This past weekend, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. I’ve been going for 30 years and I’ll probably keep going for 30 more, because it fills me up, inspires me, and nourishes my creative spirit. Four days of great music, surrounded by tall trees, big prairie skies, and interesting people is a little like what I imagine heaven to be.
Inspired by all there is to see and hear, I always come home with a collection of jewels – little pieces of lyrics scribbled on my program, stories gathered from conversations with friends or strangers, colourful photos of the bubble man or the stilt-walkers, new cds of my latest favourite artist, and a trinket or two from the handmade village.
Everything inspires me, and when I return home, I feel like I need a week to digest it all.
Most of the quotes I pour over afterward come from the singer-songwriters. But this year’s gem comes from the artisan who made the beautiful necklace I brought home.
Ro Walton (of Windy Tree) makes one-of-a-kind jewelry from branches of the arbutus tree (which I saw plenty of when I was on Whidbey Island in May). Each one has a unique design, carved free-hand on a scroll saw.
Marveling at the intricate designs in his pieces, I remarked “you must have a steady hand.”
Ro’s response: “It’s more about having a steady mind.”
“If my mind’s not in the right place,” he continued, “I have to do other things like cutting and sanding. Only when my mind is steady can I approach the scroll saw for the intricate work.”
I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Only when we do the work of steadying our minds can we do our most intricate work.
That’s what I’m focusing on during the month of July – my own quest for a steady mind. Work-wise, Winter and Spring were a bit of a whirlwind, and then some things in my personal life got a little shaky, so I am doing my best to seek some stillness so that the really deep and intense art that wants to grow out of me can do so.
I’ll be going away next week for a few days of intense writing, trying to wrap up the book that I’ve come back to after putting it on a shelf for a couple of years. I have found that the only way I can really dive into that kind of writing is to go away and be silent, so I will do that for a few days. In between the writing, I’ll wander the beach, play with art supplies, and read good books. All of these things help me maintain the kind of steady mind that lets me write.
The necklace that I bought from Ro depicts a tree hanging from the edge of a cliff. (The tree is cut through the wood so that the design shows through on the back as well.) This is the one that appealed to me most because of the challenge and improbability of a strong and healthy tree rooting itself in such a precarious place. I imagine that far below it, the waves are crashing against the rock and above it, the storms are rolling in. In the middle of all of this chaos, the tree remains firmly rooted.
Somehow, the tiny seed that planted itself in the crack of a rock found enough stillness and sunlight and rainwater to grow into a strong tree. After all of the hard work it took to flourish there, that tree now offers a rare place to rest for the birds flying overhead.
This is the story I want to tell of my life – a story of rootedness and strength, despite the chaos all around me, despite the fact that sometimes I feel like I’m clinging to the edge of a cliff. This is what I want to be – a place of solace and support for those who’ve been tossed by the wind and the waves.
To live that story, I must make sure I put down strong roots and that I practice having a “steady mind” in the midst of chaos. That’s what next week is about.
I encourage you to do the same. Find a way to steady your mind, whether that means staying off social media for awhile, going on retreat to a friend’s cabin, taking long walks every morning, attending a music festival, doing yoga, or committing to some art playtime every week. And plant your roots deeply into the rock that is the God of your understanding.
Giving yourself that kind of time and nourishment is not selfish, it’s essential if you want to do your best work. Whether you are an artist, a teacher, a business owner, a hospice worker, or a stay-at-home parent, you need a steady mind, a steady heart, and a steady body. You’ll only get that when you give yourself what you need.
Then, and only then, will you be the kind of tree the birds can rest in after their long flight.
Be good to yourself this summer. Plant your roots, steady your mind, and give yourself the nourishment you need.
If you’re looking for something to nourish you, perhaps Mandala Discovery might help? It starts again in August.
Interested in more articles like this? Add your name to my email list and you’ll receive a free ebook, A Path to Connection. I send out weekly newsletters and updates on my work.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
Last year, as the year ended, I shared a special mandala prompt for reflecting on the passing year before you invite in the new year. In that prompt, you were invited to divide your circle into 4 quadrants, with the words “grace, grief, growth, and gratitude” in each of the four quadrants. Then, with some reflection of the year that had passed, you filled each of the four quadrants with the things that happened that were connected to those four words.
