On Sacred Ground

On Sacred Ground

Welcome to this waning moon energy, this opportunity to let go as we settle into this season of Autumn, with darker mornings and evenings…The descent has truly begun, and we are moving deeper towards the dark. How comfortable are you here? Are you looking forward to more darkness, to the cool change?  Is introspection a comfortable space for you?  I am day 29 of my menstrual cycle so really feeling this deep pull inward. I feel brittle because I am still trying to do outward things when really I just want to curl up in a red tent….or maybe lie on some warm sand…

This photo above is of my daughter and I are dancing on the Sand in Brunswick Heads.  It’s a sacred moment.  We  are feeling the joy of being connected to earth, sky, sea and each other. I want more sacredness in her life. I want a culture and community that honours her journey as a young woman, and the journey of all women, all men and all life. I want the earth to be honoured, but at this moment of descent I am feeling the loss of life, of so much life, and the dishonouring of the sacred.

And so I look to other ways of knowing and being. The Autumn Equinox is said to be the time when Persephone made her descent into the underworld. In the oldest versions of this story (pre Olympian myths)  she willingly went there. (1) She went because she heard the call of the dead.  She heard their pain and confusion. And this story is a seed for us, a kernel of truth. At this point in the cycle we too must descend, must return to the darkness and tend to those neglected parts of ourselves. It is a difficult journey for we might come face to face with uncomfortable truths, with feelings of loss and grief. But like Persephone if we willingly go there, if we pay attention and listen with compassion to those parts of ourselves, then we may become Queen of the Underworld. We may learn how to navigate this difficult terrain, so that this becomes a place of birth too. This dark place is a place where death becomes life. This is the great teachings of the Elusian Mysteries ( Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια)  surrounding Demeter and Persephone…And of course there is much here too on the mother and daughter relationship but that is for another time. There story is a story of the wisdom of the cycles.

I was blessed to hold space for a glad of women who come together to remember the wisdom of the cycles, to reflect on the ways in which we actually live this wisdom through our menstrual cycle, and throughout our lives. It is a reminder of how intimately linked with are with the earth and her days, her seasons, and her movement with the moon around the sun. Blessed work indeed, powerful remembering of our sacredness and our deep interconnection. Happy to chat further about this work, and the way it ripples out into the community, seeding change.  Bookings for my Saturday 3 June workshop can be found here.

Seven Sisters Dance

I was blessed to hold space on Feminine Embodiment with Sonia Stocco at the most recent Seven Sisters Festival. Our session explored how we might embody our truth, and be with what is arising within us.  (Just what I needed!) We noticed our feelings through our sensual experience of them, trusting that our bodies “speak” our deepest truths, and trusting our capacity to be with these truths.  We also explored how we might communicate these feelings verbally and non verbally.  And how these processes give rise to a deeper more intimate connection not only to our bodies but the good ground of our being, and with Life itself.Sonia brought her wisdom as a compassionate communication facilitator (based on Non Violent Communication) and massage therapist. It was a beautiful opening to presence for us and the participants who attended. We felt, moved, touched and danced. This photo shows some women engaged in the Shakti Awakening Dance practice, a process I learnt through a Lalita Devi Immersion with Chameli Ardagh. We will be exploring this process more deeply in the upcoming Autumn Equinox Dance.For me dancing these seasonal sabbats is an important way of honouring my ancestry and the earth.  It is a way of listening to the songs of the earth, and dancing to and for her. At these moments we can pause to reflect on the cycles of the earth and our own deep cycles held in and of the earth.  It is a sacred connection, a weaving of ourselves back into cyclical time.  Hopefully it is for you a space to commune with the sacred within you, within the group and out into the wider community of the whole earth.Due to illness I called off my last seasonal dance, so I haven’t held one since last spring. I am very excited to hold this space for the season of Autumn, or Marameet (in the Boonwurrung language) and this particular moment of balance between light and dark, between activity and rest, between the harvest and the loss…It is an invitation to honour both before we spiral into increasing darkness, and all that this entails. I trust some of you will feel called to join us in this exploration of your moving body in a safe and sacred space.

