Deep breath. Tea and snack at my side. Many thoughts surfacing about how I can communicate the essence of my experience with you. I'm going to go slowly, okay? I really want to tell you so much...
Attending any retreat is risky. It asks us to stretch ourselves a little, gently, and it also brings up anxiety around our expectations. How will we be perceived? Will we be able to do what we set out to? What in the wild world will blindside us on our journeys there, such as flat tires, car rental snafus, getting lost, forgetting important items, separation anxiety? Just the beginning. How will we grow in our strength and confidence as we take these risks? How will we disappoint ourselves or let ourselves off the hook?
I've attended Squam Art Workshops two times before, once offsite with my family, and in 2009 onsite with my family. Both times, it was as a student. This was my first time alone, and...I was teaching. The week prior I was riddled with anxiety, but as soon as I pulled up through the "tunnel of trees", (as Miles referred to it when he was just about to be three), I felt the cramp and then the release that comes with initiation. I cried as I drove and it was cleansing. By the time I arrived on the land, that sacred land (!) I was fresh and ready to share my gifts, the very best of what I had to share right then.
I presented the idea that our Muse dwells deep within us and that we have to clear the way to access her reserves that eagerly await us, especially so if we don't already have a practice of doing this. One of my students emailed to say this:
I so enjoyed your mask class, that I was wishing I'd taken your medicine shawl class on the last morning. I was intrigued to hear just a little bit about your Native American beliefs and culture, I'd like to learn more, such a different way of thinking and regarding our earth, our souls, our journey. The best part of the class for me was the beginning time when we were sitting by the fire, you were "talking us out of our left brains", and into our right brains, talking about our animals, our energy centers - a real mental transformation, especially for someone like me who doesn't typically "color outside the lines"! I think a little bit of magic was happening! -Karen
I felt an immediate sense of the women who blessed me with their trust as they showed up so open and ready to dig into their creativity in a way that they hadn't yet before. I don't quite know how to tell you what it was like to be in a rustic room, fire roaring, wind howling through the cracks of our workshop doors, and be surrounded by such divine willingness to risk comfort and limits in order to push into that fertile den of our spirits. While I want to be accountable for the space I held and the content I created, I want to assure you that something else was at work. It's my belief that something else always is at work.
The work with the mask was not about creating an alternate persona to hide behind, but a way to give "face" to the parts of us that reside in our spirits. I discovered somewhere along this road that our souls have work to do, lessons to learn, ancient history to overcome. I have come to love this messy, human soul-work. Souls are full of purpose and drive, sometimes with a blend of fear or courage. But our spirits are where we know from.
The best way I can think to describe it is to tell you about a vision I had while I was flying back home: If it's true that we are born in the very beginning as pure light, from the chaos of creative energy, then it makes perfect sense that our life's work, our soul work will begin to unfold the moment we interact with the world and the egos that surround us, including our own. But then, events occur that bring us back in touch with the light.
As the second half of my own life begins, I find that I want more access to that light. I found that the women in my classes had been through a lot. They shared. Some of us even wept. No matter what their ages, I heard again and again that they wanted access to, and were returning to that light for fuel, for confidence, for sanctuary, for messages about how to proceed. I imagine it like a well, and as we get older, we realize that it's always been there for us, from the very beginning, only now, we can get to it and draw up nourishment and luminous expression from it.
I'm still integrating many of the gifts that presented at this workshop. (One of which was a hearty donation of sewing machines from Singer, which made it possible for us to have an abundance of tools onhand to create with.)
I still have much more to share. This is a bit of a show and tell of what came up for me as I was entering this new realm of imparting what I know. It's a start.
I'm still getting grounded from the experience, but I feel safe here saying that it was very powerful. Sometimes, at large retreats I can sense a hiding out, and a protection among participants, but this was not my experience at all. And I heard similar murmurings all over camp during my time there.
The vastness of the heart-openings I witnessed infused me with a mysterious and profound trust in the feminine process, something I'd imagined could not expand any more. As I watched the hands of these wild women shapeshift into the hands of their grandmothers and ancestors, fueled by something greater than we could have foreseen, I became filled with a kind of security in our abilities to grow and expand in ceremony, in circle, and in creativity...together.