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Where I am and what I’m doing

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Over the last year as more and more of my time, focus, and attention have shifted to Brigid’s Grove, my posts at Talk Birth have become more sporadic. Two things have happened this month that made me realize it is time to officially retire from my commitment to this blog. I was on the trampoline with my kids one beautiful spring afternoon. I like to lie on my back and look at the “hoop of the world” as the trees are framed by the safety net around the trampoline. As I laid there, it came to me with crystal clarity: “I need to retire as an LLL Leader.” I’ve been a Leader for ten years. My ability to continue to serve in the capacity and level to which I was accustomed and expect of myself was dramatically impacted by having our fourth child. I took a maternity leave and expected to pick back up more active involvement after his birth. He is almost eighteen months old now and not only have I not picked it back up, I have let it drop back to virtually nothing. And, I no longer see any remaining crack of space in my time or life to pick it back up. It was beautiful, important work. I gave a lot to it. I was very good at it. And, now I am done.

This weekend I went to a spring festival. While I was there, I met three beautiful women. One was a midwife, one was a student midwife, and one was a pregnant woman. We chatted and connected over postpartum care (including photos of clots), belly casting, and midwifery legislation. And, I realized I felt “far away” from it all. It felt like something distant or removed from me. Like, “oh yeah, this Molly. The one who is into all of this stuff, who is current, who knows, who is enthralled by conversations about birth.” It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, per se, but that my interest felt detached, removed, like I was accessing something “old” rather than something current. And, in that moment I knew: Talk Birth is complete.

Talk Birth as a site will remain as a storehouse, resource, and database of my past posts and content and I may periodically update it or release from my draft posts from their dusty prison, but I will no longer be updating or maintaining it on a regular basis. I do envision putting all of my class outlines, articles, and information-based posts into a “Best Of” compendium or educator’s resource packet at some point, but I have no idea when that will rise to the top of my priority list.

When I wrote my first post here in 2007, intended solely for a local childbirth education client audience, I had no idea that Talk Birth would grow to have well over a million hits as well as give birth to my passion for priestessing and for goddess art, and lead me into the fulfilling work I am now doing.

My heart has been in service to women and women’s empowerment work since before I was even a legal adult. How I express this service has gone through several evolutions. The time has come for me to lay aside this birth-oriented expression of my commitment to women and to continue to pour my heart into what I offer through Brigid’s Grove. Feel free to join me there.12744433_10208840231073086_7611516801155821755_n

 

Free Mini Course: Womanspirit Wisdom

I’ve developed three new free mini courses to offer this year. The first is ready to roll and begins on February 1!

Here are the details…

Womanspirit Wisdom

IMG_0173This three-week ecourse is designed to offer you a gently nourishing daily “sacred pause.” Beginning February 1, each day for 21 days, take a moment and simply receive. There is nothing to do, just enjoy taking a daily minute to connect with yourself.

Includes:

Story Woman

September 2015 123Yesterday, I went searching for a quote for one of my Red Tent Initiation students. She had shared some powerful reflections about the vulnerability required to reveal our personal stories—there is a lot of risk, sometimes shame, and more, bound up in our ability to uncover ourselves and speak our truth. What I wanted to communicate with her was the idea that in sharing our stories, including the painful pieces, we free other women to do the same. Our courage to be vulnerable, to be naked, to be flawed, to experiment with ideas, concepts, or ways of being gives permission for other women to do the same. I went to a workshop at Gaea Goddess Gathering in 2012 that was about dancing and the facilitator said that when facilitating ritual, you have to be willing to look a little ridiculous yourself, have to be willing to risk going a little “over the top” yourself, because in so doing you liberate the other participants—“if she can take that risk and look a little goofy doing so, maybe it is okay for me to do it too.”

After a lot of digging through old posts on my blog, I found the quote! It is from one of my favorite authors, Carol Christ, who said:

“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”

This is part of what makes Red Tent Circles so powerful! It is also part of what makes the Red Tent course itself powerful—when the women in the course are willing to dig into the journal questions, assignments, and processes, to turn them over, to explore how they work in their own lives…they lose some of the fear and they encourage others to lose their fear too.