Autumn Equinox Dance

Thursday 23rd March
El Camino Wellness Studio
7.30 – 9.30 pm
Booking essential: embodiments@tpg.com.au
$25

Yesterday I woke early and went out into the dark morning, where the waning moon was still the brightest orb in the sky. She was in the west and on her way down. I listened to a beautiful “Open Sky” Meditation by Tara Brach, an invitation to listen with all of the body, and connect to the presence in everything.  Afterwards I set my intentions for the day, ‘to feel the spaciousness of my awareness and to be enlarged by all that I encounter.”  And I felt the sky responded to my intention setting with the beauty of changing light, from yellow, pink to purple and after a smattering of rain, a  delightful double rainbow. Its not so hard to feel spacious when the world speaks in such colour and movement.

But I do not always feel so open and expansive and sometimes I shut down my body. I still can close myself off from the ground of my being and from the earth too. There are times when I am closed in fear, when I run as far as I can from this discomfort. But on a personal level I am being called to open more fully to all that is arising, to allow the feelings, and to be OK with them all. As parents we need to model our self acceptance, we cannot fake it. Persephone whispers of this need for truth and authenticity. And I see this call in my children too.  And so I create spaces in which to deepen my connection and awareness. The work I do out in the world is as much for me as for you! And that seems OK too. This is the beauty of it.

Making a Medicine Drum

Pretty excited to be hosting another Make Your Own Medicine Drum Workshop with Bec Grace Funk of Priestess Your Life.  The drum is a sacred tool, an instrument of music, an intimate partner in the soul’s journey and woven through time with women’s spirituality.  In many ways it is a journey into the dark and out again, as we reflect on our own birth and the way this impacts upon our lives and our creative processes. It can be an invitation to become Queen of our own underworld, of being with the grief, and loss we may have encountered at our birth…and with all that was birthed with us. Creating a medicine drum is a powerful process providing women with the opportunity to revisit your birth as you birth your drum through a creative shamanic practice. We only have a couple of spots left for this workshop so please get in quick if you are interested.

Cultivating Community

In these times we need to come together, to find community, to build communion. What communities support and sustain you as you journey through this life?  Where can you go for the deep nourishment of compassion and acceptance? Where do you go to build your heart muscle and to learn the art of listening, of allowing? Where do you find the sacred container of stories, of song, of  earth? Much of this comes to me via the School of Shamanic Womancraft, my dear friendships with the beautiful people in my life, my family and in the places I hold sacred in my heart.

Several years ago I met two amazing women from the Earth Song community (not the witch camp!) and I really treasure the work that they and this community do. These lovely people have been holding space for many years now as a centre for ecology and spirituality, weaving these elements together….They host many wonderful talks, reflections, walks and many other offerings. I am hoping to make it to one of the Earth Song walking sessions where you are invited to walk mindfully and to Listen to the Earth. The next one, is on April 12, The Two Bays Walk in Dromana. I encourage you to check out their bountiful offerings.

To walk mindfully is a practice we can do at any time, with each step we take. Thich Nhat Hanh offers this advice….”If you have not arrived fully, 100 percent in the here and now, don’t take the next step.” (2) Hmm how to pause mid step, to rest comfortably until we come back to here and now? If we can step on this earth mindfully, if we can remember the abundance and generosity of the earth , we are coming some way towards that Aboriginal concept that, “everything come up out of (the) ground- language, people, emu, kangaroo, grass. That’s Law” (3)  This understanding of our utter interdependence upon this good ground seems to offer us as a way through the demise of current thinking/being. But we need to listen to the stories, really listen and understand the intimate knowledge embedded in them. We need to recognise and celebrate Indigenous Knowing, the wisdom in the land and walk together engaging with Country, with place and each other.

Thanks for reading,
See you next month….

