I’ve come to Sedona, Arizona, to work with a new client, holding space for what is emerging in an innovative and wholehearted business development process. The work is taking shape as we do it, and we are all opening ourselves to possibilities and new relationships.
Yesterday, I hosted the first circle process, inviting people to bring their stories and speak to the values and needs that will help create the container for the work that will be done here. After they’d shared, I talked about how we had each brought strengths to the circle, but we must also remember that we each brought weaknesses.
“I invite you to be brave enough to bring both your strengths and weaknesses into the circle,” I said. “It’s like a yin yang symbol – we are both the dark and the light, the strength and the weakness. We need both and we need each other. Our weakness creates a beautiful space in which others’ strengths can fill the gaps and make the circle more complete and balanced.”
Shortly after that, in a rather ironic twist, I modelled exactly what I’d been talking about. I didn’t do it willingly, though. I got sick – really sick. Not moving from the bed except to run to the bathroom kind of sick. Covering myself in three layers of blankets and still shivering kind of sick.
Suddenly, though I’m here to hold space for those doing the work here, the roles were reversed and they were holding space for me, bringing mint tea to settle my stomach, tylenol to bring down the fever, a bucket to keep beside the bed, and whatever else I needed.
I felt horrible – both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want to be the needy person here. I wanted to be the one caring for other people. The worst of it is that I had to tell these people who are mostly strangers to me that, if I begin to vomit, someone needs to rush into the room to catch me. You see, I have this horrible tendency to pass out and wake up on the floor when I vomit. So they brought me a bell (the same bell I’d just used to open the circle) and made me promise to ring it if I needed them.
At one point, with a couple of them in the room checking on me, I started to weep. I felt so vulnerable and was finding it hard to need them like this. And yet, I had no choice but to admit my vulnerability and receive their nurturing and care. Not once did they make me feel guilty or ashamed for needing it, but that didn’t stop me from feeling that way.
This morning, as I began the journey back to health, I had to smile at the irony that, though I had told all of them to admit their needs and let others fill them, I was reluctant to do the same. Some things are easier said than done.
Those of us who are used to bringing our strength into the room in order to hold space for others, often forget that we need to give others opportunities to hold space for us. It’s always a humbling experience when we’re the ones in need, but it’s not only good for us to be in a place of humility, it’s good for the collective circle when each of us balances our needs with our offerings.
“Ask for what you need and offer what you can,” says Christina Baldwin in The Seven Whispers. That’s what creates the balance, the yin and the yang of relationship.
Even those of us who teach this need to be reminded to put it into practice.
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I am home, once again. The last time I wrote, I was just back from a week of writing at a cottage by the lake, and now I’m just back from a week and a half vacation with my daughters. How very lucky I have been this summer to find the time and space for writing, relaxing, and traveling with my girls!
Having been raised going to the
Winnipeg Folk Festival
every year, my daughters have developed a passion for indie music festivals. It’s a passion I like to indulge, so last year we drove with them to Montreal for Osheaga
and this year I drove with them to Chicago for Lollapalooza
. They’re talking about either Outsidelands
next year, and I’d be happy to go to either place. Though I find the size of the crowds at the festivals a little overwhelming and usually only go for one day, I so greatly treasure these days on the road with my daughters, and know that this time in their lives is fleeting (the oldest two have already graduated from high school), so I pack my bags and I go.
On the way home, after a discussion about next year’s adventure, one of my girls said “Mom, you’d be game for almost anything, wouldn’t you?” And I said “Yes, I would. Give me an interesting place to go to and some quality time with my daughters, and I’m there.” (If anyone has recommendations for great music festivals in your parts of the world, I’d be happy to hear them!)
When we travel, we do our best to seek some balance for all involved, so after a full week of music festivals, shopping, an architecture boat tour, a crime tour, the Art Institute, and other touristy things in Chicago, we headed to a campsite at McCarthy Beach State Park in Minnesota. In the past, there’d be some mild protest on their part, when I’d insist on camping for a few of the nights on our trips, but they’ve become accustomed to the fact that a vacation doesn’t feel complete to me without some time away from cities and electronic devices, and they appreciate my willingness to indulge them in their interests, so they comply willingly now. Despite the rain (and the fact that I still have a wet tent in my garage that needs to be aired out), we had a lovely time reading, wandering, sitting around the campfire, eating s’mores, and watching the sunset on the beach.
There’s a great life lesson there that I want to keep unpacking (and may write more about some day). Seek balance between the fast-paced days and the slow-paced ones. Seek balance between what you want and what you are willing to give others. Seek balance in your connection with others and your connection with yourself. Seek balance in your plugged-in days and your unplugged ones.
When your life begins to feel out of balance, it may be a good time to head to the woods.
This morning, though it was a little hard to convince my body to get out of bed to return to work (and nearly everything on my computer seems to be protesting similarly), I woke up grateful that I have work that I love and that I no longer have to face that feeling of dread when vacation is over and I have to drag myself back to work that drains me. I have worked hard to find this balance in my life, just as I have found it in my vacations. Yes, there is work to do, but much of it feels so much like play that I rarely feel out of balance. (If you’re not there, take heart. I spent many years yearning for this lifestyle before it finally happened for me.)
During the remainder of the month of August and into September, I will be working on polishing up the newest version of my memoir (with the hopes of seeking a publisher in the Fall), and then I’ll be working on a couple of new things (a facilitator’s kit for Mandala Discovery, and some kind of course or retreat around the theme of Holding Space).
There are a few things you might be interested in for the Fall:
1. I’m really excited to announce that I will be hosting a retreat in Asheville, NC, October 8-11, with my dear friend Desiree Adaway. This is no ordinary retreat. It’s called Engage, and it’s for all (women and men) who consider themselves change-makers, edge-walkers, dream-weavers, or social justice activists. It’s a place for soulful conversations, broken hearts, hopeful dreams, and imaginative action. Desiree and I are both passionate about supporting people in social justice work, and lately we’ve both had a growing sense of despair about some of the injustice in both of our countries. In the U.S., young black men are dying at the hands of the police, and in Canada, there’s a growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. We feel called to support anyone working on these or other important social justice causes, and so we’ve created a place for people to gather and be inspired. Will you join us?
2. There is still space for a few people in my online Openhearted Writing Circle on September 18th. If you want to write from a deeper place (whether for your own personal growth or to share with an audience), this is the place to gather with others like you and be inspired. All you need to participate is a Skype account and an open heart.
3. Registration is open for October’s offering of The Spiral Path: A Woman’s Journey to Herself. For 21 days, you’ll receive lessons based on the stages of a labyrinth walk.
4. In late October, I’ll be participating in the annual gathering of Gather the Women, in Parrish, Florida. If you’d like to experience the power of a women’s circle, I’d highly encourage you to consider this gathering. I deeply believe in the work of this organization and in the importance of spending time in circle with other women.
5. For those in Canada, there is also a Gather the Women gathering happening in Ontario, September 11-13. They don’t have a website, but at this link, you’ll find a poster. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll send you the email address of the contact person. (I won’t be attending this gathering, but the organizers are all dear friends of mine and I know that it will be good.)
I hope that, in whatever way works for you, you are finding some balance in your life this summer. Thank you for being part of my circle!