The process of filling those four quadrants helps you see the year for ALL that it was, not just the happy things and not just the hard things. Sometimes we get stuck in only one story and we assume that that story defines us, but each of us walks through many stories and each of those stories teaches us something. Life is never a perfect balance, but it’s also never only one of those four things.
The Reflection Mandala is a useful process to do every year at this time. Take some time this week to create your own simple four quadrant mandala for 2014. Many of us have kept gratitude journals, and that is a beautiful practice that has been transformational in my own past, but sometimes that’s not enough. This practice offers an extension of that, where focusing not only on the gratitude, but on the grief and growth and what may have been really hard to walk through helps us recognize all of the complexity of our lives and all of the things that change us and stretch us.
Here’s an idea for extending the practice of reflecting on grace, growth, gratitude, and grief throughout the year…
Find, buy, or make four containers that you can keep on your desk, bookshelf, or nightstand. (I purchased 4 small jars at the dollar store for $2.)
Write (or print stickers, as I did) the words grace, grief, gratitude, and growth on each of the containers. Embellish the containers however you wish.
Cut up small pieces of paper that you can keep in an envelope close to your containers.
On a regular basis throughout the year (daily or weekly), reflect on how grace, grief, gratitude, and growthhave been present for you. Write notes on slips of paper and slip them into which ever jar that reflection belongs in. You can do all four each day, or just do the ones that most apply to that day. Try to maintain a reasonable balance, filling each jar instead of focusing on only one.
Here are some prompts for the four categories:
This one is simple – what are you grateful for today? What made you happy? Who showed love or compassion? What did you have fun doing?
A simple definition of grace is “anything that shows up freely and unexpectedly that you did nothing to earn”. It can be a beautiful sunset that catches you by surprise as you’re driving home, an unexpected kind gesture from a friend, or forgiveness that you don’t feel like you deserve. What was unexpected and unearned? How did the beauty of the world stop you in your tracks? How did friends extend undeserved forgiveness or offers of help?
What made you sad? Who do you miss? What feels broken? What old wounds are showing up? What did you lose? What disappointed you?
What stretched you? What did you learn? What were your a-ha moments? Who served as your teacher? How did you turn hard things into opportunity for growth?
Fill your jars with meaning throughout the year.
It’s quite possible that some items will show up in multiple jars. For example, something that causes grief will probably also offer you opportunities to grow. And sometimes (like when friends show up to support you) grace shows up in the darkest of moments.
Keep the containers in a place where they’ll be visible and easy to access and where you’ll remember to fill them up. You might want to do this as a morning practice before you start your day or an evening practice as you reflect on the day that passed.
At the end of the year, create a new four-quadrant mandala, take all of the pieces out of the jars and write or glue them onto the mandala. Reflect on your well-balanced year.
Start filling the jars again next year.
Once you’ve reflected on the year that passed, you may want to continue with a variety of other processes that will help you welcome and plan for what wants to unfold in 2015. A Soulful Year may help.
If you’d like to receive a mandala prompt every day in January 2015, consider signing up for Mandala Discovery.
Last week, our family held our annual celebration of my son’s short life. Every year, on the day that he was born (and died), we visit the common grave where his cremated remains are buried with those of many other stillborn babies. Some of us left mementos on the gravestone, some of us shed tears, and all of us wondered what he’d have been like as a fourteen-year-old.
the shared grave where Matthew is buried
And then we did what we always do – we went for ice cream. Because visits to graves are best followed with ice cream. Because it’s celebration and not just sorrow that marks the place he had in our lives.
Fourteen years ago, his short life ended quietly in the night, after I’d fallen asleep listening to lullabies. “Sleep sound in Jesus” played in my earbuds as I drifted off to sleep, trying to block the noises of the hospital. Some time after that, his heart stopped beating. In the morning, the ultrasound showed a lifeless baby. That afternoon, I gave birth in the usual labouring-through-pain way, knowing all the while that I was birthing death and not life. The next day we went home with empty arms. The next week my full breasts finally realized that there would be no babe suckling on them.
