Retreat: Dancing Divine Feminine Wisdom

upload Two years ago I was the officiant at Thaemos and Jami’s beautiful autumn wedding, a role which I was honored to play. It was a gorgeous hot day and we made the magic happen. Lo and behold, they were hitched!

2015-11-13 12.00.16Last weekend I was given the most amazing thank you gift. I went with two dear friends (and met a third there) for weekend at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. 2015-11-15 15.10.22

We participated in a 10-hour workshop led by Banafsheh Sayyad, MFA, LAc, a Persian sacred dance artist and transformational teacher, and Safron Rossi, PhD, who teaches mythology and depth psychology at Pacifica Institute and is curator of collections at Opus Archives. Safron recently edited a collection of Joseph Campbell’s writings and lectures on goddesses.

“Transformation of consciousness is a key to navigating the chaos of our world, both personally and collectively. Hidden in the wisdom of the great goddesses of world mythologies is the seed for this transformative potential. What does it feel like to embody mythic consciousness? Tap into the archetypal energy core of the great myths through dance and myth-telling, and experience the transformative power of the feminine. Women and men both need to cultivate an intimate relationship with the feminine divine, and dance is one of the most direct ways to experience her energy and embody her wisdom.

“Join Banafsheh, Safron and musician Tony Khalife in a weaving of mythic storytelling, images, reflective writing, Dance of Oneness®, and live music. Invoke, explore, and embody the goddesses Sophia from alchemical and mystical traditions of the East and Christianity, the Sumerian-Babylonian Inanna, and the Greek Aphrodite. Dance of Oneness®, the conscious movement practice and philosophy designed by Banafsheh, supports living your fullest potential through loving your body and your Self, and living as a Lover. Guided movement and dance technique serve to ignite your unique expression of dance. Open to everyone. The workshop includes ceremony and ecstatic dance celebration.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious? I can assure you, it absolutely was! We explored so many juicy questions in examining the myths and images of Inanna, Aphrodite, and Sophia. Diving into that goddess mythology and imagery again felt wonderful; it’s been quite a few years since that stuff was part of my daily life. It was like meeting an old friend again and getting the most comforting warm hug.

2015-11-13 17.29.34These are some of the ideas we explored: After hearing the myth of Inanna’s descent into the underword, we were asked: What are you willing to let die, to sacrifice, to make room to birth something new? What is trying to be renewed? What part of you yearns for rebirth, transformation, or transmutation? What needs to be born?  

Innana’s descent brings to mind  the shedding of layers or masks, the sacrifice of our identifying symbols, or even the sacrifice of self or self-concept. In the darkness lies an opportunity, a seed. It holds the possibility of the excavation of oneself. Janelle said “composting.” Let die to be reborn; within the dank earth the seed can germinate. Yellow Galaxy Whorl

Banafsheh taught us the basics of Sufi sacred dancing. For something like 45 minutes we whiled like dervishes, spinning fast or slow, unwinding into a quiet, listening place. What goddess is whispering to you? When you dance what goddess is dancing in you?

I learned the Arabic word for womb is rahim. Banafsheh said it also means mercy and compassion. This was an important moment for me, it cracked my heart wide open. We played with our womb energy and moved it through our hearths and out in the world through our expressive dancing. My womb energy is my caretaking, interconnected, merciful,  loving, compassionate source. It’s both suffering and birthing, of my self, of love, of child of light, of the world.  I was inspired that maybe I could say rahim instead of amen.

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We also covered Aphrodite, a goddess I have always been tuned to, and especially her connection with rapture, that force which longs to join, to unite, with the beloved. She is playful. Curious. Elemental, born out of conjoining of earth,  sky, and ocean. Birthed in sea foam. Aphrodite is lusty, earthy, but also atmospheric, ethereal, light, airy, flighty. A dove is one of her symbols.  She is luscious, unapologetically sensual. Yet even Aphrodite must be by herself a while, regularly, and renew her virginity, to go within and renew herself. Replenish. The goddess, the divine feminine, is a vessel of love, energy, rhythms, and compassion that is constantly pouring out into the world and welling up within us to be poured out again. We have to refill our personal vessels sometimes. Esalen is Jami’s place of replenishment, revirginificaton. Where is mine? I wonderd. How can I get there more?

