Disbelief, sorrow, rage, grief, fear, loss, disillusion, anxiety. . .
The range of feelings that we have been experiencing these past few days is enough to leave us all feeling battered and adrift.
Today I just want to remind you that *all* of your feelings are valid. You have permission to feel them all, for as long as you need. Whatever you are feeling today, right now, it's okay.
Our culture tells us that no matter the situation, we need to hustle it up and get through the seven stages of grief in seven hours or less. Suck it up, move on, find the silver lining.
Some of us are feeling all of that and/or feel ready radiate love, get to work, be the change. Some of us aren't there yet, and some of us are somewhere in the middle.
Wherever you are today, be gentle with yourself and with your feelings. There is no right way to feel right now. You can give yourself permission to feel it, to name it, and to care for yourself in the ways that will most nourish you today.
As a highly sensitive person, I tend to have intense emotional reactions to media stimuli and world events. I have never been able to watch horror movies, read scary books, or even watch TV shows/movies that depict realistic violence. I stopped watching/reading the news (both passively and actively), and often have to tell my husband NOT to share horribly disturbing current events with me, because I just cannot hold that energy in my psyche.
Knowing this about myself, I am very intentional about the media I consume, which now includes the Facebook newsfeed. I have found over the past year that not having control over what will pop up in my feed leaves me very open and vulnerable to unnecessary emotional upheaval, and that even with being as selective as I possibly can about the people and organizations I follow or hide, things still slip in that are just too evocative for me to integrate.
But don't get me wrong; I don't live my life with my head buried in the sand. I am well-informed about local and world events and am an avid reader, particularly in terms of issues that I feel passionate about, but have learned to be incredibly selective as to *when* I open that channel and allow the intense and potentially disturbing information into my energetic bubble. In this way, I am practicing an essential act of self-care and making intentional choices about my emotional and energetic well-being.
And something amazing has happened in the process: as I have continued to learn to actively close some channels, I have also learned that I can actively *open* others.
It is such a beautiful balance, when we step back and see the big picture . . . releasing what no longer serves me, I create space to invite more well-being and self-care in.
In doing so, I have noticed a shift within myself - a shift toward even more sensitivity to the energy of the unseen, such as my intuition, my connection with my Inner Wise Woman, my ability to connect in compassion to others, my wellspring of creativity, and my calling as a midwife of the spirit. I consciously and regularly tune into my channels of gratitude and abundance, and to the healing energy of Mother Gaia.
In awareness of my own short-comings, I call in the energy of radical acceptance, patience, and non-judgment.
Just like choosing a station on the radio dial, I consciously select the frequency of the energetic vibration that will resonate with the energy of my continued growth and evolution.
And sometimes, yes, this is MUCH easier said than done. I *so* get that. But our first step is simply awareness - what channels are our "pre-sets"? At what vibration do we spend most of our time and energy?
Awareness also means becoming aware of what other options there are. What does it feel like to open the channel to abundance? Or forgiveness? What does the energy feel like in our spirit and body when we open the channel to the power of Self-Love?
The next step is the intentional selection of a channel whose energy we would like to invite and cultivate. In your quiet moments, can you open the channel of compassion? Of gratitude?
As we work with these energies, we are practicing a skill, that -- like any other -- becomes more and more natural over time, until it is simply second-nature. Like a tuning fork, we naturally resonate with the vibrations of healing and growth, and raise our own vibration in the process.
This week, Sisters, I invite you to guide your awareness to your channels. What energies do you allow in? What are your pre-sets? What channels will you notice, and open with intention? What channels will most support your own healing and growth?
As wise, empowered, and embodied women, we are reconnecting to the lost art of honoring the rhythm of our cycle -- in so many ways. And as we practice anticipating and surfing our monthly ebb and flow, ever more gracefully and intuitively, we begin to observe and integrate important energetic patterns. During certain times of the month, we feel vibrant and open and ready to connect with others; at other times, however, we feel depleted and closed-off and unable to muster the energy to connect to the outside world.
As we honor ourselves by attending to these patterns, we not only look at our past rhythms, but begin to anticipate the weeks ahead as well. An invitation for an upcoming event that sounds perfectly wonderful during our spring (week two of our cycle) may in fact be more than we can manage if the event falls during our summer (pre-menstrual) or autumn (menstruation) weeks.
Knowing that our energetic resources will shift in this way, we practice Self-Care by thoughtfully considering our rhythm before committing to upcoming obligations or events that may fall during weeks when we crave (and *need*!) quiet and resting time.
