Breathing In and Out: planning a family rhythm

linden in stone spiral

I first experienced “Rhythm” through my work in kindergarten.  I LOVED this term when I first heard it, and more so once I experienced it and began to incorporate it into my teaching, my own life, and later in my parenting. As an early childhood teacher I had been using rhythm for a long time, without naming it as such. I am referring to the flow of the day where one thing comes after another in a predictable manner. I had been calling it “Routine” but rhythm is a natural flow rather than one that is scheduled (you can read more about it HERE and HERE – this is part 3 of a series of articles on rhythm). After living a scheduled life, and teaching to a schedule I felt the freedom that rhythm offered as a cool, relaxing breeze through my day.

My favourite moment was when I noticed how the two kindergartens worked together in their rhythm. Without even checking clocks our two kindy rooms, side by side, breathed in and out through the day together. One class would be playing outside on an out breath, while the other would be inside, and then a natural swap would occur and the energy and breathing would be exchanged. After lunch both kindy rooms breathed quietly in their own rhythm as they rested and pursued gentle and calming activities before the out-breath that occurred at home time. And within each kindy room our children would move through the day without even asking what comes next: they would always know. Indeed, some days children would often start singing the pack-up song just at the same time we sensed it was time to draw playtime to an end. Our days were simple, uncomplicated, predictable and safe.

Do you know why it worked? It was because our rhythms were purposefully designed to meet ALL of our needs, our activities were timed for the part of the day when we had the right energy for it: highly creative, thoughtful and active moments at the start of the day, flowing through to quiet, reflective and more individual experiences in the afternoon. We were not trying to fight against the children’s natural interests, energies or capabilities, and our rhythm changed subtly as the children grew older. Presenting our daily activities in the same way each day offered predictability, which children find incredibly soothing, which in turn meant that they felt safe and relaxed. Held gently in this predictable space they could find the freedom to follow their interests, develop their skills and grow with each other.

Because the children felt so safe, every now and then we could mix it up and offer a surprise, a challenge, or a new adventure. A change to the rhythm! Rather than causing anxiety, our secure children rose to greet their challenges with enthusiasm. Our weekly rhythm would also offer a bit of variety, still maintaining that predictability .. and our seasonal rhythm would move us through the transformations of the year (and our own developmental transformations) with respect and reverence.

Once I became a parent it was a natural thing for me to bring rhythm into our family life, and every now and then we review it because while there is safety in predictability, we can also stagnate if we don’t find flexibility with our changing needs.

How do you breathe through your days? Being aware of breath, to me, is the essential part of creating a rhythm that works. There is no point planning activities or jobs at a time that I or my children would naturally be resting, or scheduling a barrage of activities without considering time for quiet moments and reflection. Being aware of my needs, and the needs of my family are key.

Our Daily Rhythm flows like this:

Morning: Get dressed, breakfast, make beds/tidy rooms, make lunches, go to school

Mid-Morning: daily task / errands (little one is with me)

Lunch

Afternoon: quiet activities such as craft, reading, cooking or gardening. School pick-up

After School: hang up bags, lunch boxes in the kitchen, afternoon tea, play, tidy up, wash hands/bath

Evening: dinner, wash up, teeth, pyjamas, books, bed

It just happens the way it happens.  For us, at this time of writing, this tends to be a typical 6am – 7pm daily rhythm for the children. We try not to schedule too much.  As the children grow older there are a few afternoon activities to consider, but kept to a manageable minimum so that MY needs are met as well as the children’s.

Our Weekly rhythm flows in much the same way, but is designed to get things done! Again, I keep mine as simple as I can. I tend to get interested in a lot of things so my week needs to be fairly flexible. As I still have a little one at home with me, I try to do only ONE big thing a day, and do that in the morning, so that we have the afternoon free to flow as it will. Throughout the week I am also careful to schedule as much home time as I can, because afternoon activities and morning jobs can mount up and keep us busy. It is important to me, and to my children (especially on school holidays!) to have a full day at home after a busy day out. My weekly rhythm looks something like this:

MONDAY –  Morning: house cleaning and exercising. Afternoon: baking

TUESDAY – Morning: playgroup. Afternoon: craft / reading.

WEDNESDAY – Morning: laundry, errands. Afternoon: writing/work tasks

THURSDAY – All day:  work day (little one at family day care)

FRIDAY – Morning: exercise, groceries / errands. Afternoon: writing / study / work. (little one at family day care)

WEEKEND – family cleaning, gardening and tidying tasks. Family activities.