As I was mining my blog for quotes about the power of story, I came across my older post: I am a Story Woman. In this post, I describe how I was preparing a ritual for New Year’s Eve and planning to include the chant: I am a strong woman, I am a story woman. My husband raised a question about it…

 “I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.

In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?

Because of these two things:

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

–Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.”

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard…

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

Over the summer, I was interviewed by Lucy Pearce for her Be Your Publisher Author Interview series. My interview came out today. Since months have passed since we talked, the details of our conversation have dimmed in my memory. (I’m also noticing that I need to get over my own fear and vulnerability that listening to me talk can somehow be perceived as a “bonus” to anyone!) So, imagine the delight I felt when I saw some of the words she chose to describe our interview conversation:

  • Learn to mine your blog
  • The importance of sharing our stories as we navigate the challenging parts of life.
  • Turning a blog into a book and very wise advice … Don’t die with your music still in you.

Just yesterday, I was mining my own blog as well as musing on the importance and power of sharing our stories.

I am a story woman.

The other quote she mentions, don’t die with your music still in you, has been a guiding philosophy in my life and work for at least twelve years. It comes from the work of Wayne Dyer, who passed away last month. I used this quote to describe my relationship to writing, identity, and wholeness as a person, in a vulnerable post about the power of story in my life in early motherhood:

…I’ve finally realized that maybe it was literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling and that fretfulness. They needed to get out. I’ve spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always “died” in me before they ever got out onto paper. After spending a full three years letting other women’s voices reach me through books and essays, and then six more years birthing the mother-writer within, I continue to feel an almost physical sense of relief and release whenever I sit down to write and to let my own voice be heard.

Source: Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1) | Talk Birth

Just this year, we’ve ordered printings of our Womanrunes books four times, published our Red Tent Resource Kit manual then added twenty pages to the second printing and re-released it, and published my new Earthprayer, Birthprayer poetry book. I’m working on my dissertation: 275 pages of past writing (much mined from older blog posts) and 145 pages of data collected from others, as well as a companion book project. I am getting ready to publish a miscarriage support group manual that I wrote for The Amethyst Network a few years ago and I have big plans to significantly expand my Ritual Recipe Kit ebook into a much longer, print, resource manual in 2016.

I am a story woman.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Women’s Circles and Cycles

11890947_1658752111003671_3875428907499186114_nOne of the things I notice in Red Tent work is how little information women had about their own fertility cycles as girls and young women. I feel like my own mother was more attentive than many in preparing me for my body’s changes with puberty, but I only really learned about my own fertility (vs. just periods and how to cope with them) after having my first baby. I am convinced that how girls learn to relate to their bodies during menstruation has a big impact on how they relate to their bodies during birth and breastfeeding. I don’t find it coincidental that our culture expresses an overall avoidance of menstruation and fertility (other than “don’t get pregnant” and “here’s all the ways to pretend that you’re not a cyclical being, but instead are always the same and no one should ever know that you’re menstruating”) AND also medicates women during childbirth and considers breastfeeding a “private matter” and “personal choice.” These events, the reproductive transitions of the female body, are largely supposed to remain culturally invisible.

Here is an interesting article about what we need to teach young women about their bodies:

At the clinic I rarely met women, young or old, who understand their fertility and what happens during the menstrual cycle. They all know about the blood, although not always why they bleed. But few know anything about what happens between periods. No one has told them. Why have we kept this information from young women? Why do we tell them they can get pregnant any time of the month? If it’s to encourage young people to use protection when they have sex, it doesn’t seem to work.