This week, I invite you to consider the idea of holding sacred space for yourself during the days/weeks when you most need down-time. I invite you to resist the temptation to immediately say yes to every invitation or favor or school event, and instead give yourself permission to check in with your monthly rhythm before committing to anything beyond your typical routine.
(And yes, my non-menstruating Sisters, this goes for you as well. Though you may not be bleeding, your hormonal/energetic cycle is still very real.)
I know that it can be very difficult to say no and to confidently and gracefully create and uphold this boundary for ourselves, Sisters, but it is the cornerstone of our well-being; setting this example of *how we treat ourselves* shows others in our lives how to treat us.
And as Audre Lorde says, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation."
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
- Lao Tzu
I woke up to this wisdom this morning in my cup of tea. It's funny, because I literally never look at the little quotes on my tea bags, but I did today -- and wow, talk about Serendipity. This might be what I most need to hear right now.
There are massive forces shifting in my world right now -- all good! -- but I have truly never had more irons in the fire than I do at this moment in my life. I've been losing sleep, lying in bed trying to keep it all straight, willing myself to not lose grasp of the million little threads that will eventually be woven together in my next tapestry.
It feels like A LOT. How am I going to keep it all together and get everything done in time and work and be a mom and partner and not let anything fall through the cracks?
Does Mother Nature feel this way too? "So many daffodils to sprout upwards and tadpoles to metamorphose and strawberries to coax into fullness and apple blossoms to bloom. Ack!! Where will I find the time?!"
If so, she's probably handling it all with ease and grace (and the occasional thunder storm) by remembering to focus on one thing at a time. First this tadpole, then that flower. Breathe. First this strawberry, and then that apple blossom. Breathe.
And so that's my approach as well. First this blog post and then respond to that email. Breathe. Make breakfast for the kids and then give yourself a warm slow shower. Breathe. Next is your private speech therapy appointment, and then then prep for the Naked Lady Party. Breathe. Connect with the kids; connect with Jason. Breathe.
This may be the only time I've ever agreed with a church billboard. ;)
Our practice of Sacred Self-Care is fundamentally grounded in our knowledge that we are inherently worthy of receiving love -- not only from others, but most importantly, *from ourselves.* This knowing is rooted in our belief that we are worthy. We are DESERVING.
Connecting to this energy of deserving is one of the most profoundly loving things we can do for ourselves, Sisters. And so today, I invite you to meditate and journal on a very simple affirmation: "I deserve ____."
Whether you complete the sentence, or simply repeat the mantra,
"I deserve, I deserve, I deserve . . . " allow yourself to connect to the truth of your deserving.
If you feel so called to share, we would love to hear your affirmation(s) below. <3
“You know, what strikes me is how desperately we all need to know that we are seen and heard. We don’t need our lives to be different, or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. To know what we’ve faced and overcome. To say: Yes. I see this. This is real. We don’t need a magician to take it all away - we just need a witness.”
- Glennon Doyle Melton
This truth, Sisters. This. Truth.
This is the very foundation of the Red Tent movement, and the cornerstone of our remarkable, transformative Louisville Sisterhood. We affirm this truth each time one of our Sisters speaks in Circle:
“We see you, we hear you, we feel you, our Sister.”
We become whole and healed in telling our stories, and we become whole and healed by hearing the stories of other women.
THIS is the magic of sitting in Circle with other women: The power of sacred witnessing.
As I was reading this quote, I immediately thought of all of the women who have sat in Circle with us in the Red Tent, and how they *know* this to be the truth. And how this has changed and healed them.
But then I thought about the many women here in our Facebook group who have not yet found their way to the Red Tent to sit in Circle with us, and I wondered, do they have a person or place to hold space as sacred witness for them? Who hears their truth?
And then I thought beyond our Circle and Group to the many, MANY women who don’t even know that being witnessed is an option, or something that they -- that *we all* -- need and deserve. Women who have never been introduced to the idea of sitting in Circle. Women who are isolated, without community, without Sisterhood. And my heart is holding them today.
So today, Sisters, as you consider your practice of Self-Care, I invite you to reflect upon your friends and family and community, and ask yourself, Who do I trust to see and hear me? Who bears sacred witness for my truth? If you are one of the many women in this community who has blessed our Circle with your bravery and vulnerability, you can easily answer this question. If you know the power of being witnessed first-hand, I would also invite you to reach out to a friend or loved one who may not have experienced the power of being held, and heard, and seen. Offer to serve as Sacred Witness for this woman, and/or invite her to join us in Circle.
And if you have an unspoken truth that needs healing, dear Sister, give yourself permission to be witnessed. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member, join us in Circle, or write a letter to Glennon. However you need to find it, don't deny yourself the power of being witnessed.
