As I walked the labyrinth, I repeated the mantra: the question is…

Journal entry- at Xenia Retreat Centre inside the Sanctuary after walking the labyrinth on December 29, 2014 [unedited]

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@ Xenia with Laura.  What a treat!  Thank you!

She picked me up at 7:10 –> Ferry –> breakfast at Snug Cafe.

My hands now cold, limbs frozen, toes frozen, numb and painful.  Reminds of being on the lake in Sweden during Winter 1975 and 1976- skating and skiing with Pappa and Fredrik, toes painful and frozen.  

“Ta av skorna.  Försök att få blod tillbaka i tårna.  Vicka på tårna.  Fortfarande kalla.”

So what happened today?   This book/diary/sketchbook/journal was begun when I started my Connection and Creativity collaboration with Laura.  Now I am back in the sanctuary and ask the question… yes, I can profess, investigate, reflect, beg, recall, invite the question: 

What is the question?

As I walked the labyrinth, I repeated the mantra in Swedish: Frågan är… Frågan är… The question is…  The question is…

And what immediately came up- despite thoughts of “shoulding” around 2015 plans/ where I am now/ what I need to let go of- what came to me was family.  The question is family.  

I knew going into the labyrinth I did not need to dig further.  It felt like the labyrinth was tilted downward.  Angled in descent.  I was walking down hill.

I became hyperly aware of the Viking symbology.  As I stood at the centre in silence, eyes closed… the answer came: roots.  The answer is roots.  

As I exited the centre. I walked out with a new mantra: the answer is roots.  Roots.  Sweden.  Life.  Leaves.  Trees.  Mushrooms.  Torpet.  Fishing.  Ancestors.  Sweden.  Africa.  Family tree.  Upward.  Downward.  

As I worked my way out, the labyrinth now seemed angled in ascent.  

So entering into the roots, exiting into the branches of the family tree.  

Where do we come from?  Where are we going?

BRANCHES: PAST FUTURE

TRUNK: PRESENT

BRANCHES: PAST FUTURE

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I want to keep the past alive for the generations to come.  Our DNA journey.

I know now I need to translate all the letters my mom wrote to Sweden.  I need to read Moberg’s The Last Letter Home.  I need to connect/open space to visit Sweden and Africa with my children.  To fully sit in BC, where my kids were born, where my parents died.  To open to reconnection.  New connection to extended family.  Can the difficult conversations be helped along through a gentle delicious family exploration? 

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1976 conversation at the kitchen table in Sweden w my bestie Anki! I now have this table.

 

In a wonderful turn of events, my little brother invited me to work on our storage room on December 31.  He had already done a lot of the prep and we spent 12 hours together emptying locker 1022.  He then dragged my 400 sketchbook journals, dolls, kids clothes, memorabilia home to my West End apartment.  It is time to re-explore those roots.

Old pen and ink study (Dec 2000) of "Death comes to the monk" from Holbein the Younger 1538. I brought home approx 400 of my "image idea files" (I.e. Sketchbook/journals) and planning to share highlights on the blog throughout the year. An incredible purge and feels so good to have them all in my studio-bedroom now. Letting go of a lot of stuff as we emptied the storage room on the last day of the year was exhilarating.
Old pen and ink study (Dec 2000) of “Death comes to the monk” from Holbein the Younger 1538. I brought home approx 400 of my “image idea files” (I.e. Sketchbook/journals) and planning to share highlights on the blog throughout the year. An incredible purge and feels so good to have them all in my studio-bedroom now. Letting go of a lot of stuff as we emptied the storage room on the last day of the year was exhilarating.

 

My retreat journal part 6 of 6: The Closing Circle

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

Recall:

PART 1 October 17, 2014 FRIDAY INTO SILENCE

PART 2 October 18. 2014 SATURDAY MORNING INTO THE LABYRINTH

PART 3 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MIDDAY THE CYCLOPS GODDESS

PART 4 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY AFTERNOON THE SYMBOLS WAY

PART 5 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY NIGHT THE DANCE

PART 6 October 19, 2014 SUNDAY: CLOSING CIRCLE

Sunday AM.  Woke up at 6:30.  Showered, prepped.  Cozy.  Slept so well as the room was inviting, the bed so comfortable and the light so right.  Going to grab a coffee while I can and then come back and savour these moments in the cabin. 