We’d tried so hard to save him. Three weeks earlier, the same doctor who delivered him had guided a young intern in the surgery that failed and resulted in my water breaking. After that, I’d spent most of my time in a hospital bed, trying to keep still to avoid labour, being injected with steroids to increase his development, and hoping against hope that he would beat the odds and survive.
Matthew’s tiny clothes
Now, fourteen years later, I look back on those three weeks and know that my life is different because of them.
When I landed in that hospital bed, something cracked open in my heart. Leading up to that time, I’d been on a trajectory toward “success”. I had a job with an impressive title, employees I enjoyed working with, two beautiful daughters, a good marriage, a house in the suburbs, a camper at the lake, and the kind of financial security most people envy. Suddenly though, when I could do nothing but sit quietly to try to save my baby, I came face to face with the truth about my life.
I felt empty.
My life was full, but my spirit was empty.
I’d followed a path that was not my own. I’d pursued a career that seemed like the right fit because of the way it allowed me to use my skills in writing, leadership, and communication, but I was telling the wrong stories. I was communicating about things that didn’t really matter to me. More importantly, though, I’d ignored my own spiritual well-being for the pursuit of wealth and success.
Those three weeks in the hospital awakened a spiritual longing in me. I began writing in my journal again. I prayed. I meditated. I had deep conversations with people about things that mattered. I sat in silence and listened to the whispers of the Spirit. Most of all, I paid attention.
“When you are stuck in a spiral, to change the aspects of the spin you only need to change one thing.” – Christina Baldwin
That hospital stay (and the grief that followed) changed the direction of my spiral. Outwardly, my life didn’t change dramatically right away (I stayed in that career for a number of years before I was ready to leap into something new), but inwardly everything changed. I started a quest that lead me to the work of Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea, Margaret Wheatley, and many other wise teachers. I began to explore the Feminine Divine and I fell in love with circles, spirals, labyrinths, and mandalas. I found opportunities to travel the world and to listen to women’s stories. I learned about The Circle Way and The Art of Hosting. I found the kind of friendships that fostered my spiritual quest and had lots and lots of meaningful conversations. I started teaching workshops on creative spirituality and self-discovery and eventually I launched my own business.
In all of that questing, something incredible happened. I found myself.
I discovered who I was when the masks were taken off, when the outward success didn’t matter anymore, and when I was honest about what I wanted in life. I discovered what was at the heart of my longing and I learned to pay attention. I have never looked back since.
Do I wish my son had lived? Of course I do. Do I regret that he lived such a short time and that his death changed my life? Of course I don’t. His death was the catalyst for an incredible journey that helped me find my way back to myself.
Ever since Matthew died, I’ve known that the impact of his short life was going to reach further than just me and my family. I knew that I would eventually write about his story and use it to help other women find their own paths back to themselves. I tried to write a book about it a few years ago, but then my mom died, and I wasn’t quite happy with the way the story was taking shape, so I set it aside and decided to wait until it felt more right.
But now, the story is burning in me and I know it’s time to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained in this 14 year quest.
I’m in the midst of creating a new program called The Spiral Path: A Woman’s Journey to Herself.
the artwork for The Spiral Path journal
Inspired by the labyrinth, this simple online course will invite you to take an inward journey, spiraling closer and closer to your own authentic heart. It will encourage you to sink into the kind of stillness I had in that hospital room, where the longings you’ve been ignoring can finally be heard.
I’ll be launching it next week and the class will start November 1st. There will be 21 lessons that you can choose to receive all at once, once a day, or once a week. You’ll also have options for connecting with other women taking similar journeys. And I’m creating a special journal and some Story Stones that can serve as your companions on the journey.
I hope that you’ll consider stepping onto The Spiral Path. I feel confident that this could change your life. To be the first to hear about registration opening, add your name to my email list below. When you subscribe, you’ll be sent a link to download your free copy of A Path to Connection.
In honour of the release of Fall Reflections: A mindfulness journal, I’m sharing these ten tips. For some who are just beginning a journal writing practice, they may offer a place to start. For others they may offer enhancement to an ongoing practice.
