Archives

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

Winter Solstice Meditation

When the wheel of the year turns towards fall, I always feel the call to retreat, to cocoon, to pull away. I also feel the urge for fall de-cluttering—my eyes cast about the house for things to unload, get rid of, to cast away. I also search my calendar for those things which can be eliminated, trimmed down, cut back on. I think it is the inexorable approach of the winter holiday season that prompts this desire to withdraw, as well as the natural rhythm of the earth which so clearly says: let things go, it is time to hibernate.

Late autumn and the shift toward winter is a time of discernment. A time to choose. A time to notice that which has not made it through the summer’s heat and thus needs to be pruned away. In this time of the year, we both recognize the harvest of our labors and that which needs to be released or even sacrificed as we sense the promise of the new year to come.

This year I cocoon with my new baby. Though I have three other children, this new baby was the first child whose December 2014 106development and arrival perfectly mirrored the wheel of the year. Conceived during the first month of the new year, taking root in the darkness of winter’s end, beginning to bud during the springtime and coming into full bloom during the summer. And, then, with the season’s spiral turn into fall, when many beautiful things are harvested, his birth: October 30, into my welcoming hands in the sunlight bright morning in my living room. Now, with the steady progress   of winter, we curl together in a small, new world. We cocoon in the cave of our own home, the size of the world re-sized to the size of my bed, kitchen table, and rocking chair. This is the fourth trimester, the time in which the baby continues to develop his nervous system and continues to live within the context of the mother’s body. I am his habitat. His place. His home is in my arms.

This sinking in, this cocooning, this safe, small world is perfect for the call of winter. While my to-do list has again begun to clang in my ear and the clamor of my other children surrounds me, the early nights, cold temperatures, and gray skies, remind me to nestle, remember, and grow. Beautiful magic takes root in dark, deep places.

Winter solstice.
Deep, long, dark night.
Cold cracks
brittle branches, December 2014 004
icy stone.

Winter’s song
echoes in skeletal treetops
and crackling leaves.
Rest time.
Hibernation.
Silent watchfulness.
Waiting hope.

Sink down.
Open up.
Receive and feel.
Hold peace.

May you enjoy a rich, peaceful solstice with your family and loved ones! May you be blessed by light and may you find wisdom and solace in dark, deep, places. And, may you remember not to be so distracted by the promise of the light to come that you forget the great value to be found in quiet places and deep spaces as well.

December 2014 211

Sacred Postpartum, Week 1: Birth Stories and Vow

Backtracking a little into week one of my current Sacred Postpartum class, for the first week’s assignments in reviewing our own birth and postpartum experiences, I set up a mini sacred space and put on some of my birth power bracelets (Mark and I started making these recently and I love them! It is like carrying a mini-mantra, birth power reminder with me every day).

October 2014 003 October 2014 037

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did my vow page and then a collage of reminders to myself. I made a birth stories page and then printed out copies of each of my kids’ birth stories and stapled them to the back of one journal page per story, including one for my third baby who was born in a second trimester miscarriage (the stories are all available on my blog here. I didn’t include pictures of the actual print outs! ). Then, I did a page on the front of each birth story with pictures of each kid and significant words/lessons from their stories. I ended with a collage of myself as I prepare for my upcoming birth at the end of this month (39 weeks now, 37 when I did the assignment) and took a picture of a blank page as well as a symbol of the story yet to be written…

(click for bigger pix)

I also just have to pat myself on the back again about having enrolled in these trainings at this point in my own pregnancy. It was a stroke of genius! And, while I knew I would benefit from them, I had no idea how very deeply I would do so.

October 2014 005

 

Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing

October 2014 128

My Sacred Postpartum class began last week, though this is my first post about it. One of the assignments this week was to prepare a ceremonial bath.

