Ten practices for the liminal space

photo credit: Austin Mabe, Unsplash

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We’re now a couple of months into The Great Pause. We’ve baked all the bread, learned to cut our own hair, logged too many hours on Zoom, built elaborate islands on Animal Crossing, adapted to the new protocol at the grocery store, rewatched our favourite series on Netflix… and here we are… just waiting for when this might end. Waiting, as Dr. Seuss says, “for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No, or waiting for their hair to grow.”

How do we stay in this waiting place, when there is still so much we don’t know about what’s on the other side? How do we maintain our sense of well-being and not spiral into despair and fear when we don’t yet know when we can see our loved ones, gather with our communities, or send our kids back to school?

Here are some of my thoughts about ways to sustain ourselves in the midst of liminal space:

1. Soothe your flooded nervous system. There’s a reason why so many of us are baking bread and why I haven’t been able to find any yeast at the grocery store for the last few weeks. (In my home, it’s my daughters baking bread and I just have to buy the ingredients.) Bread is comfort food and we all need soothing when we’ve been living in this state of heightened anxiety and uncertainty. But bread can’t be the ONLY thing we turn to for soothing. Nor can wine or chocolate or Netflix (as much as that may be tempting right now). A soothing technique can quickly become a way of bypassing or numbing if we rely on it too heavily. 

My new friend, Dr. Robin Youngson, recently introduced me to a practice that has become my favourite soothing technique. It’s called havening touch and it’s designed to mirror the way that a mother soothes a distressed infant (except you can do it for yourself). There’s a series of three soothing caresses that you repeat – running your hands down your arms, rubbing your hands together, and stroking your face with both hands. You can watch Dr. Youngson demonstrate havening touch on these videos.

 

2. Name and grieve the ambiguous losses. An ambiguous loss (a term coined by researcher Pauline Boss) is a loss that occurs without closure or clear understanding. It’s the kind of loss that is felt when a child is abducted and the parents don’t know whether they’re dead or alive. Or the loss of a marriage when the other person is still alive and yet you grieve the loss of what you once dreamed the marriage would be. Or (as my friends on Facebook shared) the kind of mixed emotions that a parent might feel when a child undergoes gender transition. (You can listen to Pauline Boss talk about it on this podcast.)

We are all experiencing multiple ambiguous losses right now, as we wait to see what the new normal will be. Not only can we not do many of the things we’re used to doing, we really have no idea when we can do them again and whether they’ll look the same when we do. If you’re a church-goer, for example, will you have to sit six feet away from your friends in the sanctuary and avoid hugging them or shaking their hands? Will you get to go dancing with friends or sing in choirs, or will that have to wait until there’s a vaccine? What about your job? Will it be waiting for you or will you face unemployment?

It’s okay to grieve those losses. Even though you might be inclined to shame yourself for having “less significant” losses than the people who are losing family members, your loss is legitimate. Let yourself grieve. You might even want to develop some kind of ritual to mark those losses. When I talked about ambiguous loss on Facebook, Lori-Marie Boyer said that she has a practice she calls “list and sit”. “I’m keeping a list of what we are missing and sitting with it for a bit each time as a way to just keep naming and honoring.” It seems like a good way to grieve and release.

 

3. Discharge built-up energy without aiming it at anyone. The frustration can build up, when there is so much outside of your control and you don’t know when this will all end. When, for example, you’ve got young kids in your house all day every day and you’ve suddenly become their parent, teacher, playmate, AND therapist, you might feel like a pressure cooker about to explode. Or when you’re not sure if your business will survive, or if the money will reach to the end of the month, or if the sick family member you’re not allowed to visit will get better, the tension in your body can feel like too much to bear. Despite your best efforts at self-soothing, in those moments, you might find yourself fighting with people on Facebook, or yelling at your kids, or throwing your wine glass across the room.

That’s when you might need some fairly aggressive (but not harmful) activity to help you to release the tension. Try pounding your feelings into something that won’t bear the scars. Go dig in the garden, or dance vigorously, or swing a hammer, or wash the floor, or go for a run, or scream into a pillow. I have a particular fondness for power tools, partly for this reason – they let me be aggressive without harming anyone. I also like to jump in my car, go for a drive, and, at the top of my lungs, sing/cry/scream to Nothing Stays the Same by Luke Sital-Singh. “Cry your eyes out, Fill your lungs up, We all hurt, We all lie, And nothing stays the same.”