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Chatted with others in the kitchen about fathers and death.  Such camaraderie in that.  Prepping for 8:30 start on the Raven drawing.

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After breakfast, we sat in opening circle and pulled Goddess cards. 

Participant 1 pulled “Mary Magdalene” and that message certainly resonated with what this participant focused on this weekend: self-love/heal the situation with love. 

Participant 2 pulled “Mother Earth.”  Though the message at first seemed environmental and about taking care of the planet, upon reflection it also became about taking care of the self and the inner world. 

Laura pulled “Sorceress”- making complete sense to me.  I love watching Laura move into new, richer, visible leadership.  Trust.  I am so blessed to watch my dear friend blossom and expand her work. 

Participant 3 pulled “True Love”- a card that shone with the message of the gift of staying in the present. 

I pulled LEAP OF FAITH- again!!!  Take a risk and put your heart’s true desire into action!

Our drawing session began with a Raven drawing and unfolded into an image of grounded perspective and reflecting the work we have been doing around archetypes.  Water (LOVER), Earth (WARRIOR), Raven (MAGICIAN), Crown (SOVEREIGN).

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A bio break and then snack time with Saria’s delicious muffins and blueberries plus crumble and whipped cream.  Bliss.

Laura has taken us into more perspectives around the work we have been focusing on at this retreat- providing tools to carry with us as we “re-enter” our lives.  Clean Talk, Clear Actions.

We are now journaling around what awaits us as we step back into the world. 

Deep breaths.  Address a piece at a time.  In small steps.  TRUST.  Trust that I am taken care of.  This pause from my daily life certainly feels cleansing, but certainly stepping back into it feels slightly ominous because this experience truly allowed me to take a real emotional dive/mental break from TV/Phone/To-do Lists/Worry/Fear- is it possible to allow myself to carry this lesson forward into my life “on the mainland”?  To be cleansed by this LEAP OF FAITH?

Filling this journal with stream of consciousness and drawings has been the greatest feeling.  Dancing again, teaching, creating, being together, being in the structure of the yurt during processes, pausing and being, being nourished by this welcoming land, being nourished by glorious food, being taken care of but also leading, guiding, sharing who I am as a creative force. 

It is Sunday AM and I am tired.  A plane flies overhead.  Reminds me that tonight I do not open my computer or prep for the week.  Leave that to tomorrow.  The yurt is being pelted by leaves.  Loud leaves.

The participants role played and practiced clean talk. 

Then off to a beautiful Mexican lunch with Saria.  We presented her with our art piece: Creative Prayer and I read her “A Breakfast for Barbarians” by Gwendolyn MacEwen.  To me, the poetry of Gwendolyn MacEwen partnered perfectly with this retreat and this particular poem was a perfect thank you to Saria.

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my friends, my sweet barbarians,

there is that hunger which is not for food —

but an eye at the navel turns the appetite

round

with visions of some fabulous sandwich,

the brain’s golden breakfast

                                        eaten with beasts

                                        with books on plates

 

let us make an anthology of recipes,

let us edit for breakfast

our most unspeakable appetites —

let us pool spoons, knives

and all cutlery in a cosmic cuisine,

let us answer hunger

with boiled chimera

and apocalyptic tea,

an arcane salad of spiced bibles,

tossed dictionaries —

                                        (O my barbarians

                                        we will consume our mysteries)

 

and can we, can we slake the gaping eye of our desires?

we will sit around our hewn wood table

until our hair is long and our eyes are feeble,

eating, my people, O my insatiates,

eating until we are no more able

to jack up the jaws any longer —

 

to no more complain of the soul’s vulgar cavities,

to gaze at each other over the rust-heap of cutlery,

drinking a coffee that takes an eternity —

till, bursting, bleary,

we laugh, barbarians, and rock the universe —

and exclaim to each other over the table

over the table of bones and scrap metal

over the gigantic junk-heaped table:

 

 by God that was a meal

Gwendolyn MacEwen, “A Breakfast for Barbarians” from Magic Animals: Selected Poems Old and New. Copyright © 1974 by David MacKinnon. Reprinted by permission of David MacKinnon.

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We then packed and entered our closing circle. 

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Laura shared more tools to sustain the experience of the retreat and we reviewed our original intentions from Friday evening.