Despite the deceptively simple sound of the assignment, this bath was an incredibly surprising and illuminating experience. I originally put off doing it because I had “too much to do” and then when I started getting it ready and setting up a little altar and doing the smudging, I felt both nervous and kind of apprehensive. I told my husband, “I think this is the first real bath I’ve ever really taken.” I’m not really a bath person. I took baths as a little kid and then moved on to showers and never took baths again except while postpartum with each of my kids. And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues. I associate baths with crying and holding my empty belly after the death-birth of my third baby in my second trimester. In fact, the last bath I remember ever taking in my current home was the one following his birth in which I sobbed my sorrow into the water and bled away the last traces of my baby’s life. (I think I probably did take a postpartum bath after the birth of my rainbow daughter the following year, but I don’t have a memory of it. The only bath I remember ever taking in this house was my post-loss, grief bath.) I associate baths with strings of blood and mucous floating away from me through the water and feeling injured, hurt, damaged and invalid. Deconstructed, taken apart. Lost. Shaking. Barely being able to lift my legs to get myself back out. Having to call for help and be dried off. Hollow. Changed forever.

For this bath, I set up an altar space, turned on my Sacred Pregnancy playlist, smudged the room and the tub. My husband brought me my October 2014 004mother’s tea (a blend I made last week with friends using the recipe intended for later in this class). I added salts from the salt bowl ceremony at my Mother Blessing. I added a little bit of my sitz bath mix. I added almond milk and honey. My husband went and picked a rose and scattered the petals in on top of me after I was in the tub. As I settled into my milk and honey bath, I felt restless at first, but then I calmed and my mind became more still. I went through my previous bath memories and I cried a little bit. I completely relaxed and sank lower into the water. I touched my body gently and honored what she has given and where she has been wounded. I rubbed my wiggling belly and talked to my baby about having a gentle, easy, smooth birth with a gradual emergence. My thoughts turned to my possible plans for water birth for this baby. I realized that my own “weak and wounded” bath memories are probably, in part, related to why I don’t feel particularly attracted to water birth (though I wasn’t really attracted before I ever had any kids either, so it isn’t all related to those past bath experiences). Can I be strong and powerful in the water, or is that just where I bleed and cry? I’ve been planning to try water during this upcoming birth because I’ve never done it before and because it might help prevent the issues with tearing that I’ve had in the past. However, I have had trouble actually picturing myself doing it. As I stilled into this peaceful, non-wounded, ceremonial bath, I could picture a safe, secure water birth better than ever before.

And, later that night we set this up in the living room…

October 2014 135

(glowing pumpkin head courtesy of the kids decorating for Halloween, not for Sacred Atmosphere!)

And, to finish the assignments for this week’s class, we made and enjoyed Thai sweet tea for dessert after dinner!

Sacred Pregnancy Week 4: Honoring, Sealing, & Postpartum Care

“I am the strength of all women who have ever birthed a baby and I am ready to join that tribe.”

–Anni Daulter (Sacred Pregnancy)

August 2014 055Me to my husband last night: “so, I know I might look like I’m just dancing around with flowers in my hair, but I’m really getting certified.”

<Mark wisely refrains from wide-open joke opportunity>

Yesterday, I finished the last assignments for my Sacred Pregnancy class. While I primarily took this class for personal reasons and am glad I did because I truly think it was the absolute BEST thing I could have done for myself to get ready for Tanner, to spend some time focused on my pregnancy, and to get ready for another mindful birth and postpartum experience. I have also completed all the work needed to be a Certified Sacred Pregnancy Mini-Retreat Instructor. On October 1st, I start the Sacred Postpartum training program—again with a dual purpose of personal enrichment and professional development.

I completed some of the activities out-of-order and finished the silk painting and honoring crown from week 3 in conjunction with the postpartum and “sealing” work of week 4.

I chose to use my drumstick as my stick around which to wrap my silk, since the drum is one way I express myself. Bringing the words painted on the silk into my drumming seemed like a logical companion. My silk power was bold fearlessness! Zander and Alaina also worked on small pieces of silk with me.