Many Blessings
Sarah xxx

References:

(1) Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Ancient Greece, Beacon Press

(2) Thich Nhat Hanh, The Long Road to Joy

(3) Hobbles Danayari, dictated to Deborah Bird Rose in ‘A Distant Constellation’, Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media and Culture vol 3. no 2 (1990)

To Thine Own Self Be True

My son quoted this phrase to me tonight, having just asked why some Shakespeare lines were famous and others not, for to him they were all the same. So I asked him for a famous line as an example, and his response was this, “to thine own self be true” . Ah Shakespeare, such wise words indeed. I couldn’t help but smile.  We are all gifted this life on earth, and each of us is unique so it is our responsibility to gift back ourselves to the world in return.

Perfect words for this full moon in Aquarius. She of the unique take on the world, she who asks us to shine in our own way, to play, experiment, intuit and be true. So please take the time to shine on under the fullness of her loving gaze. You might just find more of yourself.

Lalita Devi and Janis Joplin

I have just spent around 28 days in a Lalita Devi Sadhana, exploring the consciousness of this Goddess within me. Mmm, she is feminine embodiment, she is Shakti in her full erotic power. She is divine, and she lives within us all. It was a beautiful ride, and is of course still unfolding, flowing within me. But even writing the word erotic has me feeling a bit wobbly. It is still a “no no” to be a sexual woman in this world. When I started writing this newsletter a few days ago  it was written in response to a letter by the editor of The Age, lamenting the lack of respect for girls and women. He cites horrible examples of girls’ sexuality being shamed. The editor argues “Teaching boys respect for girls falls to all of us ” And while this is true it seemed to miss the point. We as a culture shouldn’t have to go out of our way to teach this to boys, it should be the norm. We should live respect for each other. But we are so far from that, as is evidenced in all that happened to make him write the article. And so my first draft was written from a place of anger, frustration, shame, hurt, and humiliation. But I left it out. I was getting too caught up in the negative story. It can be powerful to write from this place but its also very dangerous. As was so sadly shown in the biopic on Janis Joplin that I saw at Melbourne International Film Festival.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oRLyBgz8W0

What an amazing woman, what a voice. She really sang her soul, she sang her pain, her truth and we could feel it. Its palpable. Through her singing we hear and see our own pain too. That is why upon her death, one young girl wrote to her mother and said, “even though I never met Janis, she was my best friend”. She spoke to us about our own hurts, and wounds. She sang her misery, her loneliness and confusion, and we heard our stories too. But her wounds were very deep, and part of the reason she ended up dead so young. She couldn’t actually be with her wounds on her own. She couldn’t be by herself. Despite all that singing and releasing, she was still a young girl in pain, a young girl who was awarded The Ugliest Male ” award by a group of young boys at college. A girl who was made fun of, teased and bullied for being different, for standing up for her truth. I cried and cried at the end of this film. So sad.


Such unrecognised beauty, unrecognised  by others, by most importantly unrecognised by herself. When we listen to the voices of our culture, we often fail to see our own unique beauty. This culture doesn’t recognise or celebrate the fullness of women, of woman. No we have to do that for ourselves and each other. We have to say yes to the sacred within. And a huge part of that is reclaiming our sexuality.

So being oneself is not easy. And there are degrees to which we honour our truth. And for me, when I respond to the violence against women from a place of violence I am feeding the negative energy, I am in a way legitimising the violence, by giving it energy, attention, intention. And so i remember Lalita Devi who confronts the demons with her circle of sisters. They, her Goddess sisters come with her, and sit in sacred circle. They do their work, they bring their story, their truth, and do not bother engaging with the demons’ story.