There are other ways of celebrating a weekly rhythm: with colours, food, activities, awareness of planetary influences … I’ve written about them HERE. They are just other ways. There are many ways, and as we have discussed, the way meets your family’s needs is the way that is right for you. YOUR rhythm is unique and it is up to you to arrange it the way you need to.

A Seasonal rhythm honours the passing of time, growth and transformation. In our family we honour a seasonal rhythm by celebrating significant seasonal days and festivals, keeping a reverent space in our home to acknowledge our current season, enjoying the gifts our season through gardening, walking/exploring, song, craft and story. We enjoy coming together with community – and of course enjoy celebrating anniversaries such as birthdays.

Seasonal rhythms keep us connected to our immediate environment and our community and lifts us from the limitations of our daily predictability. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Seasonal rhythms remind us that all things must transform and grow, give us the opportunity to review our needs at this moment, and give us something to look forward to, and wonderful lasting memories.

Breathing in and out, through the day, through the week and through the year …

… happy breathing …

 

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Creating Family Rhythm: Planning for Needs

What do I REALLY NEED?

We recently posted about Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life. It’s not an article about the colourful Australian children’s performing group (although they do indeed bring rhythm into the lives of many families!), rather it is about living a rhythmic lifestyle together as a family: allowing room for the important things, meeting family and individual needs, and having breathing room to have time for play and keep stress at bay. The Room for Wiggle article sung the praises of rhythm, but it didn’t say how to do it.

So this article is about how I BEGIN creating rhythm in my family home.  I can only write about this from my perspective, so this article is not intended to give advice, it is offered in the spirit of sharing experience. For me, creative a rhythm is not just a process of drawing up 7 columns to the week and filling in the spaces!! That’s a sure way to create something that looks wonderful but may not be practical – or realistic. Before I even get to drawing up columns (and I do love a well-planned week!) I think about how I can best use my time and energy, because when it comes down to it, it is MY time I am planning here.

What are MY needs?

It’s no accident that this question is first. Whenever I review our rhythm I become aware of how essential I am as a parent to all parts of our day and week. This discussion on needs is the core component to our Effective Parenting Weekends.  How can I possibly meet the needs of others if my own are not being met first?

I have to consider what I need to feel like a complete, functioning adult who can make rational decisions and approach life with joy because if these needs are not being met then any planned rhythm that follows will naturally try to adjust itself, regardless of what I try to put in place. If my week is scheduled around meeting only the needs of others then eventually I will experience burn-out … expending a lot of energy upon others takes its toll. So I ask myself:

How do I naturally move through my day?

When do I need rest in my day and in my week?

When do I feel my most energetic?

What are MY interests?

What do I really need to keep myself healthy and joyful?

What are my FAMILY’S needs?

Each person in our family is individual with a unique set of needs in terms of age, health, interests and energy. This is an opportunity  to consider each person in my family and spend some time connecting to them, identifying what they really need to be healthy, happy and live harmoniously together. How often do we devote time to really sitting in thoughtful love about our family members? Spend time in meditation, drawing, writing – and BEING with each one – enjoy this process!

Now I look at my lists again – how does this feel? Do I need to simplify even more? Are we over scheduling? How do our needs as individuals weigh up against our needs as a family? Are my expectations of my family members appropriate and realistic? Do we need to have a family conversation (in an age appropriate way) about how we can meet everyone’s needs together? (Again, I have to admit, Effective Parenting has some wonderful ideas about how to do this!)

What are the OTHER priorities? 

Now we think about what else HAS to be done. There are some parts of my week that involve non-negotiable commitments. For me, these are things like school, work and regular weekly commitments such as playgroup.

After these come the sorts of things that have to be done to keep my household running: thing like cooking/grocery shopping/laundry/gardening/cleaning/ paying bills/ filling the car with petrol …

Even if these things are not all my responsibility, they still need to have a place in the week so that they happen. Trying to leave these things out is another reason why constructed rhythms may fall apart. I have to make time for the essentials (even if I do not want to).

Being Realistic

At this point, after listing all the things that have to happen I sometimes begin to start feeling overwhelmed! It is another wonderful opportunity (life is FULL of wonderful opportunities!) to consider what is REALLY important in MY life. Can I possibly manage all this on my own? I may need to have a think about how these things happen in my home, and whose responsibility they are. Perhaps it is time to begin teaching the children some new household skills, have a conversation with other adults in the household about roles and responsibilities, or ask for (or employ) outside help from others.