 

4. Practice impermanence. One of the things that this pandemic is teaching us is the impermanence of that which we assume we can rely on. For those of us living in developed countries (and especially those living without disabilities), we’ve come to assume the accessibility and reliability of things like grocery stores, doctor’s offices, restaurants, churches, etc. We’ve also come to assume that we can visit our elderly parents whenever we want to and that our children can go to school every day.

It’s a shock to the system when what you rely on is taken away. Some of us may already be adapted to that (those who are disabled or who grew up in poverty or conflict zones), but for many of us, this is fairly new and unfamiliar and it can be quite scary. I remember the first time I went to the grocery store after the new social distancing rules were in place – it felt a little like I’d landed on the moon instead of my neighbourhood grocery store.

Having a practice that embraces that sense of impermanence is helpful in processing all of this and learning to let go of attachment to the illusion of certainty. This is something I learned from the Buddhist teachings on impermanence – that to practice an art form in which you detach from what you produce and simply be fully present for the process is to better accept the impermanence of the world. (Consider the way that Buddhist monks make elaborate sand mandalas and then sweep them away and pour the sand into a body of water.) In my basement is a large canvas where I practice my #messycovidartprocess which I shared about in this post. Every few days, when I feel anxiety or frustration build, I go to the basement and paint (with my hands) another layer onto the canvas. I focus only on the process, and always end up covering up whatever might be pleasing to the eye. I intend to continue this as long as we are confined to our homes. I don’t know yet what I’ll do with it then – perhaps I’ll burn it.

 

5. Nurture the seeds that want to grow. Perhaps by now, after the initial shock and stress of this has settled somewhat, you’re beginning to wonder how this Great Pause will change your life, our culture, and perhaps our relationship with the natural world. Maybe you’ve now got some space in your brain not just for survival but for curiosity and possibility. Maybe you’ve become inspired to start new art projects or to create new ways of gathering people online – projects that aren’t just about surviving the here-and-now, but that might help us live into a new future beyond COVID-19. 

A few days ago, I co-hosted a call with former participants of my in-person workshops in the Netherlands, and I sensed a different energy than any of the calls I’ve had since this all started. Though there was still some grief present, I sensed that people were beginning to imagine the new things that can grow out of this time of disruption. A few days later, a similar thing happened on the calls for my Holding Space Practitioner Program. There’s a shift and people are beginning to see hope and not just despair.

When you feel ready for it, bring your “beginner’s mind” (another Buddhist teaching which refers to an “attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject”) to bear. Look around you at how your life has been disrupted and notice the ways that you don’t want to go back to how things were before disruption. Consider that, after COVID-19, you might have a new opportunity to choose how you want to live and interact with the culture around you. Maybe you have new ideas to contribute to your neighbourhood about how to organize around local needs and local capacity. Maybe you’re beginning to imagine a more equitable way for your business to function or your church to serve its people. We don’t have to go back to the way things were before – we have this opportunity to imagine something new into existence.

To foster this practice, first bring awareness to what’s growing and where you can plant and/or nurture seeds to grow. If you live in the Northern hemisphere where it’s now Spring, you might want to play in the garden or wander through the park taking pictures of new leaves and baby geese. 

 

6. Find circles that can hold space for complexity. People are at different stages of this journey and have different levels of capacity for holding space for the complexity of this time. Some of us, because of necessity or trauma or fear, can function only in survival mode – getting through what’s needed day-to-day – and can’t hold space for grief or for the kind of transformation and possibility mentioned above. Those may not be the people you’ll turn to for deep conversations or for wrestling through the emotions or questions that are surfacing.

But some people – particularly those who have navigated challenging life circumstances in the past and have learned to meet those challenges with curiosity and openness – have great capacity for holding shadow, grief, fear, transformation, anticipation, loss, and birth. Turn to those people, gather them in circles for storytelling, deep conversations and imaginative dreaming. Invite them into the depths with you, feel the complexity of your feelings together, dare to be playful with new ideas, and notice how your body and heart are transformed in the process. 