Being witnessed is *healing*.
And you know that *I believe that women can heal.*
And when women heal, the world heals.
For many years now, my Circle sisters and I have shared the story of Persephone as a metaphor for the turning of the wheel of the year. Each spring, we gather the young ones around and tell the tale of Persephone: On her maiden’s errand to gather flowers, she was abducted by Hades, king of the Underworld. This event caused Persephone’s mother, Demeter, such grief and despair that she was unwilling to care for the crops, thus leaving the earth barren.
Knowing that eating any food of his realm would seal her fate forever, Persephone refused Hades’ offers until her hunger could no longer be withstood; she ate six seeds of the pomegranate, thus consigning herself to become Queen of the Underworld. With this act, Persephone shed the innocence of her maidenhood, and gained the wisdom of womanhood.
Still holding out hope for the return of her daughter, Demeter enlisted Hermes to strike a deal with Hades. Knowing that Persephone was indeed bound by her choice to eat the pomegranate seeds, Hermes suggested that she rule as Queen of the Underworld for six months out of the year: one month for each seed. Hades agreed to this arrangement, thus freeing Persephone to return to the light from spring equinox until fall equinox. Demeter, full of joy at her daughter’s reprieve, resumed tending the crops during the months of Persephone’s return, and the earth was again bountiful.
The tale of Persephone is a beautiful metaphor for the turning of the year, and also has deep wisdom pertaining to our own monthly rhythm.
As I have become more in tune with my own cycle, I have learned that I desperately crave my time in the Underworld during my bleeding time. Fueled by a deep need to go within, to seek quiet and stillness, I embrace the archetype of Persephone as Queen of the Underworld. Hungry to leave the outside world, I count the six days;– one for each pomegranate seed.
And yes, the land may be fallow for this time. Things may not get done; laundry may pile up, phone calls and emails may go unreturned. But this time of resting is needed, it is necessary. Just as the fields cannot produce in perpetuity without time to restore resources for future crops, our female bodies cannot continue to give . . . to produce . . . to create . . . to nurture . . . unless we too allow time for quiet and rest.
Yet we live in a culture that not only lacks reverence for this time in a woman’s cycle, but in fact has demanded that we detach from and ignore it. We have been taught to see this time as an inconvenience, a burden. A curse.
We have been told to hide it, to suppress it, to chemically eliminate it. To keep going, without rest.
This is an unsustainable and unhealthy way to live. By not granting ourselves the right to slow down and go inward to renew our resources, we begin to manifest symptoms of un-wellness. Our bodies experience pain and disharmony in the face of our unrelenting demands upon them. We feel irritable, short-tempered, exhausted. We lash out in frustration, knowing that our birthright is out of reach -- yet so desperately needed and deserved.
But I have begun a shift, these past few years. Subtly, I have begun to honor my Underworld days in a fundamental way. I wear a necklace -- a jasper ring, symbolic of an open cervix -- during my bleeding week, to let my family know that I am not as physically and emotionally available as during the Earthside portion of my cycle. I honor my limited energy resources by saying no to things, or by choosing to not emotionally engage in everything around me. I move more slowly. I am quiet.
And this shift is not only key to my own physical and emotional well-being, but a fundamental lesson for my 9-year old daughter and 6-year old son as well. By modeling sacred self-care during this time, I am teaching my daughter to honor herself in the same way. By respectfully honoring my own needs and limitations, I am teaching my son to honor all women.
My deep dream is that by the time I reach my crone years, I will witness these visible acts of self-love and reverence among more women during their Persephone period. I imagine a time when all women signify their bleeding time in some way, whether it be by wearing all red, or by wearing a special piece of jewelry. I imagine a time when rather than being faced with dread, we look forward to our days in the Underworld as a time to rest and replenish ourselves. I imagine a time when our community -- men, women, and children -- see this as a time to honor and nurture us as we honor and nurture ourselves.
But this change will not happen overnight. As with all fundamental shifts in cultural consciousness, the ripples are cast with just one tiny pebble. Or one tiny pomegranate seed, as the case may be.
Every spring and fall semester of my college years, it was the same scene: My friend Valerie and I would meet at Jittery Joe's just steps away from the University of Georgia campus to study for finals. And by "study for finals," I actually mean drink coffee concoctions, talk about her dating life, crack each other up, and color. Yep, that was us in the back booth -- with our voice disorders and phonology text books shoved to the side -- bent with crayons and colored pencils over our Peter Pan and Care Bears coloring books. You know; just blowing off steam like crazy college kids do!