1. Start with the facts, then move to the feelings. Begin by describing the details of your day. What did you do, who did you see? As you write, consider how you responded emotionally to whatever happened.
2. Try a stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Just write the next thing that comes to mind. If you’re writing about the conversation you had with your mom, for example, a question might suddenly come to mind about something your mom said. Write it down. Don’t censor. Just write.
3. Keep it simple and don’t edit. Your journal is not a place to prove you should be the next poet laureate. It’s about the process, not the product. Use simple language, and write what comes to mind rather than over-thinking what words to use.
4. Keep the “shoulds” out of it. Your journal is a place to be honest with yourself, not a place to try to reform yourself into what you think you should be. Simply write how you feel and what you think rather than filtering it with what you think you SHOULD think or feel. There’s enough of that self-filtering when you talk to others and it doesn’t belong in a journal that’s meant for your eyes only.
5. When you’re trying to work through internal conflict, try writing a dialogue with yourself. If, for example, there’s part of you that wants to go on a trip and another part of you that thinks it’s a bad idea, write as though those are two separate people having a conversation back and forth.
6. If the blank page scares you, use journal prompts to help you get started.Fall Reflections or Summer Lovin’ might be a good place to start. Or you could choose to start each day’s entry with the same simple journal prompt such as “My wish for today is…” or “Five words to describe this day are…” or “The things I want to remember about this day are…”
7. Try keeping a list every day. It could be a list of ten things you’re grateful for each day. Or five ways that you were kind to others. Or three ways that you stood up for yourself. Consider what would help you in your personal growth (gratitude, confidence, courage) and create a list prompt around that theme.
8. Find a routine that works for you. Some people write morning pages (filling 3 pages with stream-of-consciousness) every day. Others set aside half an hour each day for journal-writing. Sometimes I suggest to my coaching clients that they simply sit with a pen in their hand for ten minutes each day and see what emerges. (If it’s just doodling some days, that’s perfectly fine!) You have to find what works best for you, or you won’t sustain it.
9. Find the right pen and journal combination that works for you. I love sturdy, attractive journals, and so I give myself permission to splurge a little each time I buy a new one. I also love to write in colour (and change colours on a whim) so I write with fine tip Sharpie markers. You, on the other hand, may love expensive pens but are content with the kind of notebook you used in elementary school. Experiment until you find what makes you happy.
10. Take your journal with you. You never know when you’ll want to write things down, so it’s a good idea to carry it with you on the bus, to the coffee shop, on a trip – wherever you go. If your journal is too big, consider having a smaller secondary notebook in your purse or backpack.
Finally, just be yourself and write what you want to write. There is no wrong way to do this! Just start wherever you are, write in your very own style, and don’t do it to please anyone else but yourself.
p.s. For only $10, you can download Fall Reflections and you’ll have 60 journal prompts to get you started. If you want to go even deeper with your writing, my next Openhearted Writing Circle will be October 4, 2014.