If none of these are an option for the moment it may be time to review some personal expectations. This is also a wonderful opportunity to consider my values! Keeping it simple, I ask again: What is really important? Are some of these essential parts to my week perhaps not so essential? Do I notice a clash of values between what I believe, what I want, and what I do? We have created an entire section dedicated to needs and values in Effective Parenting, and I have drawn on this work in my parenting many times since.

Putting it all together

I’ll continue this discussion about creating rhythm in another post – one where I talk about moving naturally within a daily, weekly and seasonal flow. This is the fun bit – and the bit I always want to skip to first … but it never works properly for me without doing this reflection first. When we are living in conflict with our needs we are living in stress. The wonderful thing about living with rhythm is the opportunities (there’s that words again) which present for us to get to know ourselves better!

Story: The Mother, The Great Mother and The Stranger

Written by Jennifer McCormack – for Bronwyn, G, Zen, Lily and River

 xx with love xx

Once there was a home with a family in it. A mother with flowing hair, a father full of laughter and three children, each with wild hair and dark eyes. They belonged together. They always had and they always will. The mother in this home was born of the Great Mother and always knew she was loved.

Life wasn’t still in this home. It was ever growing and ever changing, just like everyone in it. It was a home that was filled with the busy life of a real family. They all loved to laugh and talk and play. They had their fights too but they belonged together (and always will). They knew that those moments would come and go. We all have our moments.

“We can only be ourselves”, the mother would say, “and we are all wonder-full even though we are different. We have to love who we are! We also have to love each other because life is full of surprises. We belong together – and always will!”

Their home was a welcoming one. It always felt open, and sometimes it wasn’t even locked. They felt safe there with one another. There always seemed to be people coming and going: friends, friends of friends … even strangers were welcomed at various times.

At times the mother would gather women together in the energy of this special home and they would talk. Children would play with one another, they’d tumble and explore and make a lot of noise. Women would meet and talk, share food and talk, nurse their babies and talk. “We can only be ourselves”, the mother would say to her friends, “We can’t be anyone else, and we are all wonderful although we are different!” They loved spending time together, celebrating themselves and their families and learning from each other. All was as it should be.

One day, while most of the family had gone out, and just the mother was at home, a stranger arrived and waited at the door. The mother did not know this stranger was there, for it stood there like a shadow, silent and still on the doorstep. It did not knock, and neither was it noticed until the mother opened the door to go out and there in front of her was a figure cloaked so that its face was hidden.

It wasn’t unusual for new people to turn up in this loving home from time to time. This time, though, the stranger came right on inside the home without an invitation and without a word and sat in the corner, dark and brooding. The mother was surprised and quite confused! Many people come and go in this loving home, but nobody goes past the door without a greeting.

“What is your name?” the mother asked, “Why are you here?” The stranger did not reply but continued to sit.

When the family came home and discovered the stranger, they didn’t quite know what to make of it either. The stranger was frightening. The mother and the family did try all kinds of things to engage the stranger, and to help the dark, cloaked figure to leave. They tried to make conversation, to find out more about the stranger and why it was there. They got angry at it, they pleaded with it, they tried pushing it, but it revealed nothing. It just remained there in the corner, silent and brooding and refused to leave. Friends came by, many friends, to try and coax the stranger from the home, but no one could help, although the mother was grateful that they tried.

Life went on in the home, but with the stranger there it wasn’t quite the same. The mother and father weren’t so quick to laugh, although they did try to, and the children didn’t really know what was going on. It was still a special home and it was still filled with people and all kinds of busy-ness, but with the stranger there it was difficult to be at ease. All the same, they tried to carry on because they belonged together (and always will).

Still the stranger sat. It even seemed to grow in the shadows of the corner it occupied. It was starting to make the mother feel really unwell. She wanted her home back. She wanted her family to be happy with each other like they were before. She wanted to stop worrying about the stranger, to stop feeling sick and to start feeling like herself again.

Finally, the mother had had enough, and decided to spend some time with the stranger alone. The family weren’t sure about that. They didn’t want to leave her alone with this cloaked, silent figure. “We belong together, and always will”, she reassured them. “I will be ok”.