So this helps us, shows us a way of showing up, fully embodied just as Lalita Devi and the Goddesses do. They are swirling in their ecstatic energy. They are not  responding to the fight saying you are wrong or trying to prove something to the demons Instead they show up fully in their own power, Lalita Devi is swirling with erotic energy…And this eroticism is not about simply about sex. This eroticism is far greater, it is the creative impulse, the swirling ecstatic energy of life, of the whole earth, of the universe, and the universes. It is the vast expanse of energy out of which life and everything emerges and dissolves. And this is within us too. And so we remember that this demonising of our sexuality arises out of the demons fear of the incredible power within us. We don’t want to walk away from this power, to pretend its not there, to feed the shame. No. We stand in our power, allowing ourselves to feel this power. Ha!

We need to feed our own fire, and so sisters we do gather, we do come together to shine in our own unique way, celebrating womanhood, celebrating the feminine. So gather in your circles sisters, find a local red tent, join a dance group, heal your wounds so that you can step into your truth, and “to thine own self be true” . For the more we do this, the more this generates energy and excitement, and the more energy is generated and so it goes on. As the mythic astrologer Caroline Casey, says, “Live as though the desirable story were true, and our assignment  really, (is) to animate, magnetize, and spiral forth into the memosphere (a word I’ve coined, that I like) the most irresistibly all-inclusive story, going “Come! We need everybody! We need everybody’s awakened imagination!” and to frolic in the realm of culture”..

And Lalita Devi’s final victorious act is one of inclusion. She sends her arrow of love to pierce the demons heart. She loves him. So much love that he can no longer resist. Ok that is a huge practice I know….a challenging assignment so let’s start with living “as though the desirable story were true” lets start by acting as if, the feminine is fully rooted in her power on this planet, and that the masculine and feminine are united in such a way that our relationship to each other and the earth is healed.Well that’s my vision. What’s yours?

This full moon offers you a time for synchronicity, for intuition, for freeing up big time. So go for it, give thanks for that which you want manifest in the world. ..but make sure its inclusive, and remember Uranus is a trickster, so coyote might be playing with you too. Humour helps. Oh indeed.

A full moon ritual

There is so much beauty in the world, and spring is on her way. Take a moment to step into nature, to step into this moment, fully bodied and let the full moon energy rise up in you from bare feet on the earth, to the tips of your fingers reaching out in the sky. You might find yourself called to dance. And why not? Soak in the moons rays, her magic and her moods. Follow the impulses of your body, the deepest stirrings arising from within. Let this be your prayer. Call Lalita Devi into your being, and let Her inspire you!

Drumming ourselves home
Much of my work is to make manifest this vision I hold dear to my heart. I  hold women circles, dances, and rituals of various kinds all in the name of bringing home the feminine, of reconnecting to body and earth. So I am super exited to have 12 delicious drum frames and deer hides in my house for our Make your Own Medicine Drum Workshop on Sunday. As you would all know by now, Drumming is to me, a way home. When we drum we can reconnect to our own heart beat, and to the heartbeat of mother earth. We can call in spirits and allies for all the help we need to create the world we want to live in. This is magic in action.I am so excited that 12 women have come together to weave their own magic and to be part of the collective story of re imagining the drum as a sacred tool for personal and collective healing.

My partner in this workshop is Bec Funk, an astrologer, artist  and co facilitator of the Victorian Four Seasons Journey which is new this year! She will be working alongside the inimitable Nymh Fox Harper on the inaugural Victorian arm of the School of Shamanic Womancraft. They will be your teachers, inviting you to dive into the sacred mystery, inviting you home via the four seasons journey. If this is calling you or simply tweaking your interest, follow that call. This might just be the synchronicity you were looking for. I am indebted to my first teacher Jane Hardewick Collings, and to all the mermaids who journeyed with me, and of course to the apprentices which included the beautiful Nymh, dear sister of Green. You might just find me there too, apprenticing with them.

A Seven Sisters Gig
And finally on this full moon i give great thanks for being accepted at Seven Sisters Festival in March 2017. I will be holding space with my dear dear friend Sonia Stocco to run a workshop on feminine embodiment. Delicious Heh! Sonia works at Healing Well in Castlemaine, as a remedial massage therapist but that title is too limiting for her amazing work. She is a woman of many talents and skills, including Cranial Sacral therapy, Bowen Therapy, and her intuition is loud and clear! She also runs workshops on compassionate communication, so check her out if you live up that way.