My original intentions:

Be present

Stillness of the heart

Allow

I truly feel I have met my own intentions during this retreat.  I allowed the fears to come up and I met them with love and stillness.  I navigated the journey with Laura with ease, being present to changing currents.  I allowed myself to welcome back the dancer.  I even sang!  I know that I now infuse and exude all the lessons of my life and I can maintain my intentions to be present, to allow, to have stillness of the heart.  I immerse myself in the creative process- not to escape but to simply BE- to allow stillness, connection, action, results and move back and forth through the spiral.  No judgment. 

The SIMPLICITY in all this is that I have gifts that I love to share and those gifts are my guardians.  I am safe.  I am me.  I am taken care of by the peacefulness of the creative process, by the stillness of knowledge, by the trust. 

That is one thing I’d like to share with the group: TRUST.  When the fear arises, fall back to stillness and trust.  Unravel the past from the present, from the future, the depression from the anxiety from the peace and give them all space to dance and breathe together, to let it all BREATHE.

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Thank you, Laura.

My Retreat Journal Part 4 of 6: The Symbols Way

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

Recall:

PART 1 October 17, 2014 FRIDAY INTO SILENCE

PART 2 October 18. 2014 SATURDAY MORNING INTO THE LABYRINTH

PART 3 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MIDDAY THE CYCLOPS GODDESS

PART 4 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY AFTERNOON: THE SYMBOLS WAY

Laura took each participant through the EXTRAORDINARY POWERFUL process called the Symbols Way.  I find the process not only a valuable tool for self-exploration, but a paradigm shifting exercise that changes the way I view my life.  The imagery is so rich, so tangible. Laura brings such depth and safety and beauty into the facilitation.  I loved scribing the processes for the participants through mind-mapping.  Each process took a little under two hours.

Sample of the mind map I created for myself when I went through the process with Barbara Cecil and Laura- the process truly a gift I treasure forever:

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“At a personal level, The Symbols Way is a way to reflect on your calling, unique to the phase of life you are in. the process yields personal clarity, rooted in one’s central core of meaning. At an organizational level it reviews current reality and reaches into relevant and meaningful possibilities for the future.”

– Barbara Cecil

FOR MORE INFORMATION drop me a line!

Stay tuned for Part 5: The Dance

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My retreat journal Part 3 of 6: The Cyclops Goddess

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

Recall:

PART 1 October 17, 2014 FRIDAY INTO SILENCE

PART 2 October 18. 2014 SATURDAY MORNING INTO THE LABYRINTH

Part 3 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MIDDAY: THE CYCLOPS GODDESS

Laura explained the Symbols Way process and got us in the frame of mind to fully enter the process this afternoon.  

As part of our facilitation posters, I had reflected the 4 archetypes in my own way, and I feel the imagery I chose worked well within our natural Xenia landscape:

The Warrior (SOUTH)- imagined as a blackberry bush- emotional gateway ANGER; The Sovereign (NORTH)- imagined as Opa the tree- emotional gateway JOY; The Love (EAST)- imagined an autumn leaf- emotional gateway GRIEF; The Magician- imagined as a raven- emotional gateway FEAR
The Warrior (SOUTH) EARTH- imagined as a blackberry bush- emotional gateway ANGER; The Sovereign (NORTH) FIRE- imagined as Opa the Xenia tree- emotional gateway JOY; The Lover (EAST) WATER- imagined an autumn leaf- emotional gateway GRIEF; The Magician (WEST) AIR- imagined as a raven- emotional gateway FEAR

But before each participant was taken through the Symbols Way process individually, we dove into more messy creative process.  I took the participants through my chakra drawing exercise— taken from previous lessons I have shared with other students.  I love building and re-interpreting.

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We drew a human figure and then went on to drawing a 3-D eye.  We wrote the chakra chart and started incorporating the lessons thus far.  It was truly a GO WITH IT exercise, creating a CYCLOPS GODDESS that we just kept layering on top of!

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Delicious.  

Of course, I had to look up the meaning of the CYCLOPS to see why she was appearing:

Blind, yet seeing.  Ego vs spiritual enlightenment.

CYCL: the circle, the wheel.

HERE WE GO.  More magic!  How appropriate that the words in the chant we sang on the way to the sanctuary last night were:

We’re spiralling into the circle, the circle of our wheel.

We’re spiralling into the circle, the circle of our wheel.

We are the weavers, we are the woven ones,

We are the dreamers, we are the dream.

