holy mama autumn inspiration
“Hello darkness my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again .”
- Simon and Garfunkle
I often use the word medicine when I am speaking about the path of inner development. Referring specifically to experiences we meet in mothering, partnering, working, being and becoming creative and alive human beings. Recently I looked up the definition to make sure my inner ideas match my outer language.
Medicine: 1. The science and art of preventing, diagnosing and alleviating dis – ease (hyphen my own). 2. Something regarded by primitive people as having magical or remedial (intended as healing) properties. Collins dictionary
The definition resonates but I would add: 3. A substance, movement or thought that strengthens and expands current capacities creating new faculties. What is the medicine of autumn that supports well being, inspires growth and creates new capacities for the inner life of mothers? We are in the time of year from fall equinox until winter solstice where we harvest gardens, shed leaves, and courageously descend into literal darkness. Part of the holy mama path is to work with what we are meeting in our lives and grow from our ability to turn towards rather then away from what is in front of us. Harvesting, shedding and descending are the seasonal instructions that prepare us to meet what is presenting itself this autumn. Let me introduce, in all her mysterious, edgy, deep and disturbing fullness, our medicine of the moment -- Darkness. Sacred Darkness.
“What you encounter, recognize, or discover
depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach . . .
when we approach things with reverence, great things decide to approach us.”
- John O’Donohue
Going in, moving down, and meeting parts of our sacred darkness (what we can not see, do not know and do not like) is not popular inner work. Few individuals willingly walk downstairs and knock on the basement door of their soul looking for lost, disowned, forgotten aspects of self. A second favorite word in my vernacular is hygiene (oxford dictionary definition: conditions or practices conducive to maintain health). Approaching our own inner basement door with reverence (knowing something holy dwells there) is hygienic. I imagine if we have practices to periodically approach our darkness we are able to recover lost vitality, energy usually used to suppress, repress and deny our wholeness. With this recovered vitality we are able to live more authentically with a healing blend of vulnerability and humility keeping us soft, flexible and open to our self and others. A word of caution, what is dark and holy does not always appear in a form that is understandable, digestible or even bearable. We are wired to live in right relationship with our wholeness, our dark and light material, BUT we are wired to do this in Sacred Community. Being able to share what we find buried in the basement of our soul longs to be shared, held, worked with and transformed in and through our connection with others. Being brave and moving towards what is dark inside of us, within sacred connections, the spell of inner isolation and fragmentation begins to dissolve. Potent medicine + good hygiene = new capacities.
Be with those that help your being.
Transparency is another tool on the holy mama path, one that I participate in so that my humaness is shared, held, grown, transformed. In the classroom of Sacred Darkness I have been studying control and grief. I find I am stricken with control attacks in my family life -- thinking I know what someone I love should be, think, do and I actually tell them. I am embarrassed and ashamed that after 20 years of mothering and 49 years of being alive, I am taken over by these attacks. Maybe it is some bizarre and inappropriate way to cope with my older children and life partner. Sometimes I experience them from out of my body. I am above myself and see my mouth moving and saying these very demeaning, untrusting, infantilizing words. But I am an eager student and as I continue to observe myself in attack mode something reveals itself to me . . . I approach control with reverence and what approaches me back is a great thing – the capacity to ALLOW! I do not mean allow in the sense of being permissive, I mean allow where I am able to move more authentically in myself. Recently, I am having real time experiences of noticing the control and then quickly softening with myself first, then the other. In this place I touch the qualities of allow and the relationship is deepened, enhanced.
The second area of study this season is grief. I recently visited a dear friend right after she gave birth and while I was so happy and thrilled for my friend and her young family I returned home that evening catapulted into grief. Did I have babies? Did I nurse them? Did I do a good job? Was I present? Are the best days of my life over? I was so upset that I actually woke up at 6am the next morning to scour my photo albums looking for proof of my young mothering life. The pictures revealed beauty, presence, connectedness, rawness, realness, and intense fatigue. I could not shake the sadness with full accompaniment of unstoppable tears. I leaned in, turned towards, sunk deeper and let myself be drawn down into this hard space. During that disorienting time I let grief be on my alter, I made it my compass, wherever grief wanted to go, I followed. In, “The Wild Edge of Sorrow,” by Francis Weller there is a part where he names that most of us do not fully enter into our grief in fear if we do we will never come back. He challenges that if we do not enter our grief fully -- we will never come back. This soul contraction lasted a week. Ultimately I think the labor birthed me into myself with deeper vision. I feel able to look back into my life and forward into the future with a new depth of perception.