Little did we know then, we were on to something pretty big. Researchers have been giving a lot of attention recently to the benefits of coloring, rediscovering what we've all known since childhood: coloring is calming, and it makes us feel good. It helps us switch off our rational and logical brains, and connect with our deep inner creativity and subconscious inspiration. Whether with mandalas or Mermaid Cove as the palette, coloring is indeed meditation.
And conveniently for us, publishers have caught on to this trend, and are now thoughtfully offering approximately 200 million different variants on the "adult coloring book" theme! Six of the top 20 best-selling books on Amazon recently were in fact adult coloring books. At this point, there is truly a coloring book for everyone: There are nature-themed books, book-themed books, mandala-themed books, and yes, even swear-word coloring books. (Pretty clever, there, publishers!) I think I still have my Peter Pan coloring book in a box somewhere, but have increased my repertoire to include two of the most beautiful I've seen, The Enchanted Forest and The Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.
Unlike some self-care activities that can be time- or cost-prohibitive in our daily lives, finding a coloring book for less than $10 and gifting ourselves with a fresh box of colored pencils is so very doable, Sisters. Granting yourself the time can be as simple as choosing to sit and color rather than zone out for 15 minutes on Facebook or Pinterest before bed.
This week, I invite you to consider choosing a lovely coloring book for yourself -- whether it's one you grab at the grocery store, or whether you decide to splurge on one carefully selected from a local bookstore or from Amazon. Spend a few moments this week with pencil in hand, knowing that this little gift of self-love is nourishing to body and soul!
Oh, and one last thing: If you have kids, they will of course want to get all up in the pristine pages of your new treasure.... but I highly recommend making your coloring book sacredly YOURS! *No Kids Allowed!* ;)
I'm pretty sure I have a very specific version of PTSD: let's call it Pressured Time Stress Disorder. My life feels like a constant cage match: Me versus the relentless draining of sands through the hourglass. "Innnnnnnnn this corner.... it's Amy and her never-ending to do list! And in this cornerrrrrrrrrr, we have the *un.de.feat.ed champion* -- The 24-Hour Day!"
As a Mama who works full-time (and then some!), it is often the case that my days are completely filled by nothing but tasks that are centered around keeping people alive and getting people to particular places at specific times. I wake up in the morning feeling like a sprinter on the starting line, and collapse into bed at night feeling like I've run a 15-hour marathon.
And I'm not really sure that it's good for me.
I have recently become so consciously aware of the relationship I keep with time. Of the language I use when speaking or thinking about time. More often than not, my whole vibration around time is that there is just never enough of it.
And this vibration is so palpable to my family, I have no doubt. We live by schedules and timers and stress-filled declarations of WE ARE LEAVING IN FIVE MINUTES! This has become our norm because we actually *do* have to be places at certain times and I've got to be done with X at this time so that I have time to do Y and Z before I pass out at 9:00pm. Ya know?
But it struck me over the winter break just how deeply ingrained this way of life has become... how *constantly stressed* I feel about TIME. While away on a little family vacay in December, I realized how often my mind shifts into TO-DO LIST REVIEW MODE. Every few hours, I would have a moment of sudden panic that I was forgetting to do something. Or that I needed to get on the computer and accomplish something. I couldn't stop myself from multi-tasking, even while floating down the lazy river at Great Wolf Lodge.
I feel like something has happened to my BRAIN; that I have re-wired myself to live in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight, and the foe is the relentless ticking of the clock.
I remember first feeling this way in grad school...being unable to fully relax and detach during breaks because I had conditioned myself so completely to be ON TASK at all times. And of course that feeling grew exponentially as I became a mother, and then went back to grad school while I had a toddler and a baby, and then took on more and more work and community responsibilities outside of my home. Which brings us to this current moment, wherein I am feeling stressed about the amount of time it's taking me to write a blog post about time. (Seriously!)
But I know that even though it is true that there are many, many things I need and *want* to fit in to each day, I have reached a point where I no longer want to have an adversarial relationship with time. I no longer want to hear myself say to my kids, "We don't have time for ________," nor do I want to model for them that life is nothing but a series of check-marks on our to-do list.
I want slowness. I want gentle pacing. I want space between one thing and the next.
I want to cultivate and nurture a vibration of abundance around time.
Most importantly, I want to re-wire my brain and heal from this specific 21st-century strain of PTSD.
This week as I focus on my practice of Sacred Self-Care, I will be mindful and intentional around my energy and language related to time. I invite you to join me in noticing how we feel and how we speak to ourselves, and how we speak to others about time.
I invite you to join me, Sisters, in creating a gentler vibration for ourselves.