We are the children, we are the chosen ones,

We are all part of the web.

Aaaaaah-mazing!

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We also journaled around the matrilineal question: What was your mother’s name?  And if you know them, your grandmother and your great grandmother’s names? What are some qualities you or others associate with each of these women?  This was a great way to “set the scene” for beginning the Symbols Way process.

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I read MORNING LAUGHTER  by Gwendolyn MacEwen

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See more of the poem at: link

Stay tuned for Part 4: The
Symbols Way

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My retreat journal Part 2 of 6: Into the labyrinth

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

Recall: PART 1 October 17, 2014 FRIDAY INTO SILENCE

Part 2 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MORNING:

Photo credit: Xenia on Bowen Island
Photo credit: Xenia on Bowen Island

6:30 AM The darkness did not overwhelm me last night.  The porch lights from next door were enough to illuminate to make me feel calm.  At times my heart wanted to race but I breathed through it.  Amazing.  

My sleep was like skipping stones though.  Perhaps tonight I will feel safe to fully fall asleep.  

Laura woke everyone up with a GONG!  We are still in silence.  The breath I felt in the sanctuary was one of the best moments of silence- felt like the deepest heart-est breaths.  

Laura just came back with a surprise cup of coffee. Bliss.  

At 7 am we have breakfast in silence then at 8 meet for walking to the labyrinth (still in silence) then to the yurt for opening circle…  

Before breakfast I walked with my coffee to the yurt.  I keep being pulled to it.  Set up the archetypes using iPhone compass to fully align with NSEW directions.

I then stood for a long time leaning on the fence looking out over the meadow, feeling Mamma and Pappa.  

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Ready to let go of pain and unhappiness.  Just allow the joy of my childhood to be what now lifts me.  I am loved and I am deserving.  I am a daughter.  A woman in very aspect.  I am “the mother.”  There is no power or fear in that.  I full step into me.  Let go and start fresh yet carry on.  To be in this childhood summerhouse-type setting is powerful.  I have a ball in my throat and tears behind my eyes that need to burst forth but sitting at breakfast now.  

Kitchen in the lodge.  Photo by Laura Mack.
Saria at work in the kitchen in the lodge. Photo by Laura Mack.

Recalling dinner by Saria last night.  Exquisite.  Shepherd’s pie, mixed salad (with everything from the garden), beets in orange juice and vinegar… baked glazed pears with whipped cream, fresh muffins.  I just want to keep writing but I need to pause.  Grab a cup of coffee and make sure I eat.  The breakfast spread: everything including grilled avocados with egg.  I had muffins, granola, yoghurt, fresh fruit.  A participant sits beside me.  Voraciously reading about the history of the property.  I love her curiosity, and tireless quest for knowledge.  A kindred spirit that needs to ingest, to feed on life through research.  

This experience is intensely safe.  Comforting.  Excited about the day ahead.

"Xenia Retreat. Feeling full. Awed. Peaceful. Expanded. On purpose." - Laura (Walking to labyrinth, we paused at Opa.  Photo by Laura Mack.)
“Xenia Retreat. Feeling full. Awed. Peaceful. Expanded. On purpose.”
– Laura (Walking to labyrinth, we paused at Opa. Photo by Laura Mack.)

The labyrinth walk in silence.  Profound.  The walk in, I had scattered thoughts, breathing into this early morning musings by the meadow.  In the centre, I felt peace and clarity and white light.  I cried throughout the walk outward, grieving, mourning, letting go.  Holding, releasing, allowing.  

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 “The poet Marianne Moore famously wrote of ‘real toads in imaginary gardens,’ and the labyrinth offers us the possibility of being real creatures in symbolic space…In such spaces as the labyrinth we cross over [between real and imaginary spaces]; we are really travelling, even if the destination is only symbolic.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Photo by Laura Mack
Photo by Laura Mack

I picked up two mottled leaves as I started to walk outward.  They represent Mamma and Pappa as they entered the last few days before their hearts stopped.  

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But did they stop?  Did the family not just pick up the beat as we synchronized with them?  I had my ear to mom’s chest as her heart stopped.  But I beat with it and carried it on for her.  

How could I not consider this life that I have truly miraculous and worth living?  Truly miraculous and always worth living.

