Saturday, November 16, 2013

Autum Healing Circle (letter to my missionary sister)

Hi, Cow!
Your thoughts about Buddhism in your last email were really fascinating. I hope we can talk more about it in a few weeks. I love how much you treasure your experiences. You should! They are precious! I think you have a gift of savoring the abundant pieces of life and acknowledging their depth. I'm glad you have that gift. I'm glad you have been able to connect and feel for so many people. There was such a rare chance you would ever see their faces, and there you are...

I haven't even journaled about what happened last night, because I was so full of glory that I didn't want to commit to a single scrap of language, it seemed powerless compared to the tribal drum beating in my chest with such hope and happiness. I feel such resounding, deep fulfillment in my life right now. I woke up and thought, I bet Cow feels this way about some of the really powerful days she has--like you wish you could stop and just let that gladness reverberate and bask for awhile before having to have another sleep, another day, more packed chaos of life, another box of emotions to manage. Then you have this incredible memory of how you felt, but you have to stack new moments on top of it.

So I had my autumn healing circle; I invited the women in the postpartum group and some other friends I thought would appreciate it, and encouraged them to bring women who would benefit. It was so powerful. I'm really just so happy because I did so much research about healing ritual in other cultures and tried so hard to find ideas that I could adapt, but I ended up just deciding that the most important thing was to make the space for expressing sacred loss and pain, and to trust that the space would be filled, and that the individuals who participated would know how to do the work they needed to do. And they DID! I was so in awe of everyone's courage. I love this quote by Bruce Perry: “All people at all times, in all cultures, and in all places of the world have dealt with traumatic events and loss in the same way. They sat around the campfire and retold the story of the battle, the loss, and the trauma. Those closest to them bore witness to the story by saying “It is so”; while comforting and nurturing each other. They created songs, stories, and art to memorialize their feelings and thoughts about what had happened.
So today… Let us tell the stories; let us say it was so; let us dance and sing; let us break bread together; and let us hold each other.” -Bruce Perry

I ended up just creating most of what we did at the circle, using the experience I've had with blessingways as a tentative guide, but I felt free to combine therapy and art and meditation with other stuff I just made up...this is what I shared at the beginning:

"This healing circle is a soul-guided ritual. In light of this, we ask that everyone stay mindful, flexible, and speak consciously. We also ask that everyone stay present during the ritual, focusing on the work you need to do and sending others here your love and support. We all have a lot going on in our lives, so if at any time you become distracted by your own thoughts and feelings, please acknowledge them, but then put them away somewhere safe, so you can do the work you came to do tonight.
The purpose of this Healing Circle is to provide a space where you can do the work you need to do for yourself. You may have recently lost someone precious to you, you may be grieving what could have been, have experienced trauma, a dramatic life transition, a betrayal or serious disappointment, or maybe you are struggling to give yourself compassion right now. This will be an evening dedicated to the wounded, and we have all been wounded by something. We will “make the quiet” necessary to feel, weep, explore, or connect—whatever feels necessary to honor your loss. Because of the very intimate nature of the work being done, when you are asked to share, you have the option to do so silently if you prefer, and we will hold the space and wait with you until you have done the work you need to do.

A healing circle has the power to evoke very deep emotions. Should anyone in the circle feel the need to release tears, we ask that you please not touch them or offer them a tissue unless they ask for that. Though well-intended, offerings of comfort can actually shut down a wonderful release process. This healing circle is a no-fault ritual, so please don’t be concerned if you’ve never been to a healing circle before. In this safe and sacred circle, ALL your contributions will be honored."

I had asked them to write a 10-12 word "poem" describing what they feel they need to heal from (they could share it or not). This caused them to start doing some important work before they even came to the event because they had to think through their experiences and their pain and decide, make tiny choices, about what to express. I made the 10 word limit bc I thought people would feel intimidated by the instruction to write a poem, but THEY BLEW MY MIND. Most women just went ahead and wrote a full-on poem, and it was incredible to hear what they brought. Betrayal, abuse, death, heartache, self-loathing, fear, they bravely piled it in the center. The poems were unbelievably profound and so personal. After each women spoke, she went to the middle and added something to our salt bowl and mixed it in--oil, roses ("November roses") fruit, tea mix. It was so grounding to be able to push your hands into something solid and move it around after going to a deep emotional place. We sang together, we cried together, I saw people instinctively scoot closer and hold one another when someone was processing something particularly difficult. I invited a therapist I used to work with who is also a yoga instructor to do some body work and that was another incredible piece of the evening. Such beautiful, kind imagery she created. I wish I had written it all down, just taken notes instead of participating. My friends' mother came up to me and thanked me for inviting her because "she did things for me tonight that no one else has done for me in my life." And honestly, thats true for me, too--something subtle she said made me feel a glimmer of possibility that I could change the way I felt about an aspect of my body I've always despised.

y friends Wendy and Laura sang this song:
Low, lie low, my dear little one,
Under the starlight, under the sun.
Under the bluebells, under the grass.
Low,—lie low as the solemn wheels pass.
Yesterday, yesterday two little feet
Ran through the meadow, the wildflowers sweet.
Snowtime and flowertime cover you deep.
Low,—lie low as I lay you to sleep.1
Blessed, oh blessed the day of our Lord,
Blessed the dead—who rise at his word,
Blessed the angels who swing wide the door.
Blessed the time when I hold you once more.
Blessed the time when I hold you once more.

There were a lot of tears. But as everyone said afterwards, there was connection and honoring in those tears, not helpless sadness. Many women I talked to alone described feeling that they were moving forward. They said it felt so good to just be surrounded by loving people and to just be with what they were feeling instead of pushing it away, trying to walk around it, save it for a more convenient time.

Another cool moment for me was that a friend who lives in Maryland happened to be in town bc she is caretaking her sister who is very ill, and I invited her to come. I didn't know it, but another guest (my friend's mother) had grown up with this girl and has known her her entire life. I watched her hold my friend as she wept at one point and I was so astonished that this moment was happening and so proud of myself for trying to in my clumsy way to facilitate something that had do many reverberating affects. I saw my friend whose is experiencing a lot of pain in her marriage say "I am enough. I am worthwhile." Someone came with serious bitterness towards another person who was present and she  hadn't wanted to come, saying she didn't want to be around her. I encouraged her to do her own work. She did and she told me afterwards that she felt "truly purged" and she was ready to bury her weapons of war, as it were. We did many, many other activities but I won't tell you about all of them, because I'm hoping to do a healing circle for each season (so November, February, May, and August) and I would love if you could come to one sometime! I was actually wishing that you and Mary could have been there last night. I know you would have loved it.

Ah, thanks for listening! I just feel so grateful for this space I am beginning to carve out as a leader, as a wounded healer, as a creator of sisterhood/tribal connection. It feels so significant and genuine to me. There are no rules, I can just be myself and respond to my intuition. I love this! I feel it is so needed and I feel so good that for all my flaws, I have the capacity to put things like this together. It also makes me feel so hopeful for my relationship with my daughter. When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt like I had nothing to offer a little girl except for a long string of bad news. Now I feel confident that although I will surely keep evolving, there is a rich world I can travel with her.