She left the home, knowing the stranger would follow her. She went to a place in the mountains that made her feel happy, a place where she could try to talk to the Great Mother, to think about what to do with this stranger. When she ate, the stranger ate. When she walked the stranger walked. When she lay down, the stranger lay down with her. She sat with the stranger. She fasted and prayed and cleansed and still the stranger remained. She grew thin and pale and tired and the stranger appeared to grow stronger and its shadowy cloak grew darker. She sat in front of it, and looked at it. Still it said nothing. She sat in silence and realised that the stranger was never going to go. “You aren’t leaving me, are you?” she whispered.

The stranger moved for the first time. It shook its head, but still she could not see inside the cloak it wore. The gesture was enough. “Great Mother, WHY?” she asked. Still there was silence. Because there was no one else, she wrapped her arms around the stranger and sobbed. They embraced in the darkness, together.

“Ok,” she finally said, “Ok. So you aren’t leaving. If you stay, stay, but you have to do it my way. My home is a welcoming home, and those who are in it are all loved. So I will open my heart to you but you have to let me be me. We are both wonder-full, even if we are different. We’ll have to get on with each other until it is time for you to go.”

So she and the stranger came down from the mountain and she found her family. It felt so good to be together again, to be home and wrapped in each other’s love. They belonged together (and always will). The stranger was now a quiet part of the family, accepted, but not quite loved. The mother knew that she was the only one who really had to find love for the stranger, although from time to time she still got angry that it was there at all. She found some courage somewhere and decided to explore what life was going to be like with this shadowy stranger of hers.

She gathered her family and friends and asked them to accept the stranger as a part of her life for the moment, and to help her enjoy her life with her new companion. The stranger was dark and silent, but the mother didn’t have to be. They all planned some fun together and it was almost like before, perhaps sometimes even better, although the stranger still made the mother grow tried. They laughed and played like children, even held a wonderful party with all the mother’s friends. The mother felt so full of love and life that even she could forget about her shadowy companion for a little while. It was wonderful just to be herself again.

Soon though, she grew tired. Living a joyful and playful life was challenging with the stranger, who just wasn’t by nature either joyful or playful. The mother began to feel exhausted and unwell once more. It was time to rest and she took to her bed. She slept a lot, and she didn’t always feel well. Her children and her special friends spent time as much time with her as they could, and the father rarely left her. He sat on one side of her bed and held her hand, and the stranger sat on the other side, both her constant companions. She had everyone she needed, and she was comforted by that.

The mother slipped in and out of the dream world. While she slept she spoke with the stranger. “You became a part of my life”, she said, “and I tried my best to accept you so that I could feel like me again. I’ve learned to be with you, so will you now show me what you look like?” she asked.

The stranger finally nodded, and took off the shadowy cloak. The mother looked back at the face revealed before her and gazed at it for a long time. It was a kind, gentle face, not the ugly, fear-full face that she had imagined. It was a face she had seen before, from when she was born, and again when she went to the mountains. It was the face of the Great Mother.

“We can only be ourselves,” the Great Mother said, “We are all wonder-full, even though we are different. Our strange shadow sides are a part of us too, and sometimes when we can finally embrace them they can take us to beautiful places. You’ve been so brave. You’ve been so sick, and still so authentic. You never lost trust in me, even though you never loved the other side of me. Come with me, beautiful lady, it’s time to go.”

The mother came out of her dreaming and opened her eyes. She turned to look with love at the man who had shared life. She opened her heart to her children and wished them all her love, all of it. She was too tired to talk with words, but her heart did the talking for her.

“I love you but I’m going to go now.” whispered the words of her heart. “I’m going to be OK, and so will you. We belong together. We always will.”

She took hold of the Great Mother’s hand.

xxx

Once there was a home with a family in it. A mother with flowing hair, a father full of laughter and three children, each with wild hair and dark eyes. They belonged together. They always had and they always will. The mother in this home was born of the Great Mother and always knew she was loved.

** If you share this story please always acknowledge the source of the story and that this story was written for an amazing woman called Bronwyn who journeyed with cancer on her own terms. ** If you are interested in writing your own story to express and understand your experience, I am available for personal consultations to help you write it. For more information, have a look at Therapeutic Storytelling with Jennifer McCormack, at Create & Relate.**

Room for Wiggle: 6 reasons you need rhythm in your family life

I need routine. I need to know what to do and when to do it otherwise my week with three young children and work can become so haphazard that we end up in a frenzy on Sunday night or Monday morning excavating Mount Laundry for clean clothes, negotiating a hazardous path through a minefield of household debris on the floor, no food prep done for the week, bills unpaid, important documents lost … and don’t talk to me about cleaning toilets.