I’d delayed making the flower crown I thought because I’d told myself that I’ve already had several flower crowns at different ceremonies and so making another one for “no reason” felt kind of redundant. However, after I finished my second silk painting, I looked behind me and saw some wildflowers and I realized I did want to make a crown and I wanted to be with real flowers and not artificial. I’d been going to do artificial since I have some and thought then I could at least check it off the list. I don’t like fake flowers though, I like real ones. As soon as I realized that there were enough wildflowers scattered around the yard that I could make a real one, I got excited about the idea. My daughter helped me find and cut the flowers and then we put it together. And, then took some picture with my new silk and the crown together.

“The first few months after a baby comes can be a lot like floating in a jar of honey—very sweet and golden, but very sticky too.” –American College of Nurse-Midwives

I love the idea of a post-birth sealing ceremony SO much. This is similar to a mother blessing, but it is held postpartum to help “seal” the birth experience and welcome the baby and the mother into motherhood (or mother of however-many-children-hood). Absolutely wonderful. I also love the song Standing on the Edge from the Sacred Pregnancy CD. I identify with it so much as I prepare for my next birth as well as to welcome a new baby who I wasn’t expecting to have. As I’ve noted often in recent blog posts, I’m working very hard to wrap up a variety of projects so that I can cocoon with my new baby and give him and me the time and space I know we will need after birth. I have gotten better and better at taking care of myself postpartum, in asking for what I need, and getting very, very clear with my support people about what is most important to me.

We actually made the flax pillows for the sealing ceremony at the beginning of the week and then used them on Sunday (Alaina and I made the PPD tincture together the same day as the pillows). My husband tucked me in with the flax pillows and scarf and draped the silk painting across me as well. I lit my pregnancy candles and listened to Standing at the Edge. I spoke aloud the things I celebrate myself for–all the projects and children I have given birth to.

As I was setting up my wrap and pillows, my almost-11-year-old son had said he’d like to do it too. So, after my own sealing experience, each of my kids in turn got sealed in the scarf with the flax pillows. And, then they went and got my husband and we sealed him too! For each, I offered a blessing: “I’m glad you were born. I’m glad you are my son/daughter/husband. I love you. Thank you.” I placed my hands on different parts of their bodies as I spoke and then ended with kiss on the forehead. They all loved it and were very calm and contemplative. I think it was good for all of us and was, in its way, a “sealing” of their births and our relationship.

While I always have had a mother blessing ceremony before the baby’s birth, this time I’m going to make sure to do a postpartum sealing ceremony as well. The birth I actually sealed most consciously was the second trimester birth-death of my third son. On my due date with him, which also happened to be my birthday, I did a ceremony outside by our little labyrinth and the tree where we buried him. I spoke aloud, “I am not pregnant anymore,” and took time to hold and honor the powerful, honorable, birth and release I’d given him.

I’ve written a lot about my own postpartum thoughts, experiences, and feelings and they are grouped under the appropriate category on my blog here.

I also want to share a picture of my new mother-of-four goddess pendant! This pendant, too, has been part of my personal emotional preparation to integrate the new baby into my maternal identity. It took a long time for us to get the cast right for this sculpt and I’m so happy to have it to wear now.

August 2014 073

 The Sacred Pregnancy online retreat training experience was a very positive one. Lots of personal benefit as well as professional development! I’m so glad I decided to go for it!
August 2014 070Past posts in this series:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 2: Empowerment and Self-Care

 

 

Sacred Pregnancy Week 3, Part 1: Fears & Forgiveness

On Friday and Saturday this past week, I took the time for a Sacred Pregnancy weekend. I did many projects from the class and it was a fulfilling, fun time. Reflection, art, and self-care, for the win! These types of projects are exactly why I wanted to take this class during my current pregnancy (I also went ahead and signed up for the Sacred Postpartum training, which begins on October 1st, and is therefore perfect for the month I am due).