Yet, no matter how deeply I go down into myself,
My God is dark,
and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and gratitude I wanted to share an inspiration from “Mindful Parenting” by John Kabbot - Zin. The book opens with his son returning home from college the night before thanksgiving. John writes in such a tender and moving way about his son's grown body, reunion, family. I remember my first son, Kole, was two when I read this passage - sobbing. In some way John was telling me of some time in the future where mine and Kole’s everyday lives would not be so intertwined but our hearts would be. Something I found hard to conceive of at the time. This Wednesday evening (the night before Thanksgiving) I worked and came home to my partner, David, and youngest son, Asher, working diligently in preparation for our gathering the next day. I had some soup, rolled up my sleeves and joined them, a little ache that the older two (now 20 and 17) were out with friends. David and I finished the preparations and climbed into bed at 10:30 pm. The lights were out and I heard Kole come up the stairs. I heard his footsteps pause as he passed my room. I flicked on a small bedside table light and said softly, "come on in." He walked right to my side of the bed, I lifted the covers and he slid in without any resistance. It was a soft quiet moment where the veil parted and he spoke to us from his heart. Twenty minutes later my middle son, Jeremy, walked past the door and Kole beckoned him into the room. He saw all three of us in bed and muttered, " look, it's the original four" and without hesitation slid in next to his older brother. I think at that moment I was so filled up that I didn't think there was room left inside me for more joy and gratitude. However, 15 minutes later two of Kole's friends walked up stairs (yes, now it is 11:30pm). They also pause in front of our door and we all say in unison, "come in!" Now there are six adults in my bed, all cuddled, layered, warm and grateful talking about world politics, what the definition of love is, the challenges of technology. Thank you John Kabbot Zin - for planting a seed in my soul 18 years ago of what is possible with our young adult children. It is a ripened version of the intimacy, connectedness, and love I felt for them as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, adolescents . . . I feel the grief of those young years being over AND I feel gratitude for what has grown and deepened.
A mature person can hold grief
in one hand and gratitude in
the other and be stretched
larger by both.
- Francis Weller
big dark love.
holy mama winter inspiration
I am too alone in the world
and not alone enough
to make every moment holy.
I want to continue to support the work of meeting winter. I last left you at winter solstice with the idea that in the cold, frozen, dark winter, when everything in the outer landscape appears dead -- the inner life is actually most alive. I reminded you at that time if you want to access this inner aliveness you would have to slow down, find quiet, contemplate, hibernate. The action step this would require is finding and taking out your sacred weapon/tool that protects that kind of time so that you would not miss the medicine that winter has for your soul.
I am reaching out again to remind you of this task (it’s not too late) – the task for a mama in deep winter is to touch, explore, own, encounter her own solitude: seclusion, withdrawal, privacy, peace – so that she may experience her soul-in-tune. Let the trees be our teachers, they have been meditating on stillness and quiet and what is happening right now is that sweet, delicious energy is filling them up from within, the sap is rising from their roots and is being directed to their limbs. This energy will be transformed into buds, leaves, flowers, fruit. Being still and allowing the sap to rise is how the tree prepares for new growth in spring. It does not happen without the practice of stillness and quiet (for mama’s even a little bit goes a long way). Touching into stillness and quiet, holding and honoring a fertile void, and feeling into the movement of sap rising prepares us for new growth, winter prepares us, makes us ready for spring.
We are now at the halfway point between winter and spring. I always glean something important from the pagan festivals. Imbolc/Candlemass (celebrated February 2nd) punctuates this halfway point till spring. The tradition teaches that strength and courage are needed at this time to not just survive winter, but to actually thrive. How do we thrive when our children are sick with winter illness (sometimes long and seemingly unending), when the snow and snow days wreak havoc on: our rhythms, schedules, sanity. I imagine what helps us shift from survive to thrive is taking our medicine. I am calling it snow medicine. Maybe snow medicine is the winter teacher of surrender. Each season has its own surrender teacher because the capacity to know when and how to surrender is so important, essential, to being a human being. I consider surrender one of the core strength muscles (eight pack abs) in mamas. If you are not just going to survive motherhood (and basically you are a lifer – a mama for the rest of your life) and thrive (not just in mothering but in becoming your full, authentic, awesome self despite AND because you are a mother) you are going to need this muscle. And with any type of core strengthening – when we work the muscle we feel sore. But the sensation of soreness is also an indication of strengthening! I am imagining in the psyche and soul of each mama reading this you are being given snow medicine – you are being asked to surrender. Remember if you take the medicine, really take it in, you can become more alive AND you may feel sore. Please feel free to share with me what, where and how you are being called on to surrender.
