth would grow cold and miss indeed
Its sweetest consolation:
If sorrow never claimed our heart
And every wish were granted
Patience would die, and hope depart–
Life would be disenchanted.

(artist unknown)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January : Deep into Winter

Well it depends what part of the planet you live in, but here in Montreal, we are deep into winter. Another five centimetres of snow fell today, covering all the dirt and ice and gravel and making everything pure white again.

I haven't been blogging much, and I'm really taking it slowly this January.  Slow as molasses in January, the local taxi driver used to say, as we saw me doddling home from school in a small town in Ontario.

Yep, I'm slow to get started on planning anything - workshops or classes or retreats? not on the radar yet. I have been taking two online classes in Tarot & SoulCollage and one Healing by writing class, so that keeps my creative flow happening.

My stated goal to myself for the year is writing - which I am doing a few days a week. I have been working on a fiction story about a young girl in medieval times who is on a path towards being an apprentice to a healer.... in the days of witch burnings and heretics. But today, even that feels like too much energy....

So looking for inspiration, I picked a few cards today from my Medecine card deck. Deer and Bear poked their heads up to remind me to go slowly and gently, not forcing anything, and invited me into the Dream Lodge to connect with source, and do some deep introspection. Sounded like good advice to me.

All I want to do is curl up and nap! so workshops, classes and other projects will have to wait for February, cause January has got me by the ankle-bones and is dragging me down into its snowy depths.

aka Creative Soulful Woman

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Crone energy or how do I face the dark goddess? Getting in touch with the Fierce Feminine energy.

"I am old now: gray, wrinkled, tired, and bloated, and my joints ache, too. But I am ready to come into my full destiny—as my childhood dreams predicted—as a Neo-Amazonian Pirate Queen of my own vessel: firing cannonballs at the worldwide culture of patriarchy in the name of all that does not suck." - Roseanne Barr

Turning 60:
Because I had written a book on turning 50, I was curious about what turning 60 would bring up for me. Mostly, I could feel my energy slowing down, but ironically, I felt younger. I was finally doing work (in my 50’s) that I loved, sharing my creativity, knowledge and self-care practices with mid-life women in transition, but most importantly I felt valued and appreciated more than I ever did as a stay-at-home mom. (I know, work to do there!) However, it’s been two years now, and I’m just beginning to guess at what becoming an Elder is really about, and I certainly don’t want to be called Crone yet.

But just as I wrote a poem to reclaim and recycle that ugly word 'cunt', to re-empower myself after feeling dishonoured, shamed and diminished by that word, lately I needed to reclaim the Crone word.

Fortunately, I have many books on my bookshelves that address this issue of aging, this fear of growing older and the dread that some women feel at seeing wrinkles, gray hair and saggy body parts appear. It’s not just about the cult of youth and beauty in our culture; apparently it’s also a fear ingrained in our DNA after 500 years of witch hunts and a deadly inquisition. The following is a brief summary of the gist of some of these books any take on accepting the "crone" word.

 “Our cultures official rejection of the Crone figure was related to rejection of women, particularly elder women. The gray-haired high priestesses, once respected tribal matriarchs of pre-Christian Europe, were transformed by the newly dominant patriarchy into minions of the devil. Through the Middle Ages this trend gathered momentum, finally developing a frenzy that legally murdered millions of elder women from the twelfth to nineteenth centuries....As a rule, the real offenses of such women were (1) living, or trying to live, independent of male control; and (2) being poor.  Barbara G Walker, The Crone, Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power

Today we just make old women invisible, socially and professionally handicapped by wrinkles and gray hair in a way that men are not. As Walker notes, the “‘beauty’ industry exploits women’s well-founded fear of looking old (& not fit to be seen in public).”  But as we know, elder women used to be oracles, read omens, were attached to temples of the Goddess as spiritual wise women and healers, were doctors and midwives, health care advisers, scribes, ceremonial leaders, religious and secular teachers, educators of the young. They were honoured and valued members of society in many cultures.

This book The Crone is a compendium of the history of how old women (crones) became witches in the Middle Ages (burned, drowned, killed during the Inquisition) as well as some mythology of the Dark Goddess under her various names. It explains how women lost their spiritual and healing role when the pagan earth-based religions were outlawed. Walker’s book is a good primer.

“To envision a deity in the true female tradition, it is necessary to purge the image of simplistic or unrealistic male interpretations” ...for example “sex goddess”, “virgin Mother” “witch” or crone.” (p 174)

Another excellent resource on aging is the book by Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Older Women, Archetypes in Women over Fifty, Becoming a juicy Crone. I love the term ‘juicy crone’ better than just plain old crone. Our creativity after menopause goes into creating things other than babies, and that’s where the “juice” comes in, creative flow. It’s important to look at what we gain as we age, not only what we lose. We’ve gained important life lessons, from facing challenges and obstacles, and amazing life-changing inner journeys from which we return with gifts of wisdom. Reading the chapter on Hecate helped me come to terms with my fear of Hecate, the ‘witch’ or crone archetype, and reminded me of the value of the descent at mid-life.

 “If you return from your own descents into the underworld, you have learned that love and suffering are part of life. By making it through the hard times, you grow in depth and wisdom. A wise Hecate then becomes an inner companion. Women friends or women in support groups gain this perspective by listening and witnessing and caring about each other as well.”