The fears exercise for this week of training took me a while to finish. I wrote my list on Monday morning, but didn’t burn them until Friday afternoon. Interestingly, I continued to add to the list during the week, so I guess I wasn’t finished after the initial song portion (Grandmother by Nina Lee on the Sacred Pregnancy CD). I actually found myself waking up each morning over the whole week with the Grandmother song in my head. Anyway, after writing the list I tore it into individual strips. I waited until I had some time alone in the afternoon while my kids were visiting my parents and then I used the little bean pot I use as a burn pot/Kali pot to burn them each after reading them aloud. I had to play the song twice to finish them all! Most of them were connected to the development of my business this year, but some to my pregnancy/birth as well.

Anyway, when I got to my fear of being “too much” the paper flared up hugely and I dropped both it and my phone on the floor! Luckily, I hit the picture button as I was dropping it! (flare picture below) I found this significant and when I then moved into the forgiveness work the theme of being “too much” was actually what my Mother’s Wisdom card related to.

Mother’s Wisdom deck meditation

This was a powerful exercise also. I picked Oshun and got a much different message from my own interpretation of the card than the book interpretation I later read. I listened to the Standing at the Edge song on the CD while I journaled about empowerment immediately following the fear release and before looking at the book. You can see what I got from the card in my journal entries below. The actual card meaning was about balance and harmony in one’s family and life which is actually a timely message for me too, as was my own intuited message from the card.

As I explained in the class work online:

My husband and I have a creative business sculpting and pewter-casting and making jewelry together. We’ve really grown this year and have been pushing ourselves hard on our co-creative endeavors (hoping to wrap up development of some important stuff before our new baby is born in October). Our most recent was the completion of our first joint book project. I did all the writing, which was an 18 month intuitive process, and he did all the illustrations, design, and layout. We couldn’t have done it without each other! It was a perfect collaboration of our strengths and skills. However, we’ve been working and pushing so hard to get it finished and ready that our family had somewhat fallen out of balance and harmony! (So, the work has been in harmony, but the rest of our family needs have been getting kind of pushed aside!)

And, I know it is an overused analogy but working on a big creative project is similar to giving birth. My current pregnancy is very entwined with my current work and I was really interested to see how both my fears and forgiveness exercise work this week related to both my business and my pregnancy as creative processes and birth endeavors…

After this work and after my kids got home, I worked on my forgiveness tree. I didn’t include a picture of the one with the names filled in–just pre-names and post-colors. It was a good exercise too. I listened to Nina and did the card meditation (above) and then started on my tree and worked on it throughout the course of an afternoon. I’ve done most of the exercises for this class with the company of my little daughter (3), who is entranced by this kind of work. This time she did a painting of a goddess-fairy while I was working on the tree. I’ve never used watercolors before this class, so I’m not very good with them, but having fun anyway! Process, not product, after all…

*You did not miss Week 2. I haven’t made any posts about it yet. Just week 1:

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

Sacred Pregnancy, Week 1, Part 2: Connecting

Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

“Pregnancy often flies by before we have a chance to truly reflect on the miracle of it all.”

–Bonnie Goldberg (in The Art of Pregnancy)

Last week I started the online Sacred Pregnancy retreat training. This has been on my wish list of things to do for a long time and it shows up on my 100 Things list for the year as well. I purposely waited until this training though, rather than doing the earlier spring training, because of how it corresponds to my pregnancy. I’m 29 weeks today and in the third trimester! (What happened?!) I really want to experience this class from the perspective of Pregnant Woman as well as facilitator. I need some “time out” to focus on my new baby and to just be together with him and the process of being pregnant instead of caught up in the rest of my schedule. I feel like this online retreat class is a gift to myself. I remember as far back as my second pregnancy feeling like I needed something more. The regular old birth books and charts of fetal development and nutrition facts and birth plan worksheets didn’t cut it anymore (do they ever?). I had the same experience in teaching birth classes–yes, I could cover stages of labor and birth positions, but what about the heart of birth. What about the “mystery”? What about those unknown lessons in excavating one’s own depths? What about that part of birth and life that only she knows?  I find that Birthing from Within speaks to this heart of birth and so does Sacred Pregnancy.