Yesterday, I sat on two calls with the participants of the Holding Space Practitioner Program and I marvelled at what beautiful things can show up on Zoom calls when there is a strong container in place that can hold complexity, curiosity, and depth. We’re nearing the end of this eight month program, and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the capacity that these people from all over the world are growing (and I along with them) is exactly what is needed for times like this. (Note: This program will be re-opening in July, under the new banner of the Centre for Holding Space.)

 

7. Release, receive, return. I have found myself, more often than usual, visiting the labyrinth this Spring. Partly I go because that’s the place where I notice the earliest signs of Spring and it gives me a sense of hopefulness. It’s near a pond where the frogs begin to sing as soon as the ice melts, and there are wild crocuses that are the first flowers to bloom on these northern prairies.

The other reason I go is because the labyrinth teaches me one of the most useful spiritual practices for a time such as this. It teaches me to release as I walk into the labyrinth – to empty myself of the burdens, expectations, fears, disappointments, etc. that want to cling to my spirit and drag me down. It teaches me to receive as I stand at the centre of the labyrinth – to allow in the voices of Spirit, the Earth, and my own Soul which are often stifled in my crowded life. And it teaches me to return as I leave the labyrinth – to take with me all of the gifts that were entrusted to me at the centre and carry them back to my village, the people I’ve been called to serve.

When I can’t get to the labyrinth, I try to spend time focusing on my breath, reminding myself of the same three-part process. Or I use a finger labyrinth like the one I made (which I gave instructions for here).

To stay grounded at a time when the world feels wobbly and unreliable takes extra commitment and determination. It also takes a combination of the above practices – self-soothing or discharging when necessary – so that you can be more fully present for the mindfulness of release-receive-return.

 

8. Don’t forget to laugh. When I was growing up and Readers Digest arrived monthly in our home, I remember flipping to the section called “Laughter is the Best Medicine” and reading through the jokes people had sent in. Back then, I just thought it was a cute title, but now I understand the truth of it. Laughter doesn’t just boost your mood by releasing endorphins, it helps to diminish pain and strengthen your immune system. Regularly finding time for laughter also helps you to cope with the needs of your children and it gives you a higher tolerance for the frustrations of dealing with red tape or opinionated people on Facebook.

My extended family gathers occasionally on Zoom and we’ve had some good laughs over online versions of Pictionary or our former fashion choices in old photos of our rare family trip to California (apparently I had a penchant for tucking my pant legs into my socks back then). My daughters and I have been sharing some laughs while making our way through the seasons of New Girl on Netflix. 

Even in the midst of deep grief and fear, laughter has a place. It doesn’t just offer temporary relief, it helps strengthen you and make you more resilient to cope with the hard stuff. 

 

9. Focus on what’s right in front of you and do the next right thing. This world is a big place, and it can feel overwhelming to open the floodgates of social media and let it all come in. When your news feed is full of stories of heartache from all over the world, and you’re hearing the voices of politicians and scientists and each one seems to have a different opinion, the complexity of this situation can knock you flat. Whose voice do you listen to? Which expert has your best interests at heart? Whose stories do you you let into your heart?

While I don’t think it’s wise to keep your head in the sand too long, lest you lose touch with the world and begin to think only of yourself, there are times when you have to shut out the rest of the world and just be in your own little bubble. There are times when the best you can do is get out of bed in the morning and make sure your family has enough to eat. 

Narrow your focus when you need to and ignore the needs or concerns of anyone outside of your home. Feed your cat, play with your kids, or curl up with a good book and look after nobody but yourself.

One of the best decisions that I made at the beginning of the pandemic was to stay offline entirely on Sundays. I’ve kept it up for two months and I intend to continue even after life settles into the new normal. I did it at the beginning because I noticed how much mental load I was carrying by the end of the week, trying to focus on my kids’ needs, my own needs, my clients’ needs, and my business’ needs while also trying to process all of the new information and anxiety surrounding the pandemic. Even after my initial anxiety and overwhelm had settled, though, I realized how much I appreciated the peacefulness that a day off the internet gave me. 

 

10. Extend kindness to yourself and others. It may seem cliched to focus on kindness, but I believe that it’s one of the things that will get us through this time. Kindness helps us turn our attention away from worry and frustration. Kindness helps us focus our energy on positive things instead of negative things. Kindness helps us build communities and bond families.