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We also touched a little on Sophia, the goddess of the world’s wisdom, God’s companion, adviser. She appears in Jewish, Persian, Gnostic tradition. She is the soul of the world. I would like to study Sophia more. We didn’t have enough time with her.

Jubulant, juicy Jeena and JamiDuring the workshop we danced and danced. We met women from Iran, Indonesia, Wales (via Fiji), and many parts of the US. We co-created a transformative space, where we were safe, able to move and express ourselves, able to weep or vocalize or whatever. The environment was made magical by Tony’s music. All the dancing was to live music. Such a gift he has, weaving story and voice, drums, guitar, and other instruments I didn’t know the names of. He was delightful too.

So will our delightful leaders and a group of participants who were inspiring and courageous, we made some serious magic by the sea. We women wove our dance together and the goddesses moved through us. And it was a rare and wonderful treat to see Jeena for a whole weekend! upload2015-11-15 08.08.27    2015-11-15 07.59.43

I will refrain from waxing poetic about the baths. Suffice to say, rahim!

And then it was done. We felt full and tired, energized and awake. I think we each came away with a lot to think about. I felt more in touch with a part of me than I had for a long time. I have in the past been cautious about revealing my own spirituality here. But this is too important to be quiet about. 2015-11-15 17.10.53

On the way home, we stopped to touch the ocean, bathed our eyes, lips, hearts, bellies in sea foam, and found red rose petals scattered on the sand, one for each of us. Thank you, Aphrodite.

My heart is full of gratitude. So to Jami, who made this happen. Thank you!

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Here’s a flashback: On the way down to Esalen, we stopped at Point Lobos and did a teeny-tiny hike. It was so amazing to be back at the sea again. I’ve included shots here because it was so completely beautiful.2015-11-13 12.08.372015-11-13 11.58.29 2015-11-13 12.12.12 Me and my soul sister Janelle. Many thanks to Jami for the photo.upload

Remembering My Grandmothers

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It’s November, a time when many cultures remember their dear, departed loved ones. I happened to read today about a Chinese goddess named Dou Mou, who is the goddess of the north star. People call on her to protect the spirits of their dead and to keep the living safe from illness. It’s said that people write messages to the dead and then burn them so the message can be delivered in the smoke by Dou Mou.

I am thinking a lot about feminine power and wisdom, after my special weekend. Today happens to be the anniversary of my grand aunt’s death. Yesterday was the anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s death. They died two years and 365 days apart. I was inspired to write to them and to my maternal grandmother, who has been gone fifteen years, I think.


 

Dear Mabel,

You were so clever and kind. I sometimes didn’t know how to relate to you, but it got better as I got older. You always encouraged me to think and stand up for myself. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in your home for a little over a year while Ian and I were saving money to buy our house. It was a lovely little home and it made me feel good knowing you lived there with my mom, aunts and uncles. It was a happy time for us, in that sweet little house.

I regret not coming to see you after you moved out of your home. I regret it a lot. I was just very self-absorbed, working long days and long weeks, and fully involved in my marriage and newlywed life and friends. I was selfish. I am sorry. I miss you.

I will always love you.

Sara

 

Dear Nana,

Today is the anniversary of your death. I miss you a lot, especially whenever I pick up my paintbrushes to paint. I am grateful for all the love and abundance you showered me with in my life. I am most grateful for the support you gave to my intellectual and artistic pursuits. You gave me my first camera. You gave me paints and canvas, and endless drawing supplies. I wish I could discuss art and painting with you now. I wish I could see more of the art you made in your youth and while you were teaching. I miss you.

I will always love you.

Sara

 

Dear RoRo,

My heart aches when I think of you, RoRo. You have been gone now two years. I miss your warm smile, your smell, your soft skin, even your mumbling, whispering words that were so hard to understand at the end. I miss our shopping trips and especially the trips to the nursery. I miss talking to you about flowers. Thank you for your boundless generosity. You gave me so many advantages in life. You made me feel special and wanted, even when I was bratty and selfish, even while I was pulling away to do my own thing. I wish that you could see me now, see my boys growing up. I know they’re scruffy, but they’re kind and smart and brave and they take care of each other. You loved them so much, and I think you would like them too. I have started wearing your orange silk kimono. I never saw you wear it, never imagined you would own such a garment. That you did has allowed me to imagine you as a woman, and not just my grandma. It fills me with wondering. I miss you.