The first part of the class is about creating sacred space and about creating a “pregnancy practice.” and I really wanted to make my candle and altar for and with my new baby and so that’s what I did. It was very valuable to me to center inward, in this way that I’ve been needing for a while now.

I worked on the candle with Alaina’s help, even though I originally envisioned working on it alone. I created a red candle because I already made a tall white intention candle at the beginning of the year and collaged it like my “vision board” for the year, so I wanted to do something different for this experience.

August 2014 061I used amethyst beads around the top because I have felt a strong attraction towards amethysts during this pregnancy. I used beads and charms from Brigid’s Grove, with the tree as a center point because it is an important symbol for us. The is a deep connection between this baby, the progress of my pregnancy, and the development and growth of our shared business. I chose red because it is a “power color” to me and reminds me of the blood, potency, and energy of birth as well as of the placenta.

I’ve gotten much better over the last year or so at intentional altar building and really delighted in the creation of my sacred space while listening to the recorded lessons for the class and also the Sacred Pregnancy CD. The CD is awesome and I wish I would have purchased it a long time ago! It is just what I need to incorporate some sacred pregnancy, centering, and “pregnancy practice” into my day. I like how I can turn on a favorite song while brushing my teeth, for example, and have that ordinary moment be transformed into a body-honoring, self-care, pregnancy “tune in” moment. I bought a very powerful song, Birthright, from her second CD as well.

August 2014 050

On the altar I put items that are special to me from past blessingways, as well as sculptures that I’ve made. I also painted a little wooden sign that says “laugh,” because I feel like in all my big push to finish so many projects before I have the baby, I’m not having very much fun! The paper I painted the wooden sign on show the outline of the letters and that is the part that actually shows up in this picture (the wooden part is behind the candle and at the bottom of the white “laugh” painting).

August 2014 053

“No matter how many pictures of fetuses you look at or how many scientific facts you ingest, pregnancy remains a stunning, not-quite-possible-to-grasp marvel, a naked connection to the enigma of life. You can’t escape the awe—and why would you want to?”

–Jennifer Louden, The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book (quoted in Celebrating Motherhood)

Lento Tempo

“Invite the inner woman to speak in her language of poetry, bones, clouds, dreams, red shoes, fairy dust, ravens, and fissures of the heartland. She who dwells in the wild within will help to navigate the cliffs and valleys. She will show you the passage through – give you eyes to see in the dark. And then, when you are able, she will give you wings to fly out from that both nurturing and devastating abyss into divine light.”

–Shiloh Sophia McCloud

July 2014 037I’m taking an elective class called Women Engaged in Sacred Writing and one of our class texts is Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine by Peggy Tabor Millin. While the book itself is not about birth, I was struck by the author’s use of the descriptor “lento tempo” to describe the “slow time” associated with creative projects. My thoughts turned to our family as we await the birth of my sister-in-law and brother’s baby boy. He is arriving firmly on his own timetable and the waiting for him is a process of discovery in and of itself. I’ve never been overdue myself and so it is interesting to notice the parallels between waiting for labor to begin and the very process of labor itself!

Millin writes about the various creative works that require “slow time” and also writes that women crave this time and need it to survive:

Like the gestation in the womb, change happens in lento tempo, slow time. Women crave lento tempo and need it to survive. Slow is the timing of fertilization and incubation, of creative process. Creative writing often resists being manipulated to meet deadlines. We may need to wait on dreams or synchronicity to inspire and guide our work. In lento tempo, we learn the wisdom of letting things rest—bread dough, marinara sauce, roasted turkey, babies, tulip bulbs, fresh paint, grief, anger, ourselves. Almost every book of advice on writing suggests putting a manuscript away for a while once it feels complete. Then the final edit can be undertaken with a fresh ear and eye. Centered Writing Practice teaches us patience, to do by not doing