When you focus on bringing someone a little spot of happiness or a moment of ease, you get back almost as much as you give. It’s a win-win situation.

Kindness might be sending an overwhelmed mom a gift certificate for a meal delivery service. Or it might be paying for the order of the car behind you in the drive-through. Or it might be packaging up the books you’ve finished reading and sending them to a friend who’s getting bored alone at home. Or it might simply be smiling at the neighbour on the sidewalk, or letting a person cut in front of you in the grocery store lineup. 

In these unusual times, I think that it’s also an act of kindness to wear a mask in public so that the person selling you groceries has one less chance of exposure. Or it might be tipping the food delivery person extra for the increased risk they’re taking. Or it might simply be staying home to help decrease the spread and not overburden our healthcare workers. 

And don’t forget that one of the people you should be extending kindness to is yourself. Recognize that you’re under an unusual stress load right now (we all are) and offer yourself compassionate care in any way that you can.

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P.S. If this is of interest to you, consider joining us for the next session of the Holding Space Practitioner Program. We’re revamping the program and will be re-launching it in July under the banner of the Centre for Holding Space. Visit the “coming soon” page where you can add your name to a mailing list to be notified as soon as registration is open. 

How to make a finger labyrinth (that is also a piece of art)

how to make a finger labyrinth“Release, receive, and return.” That’s what the labyrinth invites us to do.

Yesterday, I needed to release, receive, and return. I was stressing out about the ongoing tension between “do the thing that brings in money” and “do the thing that’s calling you next” – the ever-present question of all soulful entrepreneurs.

I wanted to go to the labyrinth, but it’s covered in snow, so I did the next best thing… I made a finger labyrinth. It turns out that making a labyrinth is almost as good as walking one for that whole “release, receive, and return thing.”

Since I use labyrinths a lot in my work (especially The Spiral Path, which is a 21 lesson journey through the labyrinth to your authentic heart), I thought I’d share the steps in making my finger labyrinth in case you’d like to make one too.

You’ll need:

  • a square canvas or piece of wood (I used an 11X11″ canvas)
  • a print out of your favourite labyrinth design, printed to the scale of the canvas (For an 11X11 canvas in the 7 path Chartres design that I made, here’s a pdf that prints on two 8.5X11 pieces of paper. If you prefer a different design, just Google “labyrinth template”)
  • heavy string
  • glue (I used a hot glue gun and white glue, but if you don’t have a glue gun, white glue is fine)
  • newsprint or other paper (whatever you use should be fairly thin)
  • mod podge (or just use gel medium)
  • gel medium
  • acrylic paint

Step 1. Print the labyrinth design and glue it onto the canvas or board. I used ordinary white glue, spread thin with a spreader (any straight plastic edge, like an old credit card) will work. Use the spreader to work out any bubbles in the paper (though it doesn’t have to be too fussy, since you’ll cover it).

finger labyrinth 1

Step #2. Glue heavy string onto all of the black lines. I used the hot glue gun for this because it dries faster, but it would work fine with white glue.

finger labyrinth - 4

Step #3. Cut lots of short strips of newsprint. I used blank newsprint, because it’s easier to paint over, but you could use newspaper. You could also use coloured paper if you don’t want to paint it. Tissue paper would also work, but you’d need a few layers to make sure the black is covered. The strips I used were approx. .75″ by 3″. You don’t have to be fussy about it, but you’ll want them wide enough to cover the string and adhere to the surface without covering two lines of string at the same time.

Step #4. Slather mod podge (or gel medium) generously on a section of string. Add a strip of paper and cover the paper with more mod podge (or gel medium). The best way to do this is with your fingers, so be prepared to get a little messy.

finger labyrinth 9

Step #5. Keep going until you have the whole labyrinth and canvas covered with strips of paper. Some spots are tricky (especially if you decide to do the flower pattern at the centre, like I did), so you’ll have to let go of your inner perfectionist and let it be a little imperfect. Make sure it’s all well coated with mod podge (or gel medium). Let it dry.

finger labyrinth 10

Step #6. If you want to paint it, add a layer of gel medium once it’s dry (this time you can do it with a paint brush) to smooth out some of the rough edges and to make sure the paint adheres to the surface.