I will always love you.

Sara

Beauty Way

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In Beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With Beauty may I walk.
With Beauty before me, may I walk.
With Beauty behind me, may I walk.
With Beauty above me, may I walk.
With Beauty below me, may I walk.
With Beauty all around me, may I walk.
With Beauty within me, may I walk.

 

First Day of School

First day of 8th and 3rd grades

It’s the first day of school! This morning we cast aside our lazy summer routine and got up early to get to class at 8:10 a.m. This is my handsome eighth-grader and my charming-but-not-the-least-bit-enthusiastic third-grader. They have had 94 days off for summer and it’s time to go back to school!

Let’s just say that again, shall we?

94 days off.

94.

Ninety-four.

Ninety-four is so many days off I don’t even know how to spell ninety.

NINETY-FOUR.

94.

Days off.

In a row.

Holy moly and goddamn! I’d have to be disabled in some freakishly horrible accident to get that many days off—in a bloody row.

But. I have tried very. very. very hard NOT to complain this summer about … summer.

You might have noticed how I said very little. Because I was definitely not complaining.

I’ve been very quiet in this space over the summer, compared to other summers.

It’s partly because I have a young teen who is now quite sensitive about what I post, who wants to control his own online image. I respect his wishes, though it is hard for me to have to check with him about ever damn photo. I have had a gag rule imposed upon me by this amazing boy who has always taught me so much—about him, about the world, about myself. Who has been the source of so many invaluable lessons. Who has been my initiator into so many new experiences over the last 13 years. For years, writing about my life as a mother (as Lucas’s mother) has allowed me the opportunity to think, reflect, and process a whole maelstrom of feelings that at times have threatened to engulf me completely. Writing this blog has been at times a link to sanity, to the knowing voice that whispers deep and quietly within my soul.

But he gets to say. Because I love him. And I respect him.

And oh, my! There are so many amazing things about him that I’ve not said.

Gag. Rule.

And another thing: Sometimes you just have to curl up and form a chrysalis for a while. Go deep, rest and heal, in the hopes that something whole and amazing will emerge. I’m still waiting, quietly. Won’t say much about that. But, you know, I’m still here. Drop me a line?

Doesn't want to go back to school.

Asher, well … Let’s just say that Asher has had a wonderful summer full of lots of his favorite people, and lots of his favorite self-directed activities. And, in a nutshell, he isn’t all that keen to spend his days being directed by, you know, teachers and such, who have their own plan for his time.

Now, to be fair, these rather mopey pictures were taken at 7:35 this morning. Few of us are at our strongest best at 7:35 a.m., in my opinion. This afternoon, at 12:35, I received the report that the day went well for both of them. There are new teachers and it was a pretty good day.

So.

Just so. For the first day of school.

Just So

Red, white, and blue

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Fresh blueberry pie with raspberries

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Independence Day! = Friends, new puppies, antics, swimming, relaxing, meeting people, fireworks, neighbors, barbecued pork ribs, corn on the cob, cucs (a family specialty), rum and tonics, fresh blueberry pie, love, a bit of risk, and a whole lot of chill.

Blessed.

Dear Asher

Dear Asher,

I know you are feeling a little sad because Lucas and I went on a trip. It’s normal to feel lonely and to miss the people you love when they are away. We will miss you and Daddy, too.

Don’t worry. We will be back on Friday evening. That’s only two sleeps, and three days away. Daddy and your grandmas will take good care of you.

Wednesday you will go to school. Grandma Sydney will pick you up at 2:20. Daddy will come and get you when he’s done with work. I bet he will read you some Hiccup.

Thursday the same thing will happen. You will go to school, Grandma Sydney will pick you up at 2:20. Daddy will get you after work.

Friday you will go to school. Grandma VoVo will pick you up after school. Daddy will get you after work, and Mommy and Lucas will be home that night, probably around dinnertime (5:00 or 6:00)!