…Through focused attention, we engage watchful listening—to our inner voice and to our experience. What we achieve is not a perfect product, but a spinning spiral of synthesis. The movement of this spiral cannot be driven, hurried, or organized. Lento tempo is the natural rhythm of creation—of body, earth, and universe. As such, lento tempo is the rhythm of creativity we hear by practicing awareness…

Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine

(emphases mine)

While waiting with my mom, sister-in-law, and brother in Kansas, during one day of our visit we suddenly decided to look up any local labyrinths. We found one at a Lutheran church located only five miles from where we were driving at the time and so we swung by and walked the labyrinth together, pausing first to take symbolic pictures crossing the little bridge over to it—just like my sister-in-law prepares to cross the bridge into motherhood and take her own labyrinth journey of birth. We sang “I Am Opening,” one of our mother blessing songs, together when we reached the center. During the course of our visit, we kept discovering new “signs” every day that “today is the day!” and we eventually made a joke of it, since so far none of the signs have borne fruit! However, on this day we decided that our time in the labyrinth was a story and a precious moment in and of itself, independent of whether it eventually ended up having any part of the baby’s birth story.

I also recently re-read a quote from a book I read two years ago that describes the inward and outward swing of women’s lives. Since it is the time of the new moon now, it seemed particularly relevant:

“When we become practiced in the art of moving between the ‘upper’ and ‘under’ worlds of our lives (outwardly focused and engaged with the world; inwardly focused and listening to our soul) not only does the pattern of light moving into dark, into light again become clear, but also the gradations. We often experience this movement in dramatic (and unpleasant) swings from one to the other, but bringing practice and awareness to this journeying allows us to settle more gently into these transitions; just as the moon takes two weeks to darken, or lighten in small gradations. After all, we do not spend half the month in a dark moon, and half with a full moon. Rather, there are just a few days each of full darkness and full moon, and all the rest of the time is in gradual transition.”

Journey to the Dark GoddessJane Meredith

May we honor the call of lento tempo in our own lives, in our pregnancies, in the lives of our children, and in the unique unfolding of our births and creative projects.

Women, Birthing, and Boundaries

“Birth doula work is not about double hip squeezes. It isn’t about birth plans. Birth doulaing at its heart is a spiritual path that will rip away your narcissism and your selfishness. It will restructure your values and strengthen your compassion and empathy for all people through pain and humility. It is about learning how to BE in the presence of conflict and the human experience of living at its most raw and gut wrenching…”

–Amy Gililand

Watch out! Bookshelf reduction mission in full swing!

Mark has become embroiled in many land and garden improvement projects in the last couple of months. Now that it is hot outside again, he has switched some of this attention to interior home improvement projects as well, one of which is building a new little countertop onto the half-wall between our kitchen and dining area (saw is presently squealing in my ear as I type) and one of which is painting some of the walls in our house. Wall-painting necessitated bookshelf moving, which necessitated book removal, which prompted me to go on a massive book decluttering and downsizing mission. As I’ve mentioned, I am thoroughly in the mood to wrap up, wind down, finish up. I feel a powerful, powerful call to finish all kinds of things so I can fully greet my baby in October. So, this bookshelf downsizing played right into my current mood. One of the books that didn’t make my “keep it” list was The Feminine Face of God, a classic feminist spirituality book by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins (now in a giveaway box near you, so if you’re interested and you’re local, let me know and it is now yours!). This isn’t because I don’t like the book, it is because I don’t feel as if I will need to return it to again. In evaluating and reducing my book collection, I find odds and ends I’d marked to write about or remember. Rather than storing the whole book, it makes sense to me to save the one or two pages I’d marked instead and let the book move on to enrich new lives. From The Feminine Face of God, I’d saved this quote about women and permeable boundaries:

Women have permeable boundaries. Perhaps it is the experience of our bodies in touch with the bodies of others that makes it hard for us to close down our psyches. Perhaps it is genetic. Or both. Or something else. But our bodies feel the irrevocable connection of the tides with our cycles of monthly bleeding. And in lovemaking we can be penetrated and receive another. And with pregnancy we carry another for nine full moons, more or less. When we separate from that other, we can feed it from our own body. And later the cycles that tie us to the moon and tides stop. And all this is true whether we give birth or not, have sex of not. The possibility is what creates the openness, and this openness is a precious gift (p. 183).