“Hecate is the goddess of Intuitive and Psychic Wisdom, often pictured at the fork in the road, at transition times. Hecate is at the crux of the situation when a woman enters the third phase of her life and heeds a pull inward. She appears indecisive or as if her energy is lying fallow, when she is in this luminal phase. If she stays at the crossroad until she intuitively knows what direction to take, she emerges renewed and replenished.”

Another favorite part of Bolen’s book is the section on Lionhearted Women where she includes a look  at some goddess archetypes that are not in the Greek & Roman pantheon, except for warrior goddess Athena, (who is however, more cerebral strategist than warrior).
Some of the primal animal images may seem overly scary to us, but she explains it as a necessary fierceness that stands up for and cares for the underdogs and underprivileged: “the archetypal energies of Kali/Sekhmet are expressed as ‘the fierce compassion of the feminine’ that China Galland found in women who are addressing major evils in our contemporary world. They have qualities that I think of as being ‘lionhearted.’ The fury of a lioness is that of a protective mother or a bereaved mother whose response is retaliatory. Kali rides out on a lion to defeat the demons, while Sekhmet is both a lioness and a woman. Theirs is a heart-motivated fury at evil that threatens to overwhelm and destroy what they hold sacred. To be a woman who is outraged and protests against powerful authority takes courage – a word derived from Coeur or ‘heart’. 

....Unless a woman has become callous or has armored herself against having feelings and can live in her head, it is uncomfortably easy to mentally and viscerally imagine how it feels at a body and soul level to be so treated (victims of incest, neglect, abuse).  And be helpless and totally vulnerable....Without the archetype of Sekhmet/Kali, however, brutality and vulnerability result in becoming numb, passive and docile. To be moved to overcome such evils, women need to be lionhearted in having empathy and courage, fury and restraint. While a dark goddess might do this alone, women need the support of each other; like the mothers and the Grandmothers of the Disappeared, there is some protection in numbers....The ‘enough is enough’ goddesses may bear unfamiliar names and inhuman faces, but their energy and outrage are no longer foreign to us.”  

We are all Warrior Goddesses at heart. Chameli Ardagh has a TED talk online about the Fierce face of the feminine – and she suggests  that when Shiva is with Kali, his calm presence and centered being makes her fierceness into medicine, and is not destructive.

Looking at goddess mythology is helpful in identifying archetypes that may exist in our own psyches. We can empower ourselves with these images of wise, powerful, and fierce feminine deities who are more than copies of male heroes, who embody the whole of the female experience in their cycles and energy.

But what to make of the ugly old crones and witches? They represent the third phase of Maiden Mother Crone – the sacred mysteries represented by the Moon Goddesses of ancient ritual. Looking up the Crone in the Baba Yaga myth, I came across an article that seemed to be asking the same question.

“When a culture's language has no word to connote ‘wise elder woman,’ what happens to the women who carry the "Grandmother" consciousness for the collective?  Prejudicial (prejudged) attacks throughout history against older women symbolized patriarchy's feminization of fear: the ultimate fear of annihilation, to be nonexistent (no existence).  Centuries-long indoctrination limits our imagination so that we see this ancient aspect of the feminine only in her negative forms.  We see her as the one who brings death to our old way of being, to our lives as we have known them, and to our embodied selves. Our fear of the unconscious makes the Crone or Baba yaga into an image of evil.”

I think our fear of the Old Woman, the Crone, is in part related to our fear of trusting our own intuition, our inner knowing. We have been trained to control our feelings, contain them by using the rational mind. But in so doing, we have devalued this important embodied wisdom which comes from women’s rootedness in the body, our knowledge of cycles, and the rules of nature. Most of us have no training or education in this - the old rituals are rusty from neglect, the rites of passage have been waylaid, the feminine principal itself persecuted and driven underground by fear and loathing of 500 years of inquisition.

In the olden times, the oracles and seers interpreted dreams for kings, priests and leaders, the herbalists gave out remedies for healing, and illness was seen as “an invitation from body wisdom to reconsider lifestyle choices, and help us become more conscious and aware,”  says Paula Reeves, in her book Women’s Intuition. We must learn to become seers again, to understand the language of intuition, the signals from the body which come to us in metaphor, as in dreams. Using all the resources of the internet available to us today, can also help us learn to decipher the metaphoric language in symbolic code. Tuning into our bodies, we can listen to our symptoms and learn to hear their healing messages. Many books, beginning with Louise Hays, have been published to give us a lexicon to begin the work. The author of Women’s Intuition proposes spontaneous contemplative movement as a technique for listening and awakening the knowledge stored in the body.

“The subtle healing intentions of your bodymind’s metaphor language will be overridden-ruled out as irrational-unless you intentionally turn your conscious attention to the nonverbal realm of the metaphor-to the images and spontaneous movements that are your body’s way of signaling you.”

Can we learn to believe and understand that, “Beneath every mood, each symptom, dream image or feeling, lies some unclaimed remnant of the true self, the original and as yet undiscovered, soul-filled Self.”

As for me, I want to lose my fear of the unknown, and reclaim the power of intuitive knowing, as well as revalue the sacredness of my own body’s wisdom as I am getting older. The more I practice knowing, and following up my intuition and my fierce compassionate love, the more solid it grows. The less fear I have of the future. Ageless goddesses, (not witches) that’s what we are, and once we tune into our own empowerment, we withdraw the plug from fear of the Ugly Old Hag or Witch. Dance with life, dance with beauty. Do you want to be a juicy Crone? I want to keep on living my authentic truth until the end. Happy, healthy, dead, as Christiane Northrup says in her book Goddesses Never Age.

Who’s afraid of the big bad witch? Not me.