Stay tuned for my upcoming Spring Equinox Dance to be held on or as close to the Spring Equinox, September 23 as possible, and have a look at my webpage for my October offerings, MoonSong Workshop for Women- Reconnecting with the Women’s Mysteries and MoonDance a Feminine Embodiment Workshop for Women. Oct 22/23 in Castlemaine.

Thanks for reading,
See you next month….
Blessings Sarah xxxx

You can check out Caroline Casey on radio station http://coyotenetworknews.com/

Feminine Embodiment- July ’16

Ecstatic Dance

Tonight,  is the full moon eve. This night was once a celebration of Artemis. It was the culmination of an ecstatic dance festival held each month in her name. On this night we would have gathered around her sacred tree. We would have gathered to dance around her as the sacred tree. We would have danced full bodied and free. It is said that the animals danced too. This certainly is worth remembering and reclaiming. Look out for such an opportunity in the coming months. Maybe we can birth a new ritual dance.

Birthing a Drum

Speaking of birthing I am feeling rather tired having birthed a Medicine Drum today. As part of my preparations for our upcoming Drum Making Workshop, I made a drum. This one had a long gestation but was finally created in two stages. The cutting last night and the lacing today. The drum is such a gentle and wise teacher. No matter how many times I work with the drum, always the lessons come. This time I learnt about allowing others in to my process. And so my husband Michael helped cut the hide for me. Ah that was a welcome intervention and what was most welcome was that I was more than OK to have his assistance….which I can tell you has not always been the case. And then this morning I realised that I had left the inner rim out of the bath, and so had to delay the lacing for several hours while it was softened in the water! Again I remained calm, and pleased for any learning that I can offer others when mistakes happen. How good it is to truly see the learning in our mistakes.

The lacing went smoothly but the tightening was tough on my arthritic finger. And like so many things it is a whole body process and after several hours of drum making i was getting tired.  My hands were aching and I was running out of energy. “How much longer? I have had enough.” Those thoughts did go through my mind, and then I knew I was close. Any thoughts of abandonment generally mean, the end is nigh. And so it was. Now my beautiful baby lies on my bathroom floor, slowly drying. It will be seven days before I can play her. And I too soon will be lying for a good rest.

Rest and Surrender

One of my favourite postures now is a variation of the corpse pose. I lie on the floor with my knees up and do nothing. Yes nothing. A wise man (Shiatsu practitioner, Glenn Polley) who has only worked with me once but could easily tell I had overworked adrenals gave me some sage advice, do nothing. Don’t think about breathing this way, or meditating, or having to do anything. Just lie in this position and allow the psoas muscle to soften. Don’t  try and make it relax, don’t force, just allow. Ah sounds simple, and it is. And yet when you have spent a fair part of your life armouring, then surrender takes some courage. So this is part of my new practice.. and.all part of my greater practice to surrender.

Surrender is not a giving up at all, but a giving into. It is a practice of human becomingness, of becoming more human. And then becoming one with the more than human world.

We spent two weeks in Tasmania. One full week in The Tarkine, the Old Growth forests where rest is part of every day. We rested our heads against Huon pines that have been on this earth for over 3000 years. We wandered over decaying logs, soft ground alive with moss, lichen and funghi. Oh the colours of the funghi! We wondered at the mystery of this interplay, this good green life, and this good brown death. Life and death, rising and falling and rising and falling, cycling with the nutrients, as the nutrients. And it rained on and on.This was rainforest after all. There is such wisdom in these forests, in watching and listening and being in these forests. We can learn to surrender in these forests.