Source: What We Need to Teach Young Women About Their Bodies | Ruth Miller

It also turns out that the age of first menstruation can have a lifelong impact on many areas of a woman’s life:

From academic success to cancer risk, research increasingly shows that the age at which a girl gets her period—called “menarche”—can have a significant impact on her life. These findings are especially notable given that, around the world, the average age of menarche has dropped steadily since the 1950s. With new studies coming out regularly about girls going through puberty earlier, we were curious: What’s causing this global decline—and what are the potential long-term consequences?

Source: Why the age you get your period can matter forever | Fusion

In my own local Red Tent Circle, we’ve been talking about having a “Pink Tent” event for girls this fall or early next year. My little girl desperately wants to go to a red tent with me! She asks every month if she can come with me. So, I’m hoping to plan and priestess a mother-daughter based event soon in addition to my women-only events. I enjoyed this article recently about planning a mother-daughter body-gratitude ritual:

​Break the generational cycle of body shame and body dissatisfaction, and enjoy special intimate time with your daughter. This is a beautiful way to start the day or to seed your dreams before bed. Ideally, meet in the same spot at about the same time each day…

Source: Mother-Daughter Body Gratitude Ritual – Journey Of Young Women

Speaking of Women’s Circle work, here is a good resource on The Twelve Tenets of Circle Work.

And, speaking of circles + teenage girls + women’s friendships, here is an article on The Art of Loving and Losing Female Friends.

First Moon Blessing Pocket Altar (mini altar, medicine bundle, blessing bundle, menarche, moontime, red tent)

First Moon blessing bundles in our Etsy shop

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

 

Red Tent Initiation Program Launch

Mollyblessingway 372Following the spiral path of maiden, mother, and crone…

Do you want to take a journey into a deeper understanding of yourself? Do you wish to unlock insight and understanding? Do you want to reach out to other women in sisterhood and co-create a powerful circle experience?

This new online program is both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. You will listen to your deep self, access your inner wisdom and prepare to step into circle as guardian and guide for other women who are hungering for depth, connection, restoration, and renewal in today’s busy world.

This intensive course is limited to 15 women, to allow for deep connection and dedicated attention.

August 29-October 12, 2015

Your online experience includes…

  • Asix week immersive journey over the course of the spiral path
    • Knowing Self (Maiden Unit)
    • Might of Creation (Mother Unit)
    • Gathering the Women (Crone Unit)
  • Each unit includes a ceremony, meditations, discussion questions, journaling exercises, projects, and prompts designed to take you deep into the Red Tent process.
  • Live interaction, support, feedback, and conversation via a private Facebook group

With your registration, you will also receive an incredible resource package valued at more than $100 including:

  • 58 page manual: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for our Red Tent redtentkitKit and Initiation Program. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: used throughout the program for personal guidance and self-development. And, perfect for ongoing use in an inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Altar Candle
  • Head wreath kit and tutorial
  • Special Red Tent Circle Leader initiation gift (to be opened only upon program completion!)
  • Red silken cord
  • Moon or spiral goddess pendant

After your process is complete you will also receive:

  • Certificate of Completion
  • Ritual Recipe Kit e-book
  • Circle-ready digital files of the rich meditations and insightful readings used in the program
  • Ongoing support and guidance through continued participation in our private Facebook group

Mollyblessingway 238For inspiration on your own path, feel free to listen our local Red Tent Circle singing the beautiful chant Dance in a Circle of Women during our May Circle

Register via our website or check out via Etsy here.

 

From Mother Blessings to Red Tent Circles: What comes after a Sacred Pregnancy?

IMG_5745In 2008, a small postcard at the local Unitarian Universalist church caught my eye. It was for a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator training at Eliot Chapel in St. Louis. I registered for the training and went, driving alone into an unknown neighborhood. There, I circled in ceremony and sisterhood with women I’d never met, exploring an area that was new for me, and yet that felt so right and so familiar. I’d left my two young sons home for the day with my husband and it was the first time in what felt like a long time that I’d been on my own, as a woman and not someone’s mother. At the end of the day, each of us draped in beautiful fabric and sitting in a circle around a lovely altar covered with goddess art and symbols of personal empowerment, I looked around at the circle of women and I knew: THIS is what else there is for me.