Step #7. Paint it however you like. I used three tones of acrylic paint for the ombre effect (crimson, burnt sienna and ochre.

finger labyrinth 13

Step #8. If you want to give it a more textured, aged effect, rub a glaze over it. I used a brown glaze (acrylic paint mixed with gel medium) and rubbed it on with your fingers. Because I’d layered on the gel medium a little too thick, there were some cracks and the dark glazed picked these up, giving it a bit more of an aged look.finger labyrinth 15

Step #9. Hang it on your wall or keep it in your studio, bedroom, or sanctuary where you can use it as a meditation tool.

Here are some tips for using your finger labyrinth…

  • Before you start, take some time to settle in to a position in which you’re comfortable. Take some slow deep breaths to centre you in your practice.
  • You may want to journal before and/or after the practice.
  • Before you begin, you may wish to set an intention or ask a question that you will carry with you into the labyrinth, but be careful to keep it open-ended so that you’re open to surprise.
  • Say a prayer, if you like, for support, healing, and guidance.
  • Place a finger at the entrance of the labyrinth. Some people suggest that you use your non-dominant hand, as research suggests that our non-dominant hand has easier access to our intuition.
  • As you follow the path with your finger inward, be conscious and intentional about releasing whatever stresses, worries, or distractions you might be feeling. Breathe deeply and slowly.
  • Pause whenever you want, but don’t lift your finger off the labyrinth.
  • When distracting thoughts come up, simply let them pass and wish them well as they leave your mind.
  • When you reach the centre, pause for awhile and receive. Be open to whatever guidance and wisdom you may need, even if it’s not what you expected.
  • When you’re ready, follow the path outward, consciously returning and bringing the wisdom of the centre out into your life with you.
  • In your journal, write or sketch anything that came to you while you made the journey.
  • Don’t try too hard. Sometimes the wisdom of the labyrinth is simply the pause that it forces you to take. Sometimes nothing obvious shows up, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t time well spent. Stay open and receptive.

Starting February 1, 2015, you can join me in a 21 lesson journey through the labyrinth, back to your authentic heart in The Spiral Path: A Woman’s Journey to Herself. In the first seven lessons, you’ll release what no longer serves you. In the next seven lessons, you’ll open yourself to receiving. In the final seven lessons, you’ll return from the journey.

How to make an inexpensive portable labyrinth

I often use labyrinths in my retreats and workshops, and until now I’ve either used what’s available onsite, or I’ve created them with string, mowed them into grass, or made them out of dried leaves.

This weekend, I finally made a portable labyrinth that I can carry with me.

IMG_1558When I shared the result on social media, several people asked for details about how I made it. Here’s how:

IMG_15611. Since canvas can be quite expensive, I looked for a less expensive alternative. At the local Home Depot, I found painting drop cloths that were 4′ x 20′. They worked well because they’re fabric on one side and plastic on the other so that they absorb the paint without soaking through to the floor. Plus they’re fairly light weight for easier transport. (They cost $22 each, so my total investment was $110, since I had all of the other materials on hand.)

2. I wanted to make my labyrinth approximately 20′ x 20′, so I bought 5 drop cloths and sewed them together. They’re hemmed along the long edges, and at first I was going to seam-rip all of the hems, but that was far too tedious, so I just cut off the hems (losing a bit of the width, but I was okay with that) and sewed them. Tip: I had access to a large space for my labyrinth creation (a church floor), and I recommend doing the sewing in a fairly large space too. It’s bulky and a little awkward.

IMG_15463. Once the dropcloths were sewn together, I drew the outline of the labyrinth with chalk. I started by measuring where my centre was and making a chalk mark there. Then I placed a paint can at the centre and tied a long string loosely on it to use as a giant compass/protractor. Tip: Make sure the string is loose enough on the can so that it rotates as you move around the circle.

4. I wanted to make a 5-path version of the Chartres labyrinth. To figure out how wide my paths should be, I started by making the largest circle (to within a couple of inches of the edge of the canvas) and then making the centre circle (large enough that three people can comfortably stand in it). Then I measured the distance between the centre circle and the outside circle and divided it by 5. It came to 17.5 inches.