I will share my own encounter with surrender this month, no one gets off the hook. We are all in it together. Kole left college. I am inwardly swirling, pulsating, writhing in a lot of feelings/soreness. Did I do something wrong? Did I make our home too comfortable and supportive (of course these voices in my head reflected back to me by well-meaning people)? Or is it time to step out of the way and let Kole take the reigns of his own life? Do I trust, release, let go . . . SURRENDER. And if I do, how do I know everything won't just fall completely and utterly apart . . . that my children will never grow up into whole, full, self responsible, living with purpose adults? My secret. I have been doing the mama workout for 20 years. Stronger and deeper then any fear I have about Kole, his present and future and my flaws (and I have a lot of those) is the strength of a well worked out surrender muscle. If surrender is one side of a polarity and authoring, guiding, designing is the other side – I am finding an aliveness in the tension of holding both (and not coming apart!). An aliveness that is not based on what someone outside of me does or does not do . . . but an inner aliveness that spreads to all parts of my being, maybe like the sap flowing from the roots to the buds. Tension, aliveness, all good, all growthful, all preparing me for inner buds, leaves, flowers, fruit yet to grow from the tree of my being. Old TV commercials used to warn, “do not try this at home alone!” My capacity to surrender muscle did not develop in isolation. I am also held by a web of support (I have slowly, painfully (sometimes) and intentionally woven for twenty years so that at moments of complete disorientation I can drop, lean, fall into . . . the women/men in my life who see and reflect my wholeness back to me . . . people in my life who are not afraid of my darkness or my light. Amen to workouts and webs.
Last but not least, I intended on taking a personal retreat this month (practicing the kind of self-care I preach). I cancelled it due to Kole returning home that week and knowing I needed to be present for him. However, I did reschedule it and as hard as it always is (even after twenty years!!) for me to leave the centripetal force of family life and work responsibilities, I also know nothing grows in me without retreat (return to self/soul) time. I am heading to Tulum last week in February. In the spirit of retreat medicine I want to remind you of the incredible holy mama mother’s day retreat in Tulum May 13th – 17th!!! There are ten mamas attending and there are still a few spots. I hope you will consider this gift to your self. I would also like to take this opportunity to ask a few research questions. Is there something you need that this retreat is not offering? Is the cost holding you back? Are you taking retreat time in another form? Any feedback about why you are not attending this retreat would be a gift to me. Big love. Deep bow.
I love the dark hours of my being
in which my senses
drop into the deep.
I have found in them, as
in old letters,
my private life, that is
already lived through,
and become wide and powerful
now, like legends . . .
Then, I know that there is room in me
for a second huge and timeless life.
big dark love.
holy mama mother’s day medicine
Early motherhood initiates us into the capacity to NOT be the center of our own life. Our baby becomes the center. The good news is that if we have a successful initiation, it is likely we will be protected from becoming completely self-absorbed, self-centered, self-involved. However, the initiation from “me” to “you” is not complete until we learn the whole dance.
Step one: We learn to move out from the center of our own life (in our thinking, feeling and actions) and allow our baby to hold this space.
Step two: We slowly (each mama’s dance is completely unique – with her own organic timing) move back into the center of our own self (soul). What this step lacks in grace it makes up for in humility.
Step three: We have the ability (growing wisdom) to move in and out of the center of our self (soul) to care for, love and grow our self and our baby at the same time. This step is full of complexities and challenges.
The danger (danger because all initiations contain an encounter with death -- of ego, psyche, soul or physical body) is that we get stuck in step one – stuck standing in the periphery of our own life OR we do not take the first step and remain fixed in the center. Either extreme leads to a pervasive stuckness, dis-ease or deadening of a mama’s sense of self and soul.
Step four: Repeat steps 1-3. This is the hardest step because step 4 requires us to know when a new move is required.
Step five: Steps 1-4 will not always be in sequential order.
Step six: It is mandatory that you create a support team to inspire you, challenge you, stand in for you, hold you, care for you, keep you company and love you – you can not do this dance alone (doing this dance alone is actually a form of self-violation).
You are invited to this dance your whole life.
An initiated mama is able to move from “me to you” and “you to me” – that is the complete dance. Entering the dance becomes the ability to be transformed by motherhood – allowing mothering to work you, rub you, grind you into the most essential expression of your authentic and undefended self. Ouch. Amen.
My wish for you this mother’s day is to practice step 2 by teaching your family and those that love and support you how to honor you for doing the most difficult, demanding, rewarding and profound work in the world -- growing another human being (beings) and yourself at the same time!
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