My work following the birth of my first son came to center heavily around pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding, Mollyblessingway 156the stage of life in which I was currently immersed. I’d wondered several times what I would do when those issues no longer formed the core of my interest and personal experience. How could I ever stop working with pregnant and birthing women? How could I stop experiencing the vibrance and power of pregnancy and birth? Would I become irrelevant in this field as my own childbearing years passed me by? Looking around the room at Eliot at this circle of women, only two of whom were also of childbearing age, I knew: my future purpose would be to hold circles like this one. I found something in Cakes that I needed, the recognition that I wanted to celebrate and honor the totality of the female life cycle, not just pregnancy. As a girl, I loved the mother blessing ceremonies my mom and her friends held to honor each other during pregnancy. They hosted a coming of age blessingway for all of their early-teen daughters as well and I helped to plan a subsequent maiden ceremony for my younger sister several years later. Locally, we carried that tradition forward into the current generation of young mothers, holding mother blessings for each other and enjoying the time to celebrate and share authentically and deeply. After my training, I facilitated a series of Cakes classes locally, attended a women’s retreat at Eliot Chapel, and began to facilitate quarterly women’s retreats for my friends. One of my stated purposes was to honor and celebrate one another without anyone needing to be pregnant. Somehow, even though our own local mother blessing traditions were beautiful, we had accepted that the only time we had ceremonies with one another was when someone was pregnant. I wanted to change that!

This year, my offerings has expanded from the women’s spirituality retreats and classes I held in my own home, to a Red Tent Circle held at WomanSpace in my nearby town. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s life cycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a Mollyblessingway 215topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling together is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. As I noted, I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences for many women, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives through gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I developed an online Red Tent Initiation Program. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. These circles bring the sense of celebration and power we may have experienced during our pregnancies and from our Mother Blessing ceremonies more fully into our lives as the honor the fullness and completeness of women-in-themselves, not just of value while pregnant.

I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.” –Ruth Benedict

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

I am inspired by the everyday women surrounding me in this world. Brave, strong, vibrant, wild, intelligent, complicated women. Women who are also sometimes frightened, depressed, discouraged, hurt, angry, petty, or jealous. Real, multifaceted, dynamic women. Women who keep putting one foot in the front of the other and continue picking themselves back up again when the need arises.

I feel like my interest in social justice, women’s rights, and human services are intimately entwined with my spiritual life. Indeed, I almost cannot separate the two. I believe it is possible for us to have a truly loving world—a world in which the inherent dignity and worth of girls and women is not in question–and there is much good work that needs to be done in order for this world to be a reality.

This work I am now doing, both in person and online, represents an integration of something I feel with my mind, heart, and spirit. My whole being. At that Cakes training years ago, I glimpsed the multifaceted totality of women’s lives and I longed to reach out and serve the whole woman. My range of passion has extended from pregnancy and birth to include the full woman’s life cycle, rather than focusing exclusively on the maternal aspect of the wheel of life as I did for ten years. I create rituals that nourish, plan ceremonies that honor, facilitate workshops that uncover, write articles that inform, and teach classes that inspire the women in my personal life, my community, and the world. This is what else there was for me.

So, after you’ve experienced a sacred pregnancy filled with ceremony and ritual and celebration, what else is there for you? After you’ve worked for years with pregnant and birthing women to honor and celebrate them in their tenderness and strength, how might you branch out to hold space for all of women’s experiences and the many transitions of their life cycle? Like me, you might find your answer in holding a monthly women’s circle.

Learn more about our Red Tent Initiation Program, this in-depth online class is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

Mollyblessingway 372

Wisdom from Moon Time for Red Tents

IMG_3728“At her first bleeding a woman meets her power.
During her bleeding years she practices it.
At menopause she becomes it.”