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Opening circle and breaking silence in the yurt at 9 AM.  We reflected on our dreams, our experience in the sanctuary and at the labyrinth.  Laura introduced the Symbols Way and the 4 archetypes that we will focus on this weekend- encouraging us to ask ourselves: 

Where are you now?  

What archetype are you not so in touch with? 

Our first art-making session included mark-making and revisiting the labyrinth by tracing our steps on top of my drawing.  Delicious.  

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“Show not what has been done, but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.”
― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

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Stay tuned for Part 3: Saturday late morning- Cyclops Goddess and the Matrilineal question to set the stage for Symbols Way…

“THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP is at the headwaters of every woman’s health. Our bodies and our beliefs about them were formed in the soil of our mother’s emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. To become optimally healthy and happy, each of us must get clear about the ways in which our mother’s history both influenced and continues to inform our state of health, our beliefs, and how we live our lives. Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after her.” – Dr. Christiane Northup

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And for information on more workshops and retreats!

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My retreat journal Part 1 of 6: INTO SILENCE

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

A HUGE THANK YOU TO LAURA FOR PROVIDING THIS OPPORTUNITY FOR ME.

SPECIAL THANK YOU Saria, and to Angelyn, Loretta, Fran and Lorena

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

PART 1

October 17, 2014 FRIDAY

Sitting in the kitchen at Xenia with Laura as Saria makes Shepherd’s Pie.  We took the 11 AM ferry- lunch at Artisan’s Square then to Xenia to prep and settle.  Expecting guests at 6:30 and the large Yurt is all set up.

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Later…

Everyone has arrived.  Angelyn comes to visit as we wait for dinner and talks about the history of Xenia.  

Opening circle after dinner (checkins, intros, intentions, expectations, What is the crossroads that you find yourself at this time?)  We chanted and sang as we walked in the rain to the Sanctuary.  

Photo source: Globe Dater
Photo source: Globe Dater

Laura read a beautiful quote on LISTENING.  We then went into SILENCE (to end at 9 AM opening circle on Saturday after breakfast).  We sat in silence for many many pregnant minutes.  Ok- so THIS is indeed SILENCE.  

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We walked back to the lodge and ate dessert.  I walked to the yurt to get my journal and enjoy the space for awhile.  I am now back at the Maple Lodge (sharing it tonight with Laura)- prepping for bed.  

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I had panicked at the sanctuary- that familiar trigger as the darkness felt like a black pool of ink floating above me and descending.  But I found I could stay with it.  I breathed deep breaths in time with my heart and I was right back to being with my parents at their last breaths.  My heart beat with theirs and as theirs slowed mine carried on- carried on beating for them.  

But I am now feeling angst come up as I anticipate turning out the lights.

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Xenia is inviting me to feel safe.  Enveloping me in magic.  And I am ready to see it, hear it, experience it and give myself to it.

Recall seeing two deer– gentleness, move through life and obstacles with grace, sensitive, intuitive, ability to change directions quickly, to be in touch with life’s mysteries.  

Recall seeing the little frog trying to get in through our door at Maple Lodge.  

“As symbol of transition and transformation, this spirit animal supports us in times of change. Strongly associated with the water element, it connects us with the world of emotions and feminine energies, as well as the process of cleansing, whether it’s physical, emotional, or more spiritual or energetic.” [source]

I took the frog as an invite to dive into creative process- and as a reminder that this weekend is a leap of faith on our part. He was a small frog- ie. small steps, take it easy.  Recall that Laura drew the Aine: Leap of Faith goddess card yesterday and I drew it today… [I drew it again on Sunday!]  Hello!

“Allow yourself to trust that the Universe will support and guide you where you need to be. Virtue recommends going on a nature walk, meditating, or praying to aid in making a decision upon what your heart truly desires. Once making that decision, the Universe will provide for you! You will begin to see helpers come your way, sudden opportunities opening up for you, or even books that can help you along your journey. But none of this will happen if you do not take action steps and get started on fulfilling your dreams. Do not get overwhelmed. Breakdown your goals into smaller tasks to complete over a period of time. Be gentle and kind to yourself, but remain focused.” [source]

It was interesting falling into silence— very liquidly somehow.  Texting, mumbling, writing may not be full silence- but hey one step at a time.  OK- lights out.  Be still my heart.  The deer and frog protect.

Stay tuned for Part 2 Saturday morning…

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And for information on more workshops and retreats!

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