Suprabha Seshan who lives in a rainforest in India says, “Ende koottare, mimikree cheyyam.” (Pretend you are the rain.) You are these raindrops that hammer so hard, your sounds can be heard from afar, a million leaves thrashing the drums of your descent. You are the trees receiving this rain, breaking the flow, harnessing its tide, guiding it down to the leaf litter below. You are the twigs, the branches and boles, the soaring buttresses of trees where epiphytes grow. You are the lichen, the orchid, the fern cloaking the trees, soaking the rain, absorbing its fall.”

This is her practice to help her ” survive the painful and unceasing awareness that the planet is going down,” We all need such practices that can sustain us, energise us, and allow us to rest in the deep interconnection of the all that is.  I hope you find your ways of deep connection.

And so now I bid you good night and sweet dreams.

Blessings
Sarah xxx

P.S contact me if you are interested in making a drum!

Notes:

Charlene Spretnak, author of the Lost Goddesses of Early Greece gives us a collection of pre- hellenic myths. She gives us the myths before the Olympians were ensconced in the mythology, before the patriarchy derided the Goddess and diminished her powers,

SUPRABHA SESHAN  author of People of the Rain
Suprabha Seshan lives at the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and works as an educator and restoration ecologist. She was winner of the 2006 Whitley Award and is an Ashoka Fellow. She occasionally travels to give a talk titled “Rainforest Etiquette in a World Gone Mad”. 

Dark Words

Last session in the Temple of She! we dived into the murky depths of the dark. We visited with the crone, the hag, the Dark Goddess. And as the temple dancers lay cushioned on the ground, i read them some words. I let the words woo them into the mystery and divinity of the dark…I let the words out to weave their magic….So it is with much gratitude that i share the words of three amazing women with you…these are just snippets, fragments from the richness of their worlds, go and get the books and read the rest yourself….

excerpts From La Loba, in Women who run with the Wolves,  Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 

“The sole work of la loba is the collection of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the wordl. Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures, the deer, the rattlesnake, the crow. But her specialty is said to be wolves….

wildwomenShe creeps and crawls and sifts thought the montanas, mountains and arroyos, dry river beds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful while sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing.

And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it and sings out…That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred.”

Excerpt from Kissing the Hag, Emma Restall Orr 

“Hag is not a nice word.

Yet there comes a time in every woman’s life when nice is tedious, when nice is insipid, seeping into the soul like souring milk, warping the mind. Indeed nice can at times, be all that is offensive.

kissingthehagHag, its a fascinating word. As I speak it aloud the sound as smooth as an out breath, Aspirated its vowel is extended and then clipped as if with a warning kick of death. It is a primal work, formed with barely any effort required. It whispers of cold wind, of thick fog and the stench of stagnant water. It is word robed in spider’s webs, dusty and worn, unsure where to place itself on the shiny veneers of today. Lingering st the edges of life, it waits to tun a broken nail down some blackboard of the soul.

No hag is not a nice word. Like princess or pole dancer the word quietly slips us a picture, and though for each of the image may differ slightly , it invariably embodies all that is declared to be simply and irrefutably not nice in a woman.”

From Jane Meredith, Diving Deep Listening to the Dark Goddess

Do you hear that faint voice calling to you from within, from your dreams, or from underneath your daily life….do you sense something almost beyond the range of your sensing. Do you dare to leave your safety and set out to investigate?

There are many ways the Dark Goddess calls to us. When we sense something missing form our lives, though we have no idea what that might be.. When we have everything that should make us happy, but we are not happy. When we are struck by depression ir inexplicable illness or doubt; when we sense ourselves becoming more and more isolated or fragmented or pressured…. When we long for death, or change, or oblivion. When we meet that same, familiar set of problems yet again but have no idea what we could do to change it. When we fee; we are yearning for the impossible, or we wont let ourselves yearn, when we long for change but fear it.

lilithShe will be there, calling to you. The question is, will you listen…

Our next gathering will also invite the Dark Goddess. We will journey together in the week of the Winter Solstice and we welcome the Hag/the Crone/The Wierd Sister/  Do yo welcome her too?

Blessings Sarah

image above of Lilith from Mesopotamia.