(Traditional Native American saying)

One of my favorite books to have available on the resource table of our local Red Tent Circle is Moon Time, by Lucy moontime2Pearce. I reviewed it in this post, but didn’t have room for all the juicy quotes I wanted to share! One of the ideas I include in my own Red Tent Resource Kit book is to use womanspirit wisdom quotes to stimulate a discussion in the circle. Here are some quotes from Moon Time that would make great launching points for a sharing circle at the Red Tent:

“It is my guess that no one ever initiated you into the path of womanhood. Instead, just like me, you were left to find out by yourself. Little by little you pieced a working understanding of your body and soul together. But still you have gaps.”

Questions for circle: Were you initiated into the “path of womanhood”? What gaps do you feel?

“You yearn for a greater knowledge of your woman’s body, a comprehensive understanding of who you are, why you are that way. Perhaps you have searched long and hard, seeking advice from your mother, sister, aunts and friends, tired of suffering and struggling alone. You may have visited doctors, healers or therapists, but still you feel at sea and your woman’s body is a mystery to you. Or maybe you have never given your cycles a second thought … until now.”

Questions for circle: What do you feel like you need to know about your body? What mysteries are you uncovering?

“Through knowledge we gain power over our lives. With options we have possibility. With acceptance we find a new freedom.

Menstruation matters.”

Question for circle: How does menstruation matter?

Additional information about why menstruation matters on a physical, emotional, and relational level:

We start bleeding earlier today than ever before, with girls’ first periods occurring at 12.8 years old now, compared with 14.5 years at the beginning of the last century. Coupled with lower breastfeeding rates, better nutrition and fewer pregnancies, women now menstruate more in their adult lives than at any time in our history.

From the age of 12 to 51, unless you are pregnant or on the pill, every single day of your life as a woman is situated somewhere on the menstrual cycle. Whether ovulating or bleeding, struggling with PMS or conception, our bodies, our energy levels, our sense of self, even our abilities are constantly shifting each and every day. And yet nobody talks about it…

via Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle

As I noted in my review, one of the things this book was helpful for to me personally, was in acknowledging myself as a cyclical being and that these influences are physical and real: IMG_5194-0

Each month our bodies go through a series of changes, many of which we may be unconscious of. These include: shifts in levels of hormones, vitamins and minerals, vaginal temperature and secretions, the structure of the womb lining and cervix, body weight, water retention, heart rate, breast size and texture, attention span, pain
threshold . . .

The changes are biological. Measurable. They are most definitely not ‘all in your head’ as many would have us believe. This is why it is so crucial to honour these changes by adapting our lives to them as much as possible.

We cannot just will these changes not to happen as they are an integral part of our fertility.

From there, another relevant quote:

“There is little understanding and allowance for the realities of being a cycling woman—let alone celebration.”

Questions for circle: What allowances do you make for yourself as a cycling woman? Are you able to celebrate the experience?

In my own life, I’ve had to reframe my understanding of the impact of the monthly moontime experience by looking IMG_4269at it through the lens of healthy postpartum care following birth—it is crucial that we care for our bodies with love, attention, respect, and time. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s lifecycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives The_Red_Tent_Resourc_Cover_for_Kindlethrough gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I’m so excited to offer an online Red Tent Initiation Program this summer. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

Back to Moon Time quotes!

“There is no shame in tears. There is a need for anger. Blood will flow. Speak your truth. Follow your intuition. Nurture your body. But above all … Let yourself rest.”

Questions for circle: Do you allow yourself anger and tears? Do you feel shame? How do you speak your truth? How do you give yourself time to rest?

To be clear, I wouldn’t use all these quotes at one Red Tent Circle! I would use them individually at different gatherings. This one blog post has enough potential circle discussion prompts to last for more than six months of Circles! 🙂 This month I also bought a bundle of copies of Moon Time to have available for women at our local Red Tent.

More good discussion quotes here: Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon | Talk Birth.

And, there are others in my Red Tent Resource Kit.

Please consider joining us this summer for the Red Tent Initiation Program!

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