I will call you each afternoon or evening and talk to you. And I will send you and Daddy all my love.

Please take care of Solstice for me. Please put fresh water in his water dish and give him lots of love. He might be a little lonely. Also, please take care of Daddy too. He will need extra snuggles.

I love you, Asher. I’ll be home soon. Be brave.

Mama

 

 

My Mother’s Day 2015

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My Mother’s Day started like this, with a nice relaxing time in my beautiful personal “park” that our family has lovingly created together over the years.

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And this emphatic! card! from Asher! which I LOVE!

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My beautiful gifts from Ian and my boys: solar glass garden lights, which have LEDs in them that change colors in the night. They also gave me a mini oyster mushroom farm. They know me.

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We spent a little time with my parents at their place. KISS principle in effect, you know: pizza, salad, and some early-season swimming for the kiddos. It felt wonderful.

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These two!

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My silver is shining through, like my mama’s does. I told my sons the silver streaks in my hair were starlight kisses and wishes come true—things moms get when they have wonderful children.

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Ian and Dad were there too, but I didn’t shoot pics of them. It was a good, chill day, despite being a bit under the weather with a virus (which still has me feeling low two weeks after I came down with it!).

I know this kind of post is really interesting only to me. But these are happy moments in my life and capturing them buoys me up when the grind threatens to get me down. These little moments of joy and togetherness, small gestures of kindness and appreciation—they are food and oxygen that keep my heart pumping and my commitment strong. I am more in love with my little family every day.

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My mama on mothers day

This is my beautiful mother, Sydney. She is clever, funny, feisty, opinionated, determined, loving,  courageous, and wicked smart. She almost was a nun, but said no thanks. She speaks three languages and is currently learning Italian. She has two masters’ degrees. She took 15 years out of her career to raise me and my brother. Then she went on to teach college humanities, until retiring a year ago. She knows about art, literature, history, sociology. She is a perpetual volunteer. She writes mysteries. She has exquisite handwriting. She reads voraciously. She embraces technology but it doesn’t always hug her back. She’s read and taught The Iliad and The Odyssey something like 50 times each, and knows Dante’s hell like the back of her hand. She can tell you about Brunelleschi’s dome and Bernini and Hagia Sophia, modern art, and Asian art. She loves slapstick, forensic dramas, and all theater. She knits like a badass, and makes beautiful and useful clothing, quilts, embroidery, sweaters, hats, socks—you name it.

She is punctual, dependable, thoughtful, and profoundly generous of her time, creativity, the work of her hands, her caring, her teaching. She is a faithful friend and a lovely person who never stops learning, doing, helping, creating, and reading. I admire her and love her.

My mama has always been there for me, with love and support, even when we disagree. She still takes care of me just about every day in one way or another. I am so grateful to her. For more than I could ever say. Happy Mothers Day, Mom. You’re the best.

 

May Day Is Coming!

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I can’t believe I didn’t post about May Day last year! My beautiful niece (that’s the simplest title) danced in her school’s May Day celebration with her eighth-grade classmates. My little son played a part with his fellow first graders in our school’s May Day celebration, too. I must have been really busy this time last year—or overwhelmed—to have missed saying how proud I am of these young people and how truly enchanted I feel by this festival so cherished by Waldorf schools.

Well, as we head into this year’s May Day celebration, and my beloved older son’s Beltane birthday, I will conjure all the beauty of this celebration with photos from last year, 2014. Indulge me.

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This is my sweet T, who is the most delightfully sweet force of nature. She is wicked smart, and funny, and charming, and kind, and diabolical, and beautiful, and compassionate, and bossy, and a born leader, and I love her deeply.

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And I was bursting with pride at this moment.

8th grade dancers #mayday #magic #maypole #festivals #holiday #goldenvalleycharterschool #family #spring #waldorf

These are shots from Golden Valley Charter School’s May Faire, May 2014. The whole school community came out on a gorgeous morning to celebrate. All the classes wore white. They have a lovely May Queen every year in their celebration. Their graduating eighth graders dance the May Pole. It is every bit as charming in 2014 as it was in 1814. You can look up vintage May dance photos to see for yourself.