The distinct flavor of experience which comes with the gift shapes how we perceive reality, how we act, how we create, and what we value. And more than anything else women value relationships. We blend and weave and combine and sustain all kinds of relationships, and this work, this webmaking, not only shapes our lives but makes us profoundly vulnerable to the needs of others.

This is why, to me, attachment is at the core of the mothering life. (As opposed to the “detachment” often espoused by pop-culture interpretations of Eastern philosophical thought.) I think it also explains why women can hurt and wound each other and why when we let people in “too far,” sometimes we need to push them all the way out again. Or, when someone disappoints us or lets us down, why we might turn to reject them. They’ve been allowed to enter our permeable boundaries and if we lose trust or a sense of closeness for some reason, we shut them completely out, rather than recognizing it as a momentary experience.

In the book, the authors go on to explain:

The solution to our permeable boundaries is not to seal them off or barricade our hearts and adopt a ‘me first’ attitude. When we do that, we suffer unbearable isolation. But neither is it to betray the deep sources of wisdom and meaning in our lives. Instead we need to find the unique, and probably unstable, balance that fits us at a particular time, a balance that includes, but is not limited to, the needs of our partners and family. (p. 185)

Does needing to carve out the time and space we need for our own deep places make us selfish? This is one of the fears Anderson and Ruth explore….

Of all the fears we have heard from women about taking time and space for themselves, the most common by far was the fear of being selfish. If there is a mantra women repeat to themselves to deny their longing for solitude, it is probably, ‘Selfish. Selfish. Am I being selfish?’

For two years following her separation from her husband, Lynette lived alone in a tiny studio apartment, studying massage therapy, and asking herself this question. She no longer led the young people’s group at church, or planned and prepared festive parties for her friends and extended family. She didn’t even read the newspaper much.

‘So people call and ask, ‘What’s happened to you, Lynette? You used to be so outgoing and giving,’ she told us. ‘Just yesterday one of my favorite aunts telephoned and said right out, ‘I love you, my dear, but it’s clear to me you’re being very selfish pursuing this massage-therapy business. Living in your own apartment with no one to look after but yourself is very selfish and ungrounded!’

‘You know,’ Lynette told us thoughtfully, ‘doing something for yourself is like being pregnant. From the outside, being pregnant can look selfish. You take in all this extra food. You sleep more than usual. You are not as interested as you used to be in other people’s lives, including the lives of your own family. But inside another life is growing. It needs quiet, nourishment, and rest. At first, no one can see this life, but this has absolutely no bearing on the matter. The inner life is growing and it demands your attention.

‘But,’ she continued, ‘being pregnant is easier than this other birthing. Because in our material society, we trust the process that gives us something we can see and touch and hear—a live baby. This other birthing—well, who can be sure? So much trust is needed to turn down or tune out the internal critic and focus on what is happening inside you instead of always serving others.’ (p. 204)

In the closing to this section about the call for solitude and the attachment of family life, the authors quote another participant, Sara:

“True caring means being able to give from fullness…And for that I need my solitude. It is the very birthplace of altruism.” (p. 204-205)

In typing all of the above in the non-solitude I am currently experiencing this is what happened to my little pile of books to be blogged about:

20140711-170904.jpg

That would be new countertop wood shavings and a Baby Hugs bear.

And, I gained a creative companion:

20140711-170918.jpg

🙂