5. Shortening my string each time, I drew the concentric circles. concentric circles for labyrinth

6. From there, it’s a matter of drawing the horizontal and vertical lines and then erasing the parts of the circle that aren’t needed. As you’ll see in the design I used, the horizontal and vertical lines all connect circles, so you need to pay attention to which of the circles you’re connecting, and then measure the same width as your path (17.5″ in my case) from that line to know how much of the circle to erase.  Tip: The chalk marks are easy to brush away with a household brush (I used a pot scrubber).labyrinth 5 path

7. Once I had the chalk lines in place, I started painting. To keep it inexpensive, I used some leftover acrylic house paint for my lines, which worked great. I painted on the inside of each chalk line to keep it consistent.

8. For the width of the lines, I simply painted as wide as a small sponge brush. The edges of my lines are not very precise, since it’s hard to attain precision on fabric without driving yourself crazy, but I decided I was fine with that. It might have worked to put painters tape down, but that seemed like a lot of extra work to me (and I only had the space for a limited time) and I wasn’t sure how the tape would work around circles.

IMG_15519. After the paint had dried, I decided to touch up the edges a bit with a thinner brush. It took a fair bit of extra time, but I liked the more solid line, so it was worth it.

10. I let it dry for about 12 hours before folding it. It might have been a good idea to leave it longer, but the space was being used the next day so I needed to move it.

The hardest part of the whole process was all of the time spent (about 8 hours) crouching on the floor. By the end of it, I had a hard time unfolding my body! Stretching during my breaks helped, but I could have been more diligent.

In November I’ll be speaking about labyrinths at a conference and will use my new portable labyrinth for the first time. I’ll share pictures at that time.

If you’d like to learn more about labyrinths, I’m hosting a free call on Lessons from the Labyrinth on Tuesday, October 21st. (It will be recorded, so if you can’t make it, sign up anyway and I’ll send a link.) It will give you some general information about labyrinths and what they’ve taught me, and will also serve as an introduction to my new course The Spiral Path: A Woman’s Journey to Herself, which starts on November 1st.

The fourteen years since my son changed my life

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.

grave

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

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 LinneaMargaret 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

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.

Also, if you love to write and want to learn how to do it in a more openhearted way, there is still space in the Openhearted Writing Circle that’s happening online on Saturday, October 4th.

 

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On making mandalas

mandala blog hop

The Magic of Mandalas Blog Hop is a radically inspiring sharing circle, with artists from around the globe sharing the stories behind their process of creating mandalas. Our mission: To inspire you to see new possibilities for your own creative practice.

Click here to discover new artists, soak up new ideas and fill up on creative inspiration to fuel your creative practice.

I love words. I always have and I always will. Words have come naturally to me since I started my first journal at the age of ten. Nearly every major event in my life – whether hard, easy, good, or bad – has been processed in my journal through words. Most of my career, in fact, was guided by words – I worked as a professional communicator.

But sometimes words are not enough.

Sometimes words limit the brain, keeping it stuck in old patterns. Sometimes you need more than just words. And sometimes things happen that are too monumental, too confusing, or too full of pain or beauty to put to words.

mandala making - heather plettThat’s when I turn to mandalas. Mandalas open spaces in the brain that words can’t access. Mandalas tap into the creative right brain processes that move us through things in fresh and often surprising ways. Mandalas help us shift into a more mindful space where the words spinning through our minds are silenced for awhile and the real wisdom can speak.

Right now, people are working their way through the September offering of Mandala Discovery, and I am enjoying the sharing that’s going on in the Facebook group. People are often surprised by what is cracked open by the Mandala Journal prompts.

“It feels so nurturing to me – like my soul is starving for this kind of thing, and I finally get to feed it what it wants,” said one person.

“My Inner Child emerged,” said another. “I got memories of being afraid and turning to nature to make me feel safe.”

“I love how a mandala can be simple and still be deep, complex and beautiful,” said a third.

Often my mandalas combine words with images, accessing both right and left brain patterns. If you want to try a unique mandala process that’s about stopping the spiral of self-doubt, here’s one.

The next offering of Mandala Discovery will be in January 2015, with registration opening in December 2014. Add your name to my email list (on the top right) to stay informed.

Mandala collage - Heather Plett

 

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