I collected some thoughts and quotes for my writing students and thought I’d share them with you as well…
1. Practice playfulness
“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” – Tom Robbins
2. Find time for idleness
“We owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness – either enforced or voluntary.” – Agatha Christie
3. Pay attention to the natural world
“Nature has been for me, for as long as I can remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure; a home, a teacher, a companion.” – Lorraine Anderson
4. Let go of “the way its always been”
“Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.” – Gail Sheehy
5. Adopt creativity rituals
“For some of us, a ritual can be a simple routine that readies us for inspiration.” – Gail McMeekin
6. Follow your fascinations
“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling
7. Risk failure
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey
8. Move past mistakes
“When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” – Mary Pickford
9. Be uniquely yourself
“You can’t copy anybody and end up with anything. If you copy, it means you’re working without any real feeling.” – Billie Holiday
10. Keep going
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton
11. Be patient
“Remember the farmer who was so eager to assist his crops that he went out at night and tugged on the new shoots. There is no way to push the river; equally you cannot hasten the harvest. Be mindful that patience is essential for the recognition of your own process which, in its season, leads to the harvest of the self.” – Ralph Blum
12. Be courageous
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
13. Be persistent
“Diamonds are only chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs, you see.” – Minnie Richard
14. Be confident
“No one can give you authority. But if you act like you have it, others will believe you do.” – Karin Ireland
15. Look fear in the face
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
16. Find support and encouragement
“Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey
17. Find mentorship
“Successful people realize the importance of a mentor or an advocate.” – Donna Brooks & Lynn Brooks
18. Find partnerships
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
19. Get over your fear of rejection
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” – Marilyn Savant
20. Don’t take it personally
“When you want something, go back and go back and go back, and don’t take ‘No’ for an answer. And when rejection comes, don’t take it personally. It goes with the territory. Expose yourself to as much humiliation as you can bear, then go home and do it all again tomorrow.” – Betty Furness
21. Step out of your routine
“When I look at the same old things, I think the same old thoughts, but when the furniture is changed, my thinking changes… Routine is the enemy of creative thinking.” – Stanley Marcus
22. Be inspired by others
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” – Jim Jarmusch
23. Find creative practices that stimulate you
“Our discretionary time should be filled with choices of constructive activities that provide a contrast to what we do most of the time. The shifting of mental gears appears to kindle new thought patterns and thereby make our lives more fulfilling.” – Howard Hendricks
24. Believe in yourself
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” – Martha Graham
25. Love life
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” – Osho
This course is changing people’s lives. Nearly 200 people have been through the course since it opened in September 2013, and I have heard remarkable stories of how it has impacted people in positive ways. (Some of their testimonials are on the sales page.)
In honour of registration opening once again, below is a sample prompt. In case you’re curious, but do not quite understand what the course is all about, this will give you a sense of what you’d receive every day.
Each day is based on a different theme related to personal growth. This sample prompt is based on the them of “roots”.
Where Your Roots Grow
A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a healing circle for people who’d been impacted by residential schools in our country. This is a tragic chapter of Canada’s history in which Aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools where they were denied their own cultural practices and language, and many were physically and emotionally abused.
A few of the people in the circle had been students at residential schools, but more of them had been raised by parents who were forced to attend residential schools. And then there were those of us who didn’t have residential schools in our blood line, but knew that we were impacted nonetheless, because our community members were impacted and because we were raised as white Canadians with a colonial history. Some of our ancestors undoubtedly shared in the guilt of this injustice.
As we listened to the stories shared around the circle, it was clear that all of us carried both the wounds and the wounding of our ancestors. It was especially apparent in those who’d been raised with parents who’d been in residential schools. Some of them spoke of alcoholism, family abuse, cultural neglect, and other stories that clearly left deep wounds in their collective psyche.
Whatever our roots are – whether we were raised in a lineage of oppressed or oppressors, religious or agnostic, poverty or wealth – we all carry the stories of our ancestors with us.
Our roots reach much deeper into the soil of our family’s past than we ever fully understand. We are impacted by the history that happened in our bloodline long before we were conceived and born into this world.
Bethany Webster talks about the importance of healing the mother wound.“The mother wound is the pain of being a woman passed down through generations of women in patriarchal cultures. And it includes the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that are used to process that pain.” The mother wound manifests itself in our lives as shame, comparison, the feeling that we need to stay small, allowing ourselves to be mistreated by others, and self-sabotage. If we do not heal it, she says, we continue to pass this wound down through the generations.
We must also consider the ways in which patriarchy has men. As Richard Rohr says, “After 20 years of working with men on retreats and rites of passage, in spiritual direction, and even in prison, it has sadly become clear to me how trapped the typical Western male feels. He is trapped inside, with almost no inner universe of deep meaning to heal him or guide him.” Men have to come to terms with their own wounds and often have little support to find healing for them.
These stories that we carry from our past – that we are not worthy, that we need to stay small, that we are not allowed to show emotion, that our cultures don’t have as much value as that of our colonizers, or that we are not allowed to do anything that goes against our religion for fear of hell – they are the soil in which our roots grow. If that soil is not fertile and nurturing, our growth is impaired and we never reach our full potential.
