This October twelve women courageously walked deeper into their pain, grief and despair at this fall’s retreat entitled “Healing Yourself, Healing the World: A Self-Compassionate Path through Grief.” Like “Kali” the Dark Goddess in the Hindu pantheon, we found that our fear about the unknown, the darkness of our sorrow, was digestible when met with breath, deep embodied practices and a container of women holding and feeling our own pain. We walked into the fire together as we created the container we learned we could trust deeply.
What allows this safety and trust? First, we came with an attitude of curiosity and a commitment to heal.
Second, we shared our fears and needs, hopes and dreams together, setting the intention for a container to hold it all —no parts were left out — where all our stories could be told openly. We learned about trauma and its impact on the human nervous system and how healing from trauma involves embodiment or going into our bodies’ sensations and feelings to process the emotional impacts. Our bodies then become our healing container –the inside container that we expand in order to hold and process what needs to be known.
Third, we came together in deep connection with each other. We shared deep hugs, caring words, silence and deep respect for each other, broken but still whole, however we came together. Coming out of silence showed our capacity for relational mindfulness, a way of deeply honoring each other intimately with our listening. In this way we created our outer healing container together.
Learning to create our own safety in our bodies requires the tool of self-compassion, or an intimate connection with ourselves and others where we feel loved and accepted, held and comforted by kindness. Learning Self-Compassion practices together helped us develop our own individual self-compassion containers. Then we continued to sit together in mindfulness for deep listening, for stilling our minds and receiving rather than doing anything. Stillness, silence and darkness was paired with blindfold walks with a partner, gently witnessing each other with compassion. Each step, a tiny move closer to feeling the edges of our painful darkness, yet closer than ever before. Slowing down gave us glimpses of how to do this, even as we were wanting all the answers and going too fast to make it happen. We learned what actually worked by being in the process. We practiced “Beginner’s Mind,” an attitude of mindfulness that allows us to start fresh without expectations or past history clouding our process.
Because grief is so primal, it lies out of the rational mind’s purview, and more in the body’s realm of awareness. It is walking into the unknown every time. As our hearts were breaking open, we found refuge there in the womb of darkness and the natural world. Walking silently in the forest, feeling the trees and their loving embraces, walking the rocky edges of the half-frozen St. Vrain Creek and sitting silently in the hushed sunlight.
From moving through slow and deeply embodied yoga practices to moving our bodies gracefully up to the rocky ledges and adoring the natural beauty—being present and allowing each moment to be exactly as it is. Love poured forth from everywhere holding us in a deep embrace. I have never witnessed such deep listening and attunement —the deepest path to experiencing self-compassion, a way to deeply hold yourself in kindness and caring when you are hurting.
But when we came together to speak our Truth, to name these very feelings openly and fiercely in our grief ritual, we released a layer that began our deep unraveling in the final two days. Speaking out loud what you deeply feel breaks you free, allowing deep shifts within that hurtle you down a chasm of fire and water. This chasm is available when you create the right container to hold yourself for the ride. When you feel your container can hold you.
Our Grief, or Stage 3: Deep Diving, became our sacred rite of passage to help us move into our pain and to the next stage of the Midlife Voyage of Transformation: Stage 4:Rebirthing.
In this stage we began creating the next pages of our lives and re-balancing ourselves with the Divine Feminine. We learned how the many forms of the Goddess helps us find our roles and gifts as they are appearing for women in midlife expanding and growing deeply. So many roles and gifts that show us who we have become or can become as mature women that our current culture doesn’t recognize or honor. We learned the power of receptivity, which only comes by trusting blindly our intuition and deep knowing from our bodies, not our minds.
Walking into the fire of transformation can only happen when the healing container is large and ready. These women were ready. These women opened their hearts to each other, to the trees and rivers, to the earth and sky. To all living creatures in order to feel fully alive again. Feeling the full force of our emotions, our authenticity rising up into the natural container of love all around us, we ignited deep healing and personal freedom.
Deep Diving into the darkness (of the Underworld) leads to Rebirthing or The Ascent upward again into your life as the New You. This transformation awaits you when you find a healing container to hold your deepest pain. The powerful story of Ianna, of ancient Sumeria, and her journey into the Underworld, and other mythic stories informed our practice. These women created the powerful container from which deep connection and compassion thrives. It was a powerful retreat that will again be offered next October 2023. Join us!