The May-Pole (Excerpt)

The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup,
I’ll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown’d it.

—Robert Herrick

My lovely son #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool#waldorf #mayday #magic #7yearold #firstgrade

And there’s just nothing in the world like a boy you love festooned in flowers!

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May-Baskets

Let us take our baskets early 
   To the meadows green, 
While the wild-flowers still are pearly 
   With the dewdrops’ sheen. 

Fill them full of blossoms rosy, 
   Violets and gay 
Cowslips, every pretty posy 
   Welcoming the May. 

Then our lovely loads we’ll carry 
   Down the village street, 
On each door, with laughter merry, 
   Hang a basket sweet. 

Hey-a-day-day! It is spring now, 
   Lazy folks, awake! 
See the pretty things we bring now 
   For the May-day’s sake!

—Evaleen Stein

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At Sacramento Waldorf School, where my children go, the first graders shower the dancers with rose petals as they enter and exit, and decorate the field with petals.

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(Poor kid! I made his crown too big.)

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I have written about this special festival before. I shared our experiences of celebrating May Day in the Waldorf kindergarten, too. That this festival comes every year doesn’t seem to diminish its beauty or freshness. That must be because these shining faces are growing and changing each year. Each year a new crop of lovely eighth graders take up their ribbons and dance their hearts out. It’s a bit of an endurance event; they work to weave and wrap the pole and an intricate, well-practiced way, practically down to the ground.

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The little ones adore the rose petal “fight” at the end. This part isn’t scripted, but they all do it every year, with gusto and giggles aplenty. Such joy and silliness! The petals fly and the the parents wildly snap photos.

Lucas is absent from these shots from last year, though he was there. The sixth grade doesn’t have a special roll to play in the May Day festival, so he could just hang out with his friends and watch. This year, however, his seventh-grade class will be playing the music for the dancers. I’m really looking forward to that!

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Blessings on your Beltane!

Time in My Garden

Rain. Blessed rain.

It rained last night! For a good long time.

I woke to a beautiful day of perfect temperature, and enjoyed a delicious soak in the hot tub while we watched the trees continue to drip.

Everything around me was so lovely. It got me to thinking about all the joy and travel, heartache and courage, striving and learning I see my friends and family doing all the time. My heart kind of burst with the beauty of it all in that perfect moment. Never fear, my thoughtful friends. There is so much juicy LIVING going on all around us. I am thick in it, reveling and diving deep, and so are you. I am inspired by you every day. Carry on with your boldness, your beautiful, wild selves. It will not only be all right, it is and will be glorious!

We spent some time doing fix-it things today. Ian fixed our leaky bathtub faucet, which is a huge weight off my shoulders. I’ve been putting buckets under the leak to save and use the water, but it was a major stress. I will now sleep better at night. He also installed a water-saving shower head in the boys’ bathroom. Voila! Good work.

The boys played almost all day with the neighborhood boys. They played D&D and basketball. And used a huge box of chalk and drew on most of my driveway.

Major chalk art is happening here!

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I got to spend some time in my garden, too. I planted some (old, old) seeds, just in case they’ll come up. (Love in a mist, scarlet morning glories, marigolds.) I planted some scarlet verbena and separated out some day lilies. (I just love it when my plants can be multiplied.) I amended the soil in the worst section of my yard, in the hopes that something can actually grow there someday. I trimmed tree branches a bit. And put two yellow bell peppers in our veg bed. I dug and moved soil from one section of my yard to another. I unearthed a whole mess of ants and their nursery. I’ve ruined my nails and got some sun on my face. And I’m not one bit sorry.

I have some spectacular irises blooming right now.

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This one’s called Obi-Wan Kenobi.

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And these poppies drive me mad, they’re so pretty. Tomorrow I’ll plant some nasturtium seeds and some others. My hubby loves nasturtiums.

I pulled out some mint that’s going crazy—like they say it does. The ground is soft from the rain, so pulling out mint was easy …

Then Ian made me a mojito and the most amazing shrimp jambalaya ever!

And now, I’m going to finish my wonderful day with some Deep Space Nine. Goodnight.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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