Imagine, though, that through an alchemical process, these stories can be healed and transformed and can become the fertile soil we need for healthy growth. Imagine that they can provide rich fertilizer to feed our roots and make our branches grow and our fruit to be plump and sweet.
We can transform these stories. They do not need to keep us small. They do not need to hold us back from what we can become.
Through much inner work – whether that looks like therapy, journaling, dance, meditation, mandala-making, or any other form of self-discovery and healing – we can cultivate those stories and stir them like a compost heap until they become the richest of fertilizer. This is not easy work, and it is not short-term work, but it is necessary work. The world needs us to heal and the world needs us to grow strong and true.
After reading the article by Bethany Webster, about the need to heal the Mother Wound, I wrote a letter to my mom. She died last year, so she won’t read it on this earth, but I still felt like there were some things I needed to say to her. I acknowledged the way that she had been wounded (by losing her mother when she was six, for example) and forgave her for the way that those wounds were passed on to me. I thanked her for the love she poured on me and my siblings despite the deep wounds she carried. Writing the letter felt significant – like I had begun to heal something for both myself and for her. There is more work to do, but every step toward healing is a step in the right direction.
“When I see how my friend R. has, in the face of near-impossible odds, so profoundly healed from being abused as a child, I think, ‘If she can heal, it means that millions like her can too; and her healing smooths the path for them.’
“Sometimes I take it even a step further. One time at a men’s retreat one of the participants showed us burn scars on his penis, the result of cigarette burns administered by a foster parent when he was five years old to punish him. The man was going through a powerful process of release and forgiveness. In a flash, I perceived that his reason for being here on Earth was to receive and heal from this wound, as an act of world-changing service to us all. I said to him, ‘J., if you accomplish nothing else this lifetime but to heal from this, you will have done the world a great service.’ The truth of that was palpable to all present.”
Eisenstein goes on to talk about scientific research into “morphic resonance” in nature – the concept that once something happens somewhere, it induces the same thing to happen elsewhere. Some substances, for example, are reliably liquid for many years until suddenly, around the world, they begin to crystallize. It is not clear why it happens, when these substance are not in contact with each other or exposed to the same environment, but it seems that a change to one begins to result in changes to others. In the same way, he says, the healing of one person can lead to the healing of others, even if those people never meet.
Transforming your stories into rich soil so that you can grow strong is necessary not only for you, but for the world.
Your Roots Mandala
Imagine you are a tree, firmly rooted in the stories of your past. Some of these stories are conscious for you (memories from childhood) and some are less conscious but you are impacted by them nonetheless.
Begin by drawing a large circle. In the centre of the circle, draw a small circle that represents the trunk of a tree. Reaching out from that trunk into the fertile soil around it, draw the roots of that tree. (Imagine you are looking down on the tree from above and can only see that part of the tree that is underground, not the branches or leaves.)
Between the roots, write down stories that are part of your past. Start with the stories that you know have impacted you and your growth in both positive and negative ways. Your religious upbringing, your father’s temper, your mother’s insecurity, your grandmother’s way of making you feel special, your birth order, your childhood abuse, etc. Do not censor yourself – if a story shows up, there’s a good chance it had an impact on you whether or not you recognize it. (There is no right or wrong way to do this – your stories are your own and you know what matters to you.)
Reach further back. What are the stories that impacted your lineage before you were born? Your family’s displacement from the country they called home, your grandmother’s abusive marriage, your ancestors’ connection to colonialism or oppression, your grandfather’s death when your mother was small.
Write them all down. Some of them may bring up pain, and some may bring up positive memories. Some may have a clear impact on your life, and some you may not fully understand until a much later date. They are all part of your narrative and they are all part of the soil in which your roots dig for nourishment.
With a black pencil crayon, shade over the stories you have written, imagining that all of them are now becoming part of the compost that helps you grow. Whether good or bad, those stories are your soil.
Note: This exercise may bring up a lot of mixed emotions for you. It may feel like a little bit of healing, or it may feel like you’ve opened a wound that is still raw. That’s all part of the healing process. Sit with whatever comes up and do not try to suppress it. If you need to, do some further journaling to explore what came up, or find someone you trust that you can talk to about this.