Routine is an important and essential part of my family life, but I like things to flow as well. I do hate being tied to a strict time frame with no room for wiggle. Life is not fun when it is ruled by the clock, and lived according the number of responsibilities one must take care of by a certain time. I want to be able to float through my mornings not worrying about what I achieved by when … but still getting everything done – and without stress. This feels like a clash of values because as a mother there is always stuff that has to be done – and with children around it almost always has to be done NOW! Plus with children there is also the spontaneous factor. You just never know what is going to happen next and sometimes you have to drop everything – what happens to your routine then?

If I just did what I felt like (and sometimes I do) I would do no more than make a cup of tea, allow the children to dress themselves by fishing through the remains of Mount Laundry (that usually suffers a landslide and starts creeping over the basket and down the hallway), suggest the children forage in the fridge for breakfast while I read my book and then rush around for tuck shop money before school begins. I can’t do that every day. I also want to savour and enjoy my days, particularly while my children are so little. This is the time of life to value and remember because as I grow older I am pretty sure I will have oodles of time to savour the moment but by then my children will be older too and their delightful years as youngsters will be a vague memory of the past.

So where is the middle ground? How to balance our need for routine and our desire for freedom?

In Waldorf circles this balance is known as RHYTHM, the process of flowing between what has to be done and what we create and enjoy in the meantime. Rhythm is a heartbeat, it is our breathing room, it is the music and creative flow of our day and it is another expression of ‘work is play’. Here are six reasons why I value rhythm in my family life.

1. Rhythm is the flow of movement from one thing to another, and in terms of creating a rhythm that works for the family it is the order of events that is important. Naturally there will always be a place for routine. I have to get out the door by 8am on school days with children who are fed, dressed, wearing shoes, with lunches, hats and all they need for the day. So there are things that need to be done and schedules that need to be kept in a day, but even this can flow in a predictable manner, and this flow is what gets us out the door (with a mumma who is conscious of the time)

2. Rhythm honours what is important – Rhythm is concerned about your priorities. First things first! Some things have to be done: meals, shopping, housework. Some things need to be done to keep us healthy: exercise, down time. Some things are important because they feed our soul: creative work, hobbies, play time – all those things which call to our soul expression. All of this is important and needs a natural place within the daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal rhythm. I can’t get everything done all in one day. I could try to do a little of everything every single day, but then every day I would be cooking, cleaning, washing, gardening, shopping, writing, crafting, exercising, studying … and when do I spend time with my family? Or have time for myself? No I prefer to find a time for everything within the week … and let the daily rhythm flow around only the most essential points of the day: meals, work/school and bed time. The rest fits into our weekly rhythm – or the monthly one if you flow with seasons too.

3. Rhythm is predictable and safe – knowing what comes next is one of the most important things for children. When I was teaching and running my family day care I always enjoyed watching the children find solace in our rhythm. Sometimes they would tell me all the things we do in a day – in the right order – and then sigh with happiness when I confirmed they had it right. I loved watching 2 year olds instantly take their plate to the bowl of soapy water for washing after lunch, and then go to read a book while the others finished eating, without being asked to. A little song about rest time and they’d go and make their beds. I’m not saying they all slept, but still I never even had to tell them it is rest time (unless it was an off day, and we all get those from time to time!)

I find security in predictability too. It speaks to my personal need to pre-plan the big things, have time to mull over what I am going to do next, to plan my time and sort out my priorities. One thing at a time. For children, knowing that one thing happens before or after another means that you’ll encounter less arguments merely because that is the way it is always done. Any more disagreements can be countered creatively with a story, humour and imagination and if that doesn’t work it is time to look at finding another time for that particular event, reviewing the rhythm altogether or start asking what is really happening here? And this leads us to point 4.

4. Rhythm balances everyone’s needs – Here I am talking about individual energy levels, personal interests, family values and health requirements. A good rhythm makes time for everyone. My eldest and my youngest wake at the crack of dawn and my middle child would sleep until school starts if given the opportunity. The morning rhythm is the same for her as it is for the others but they are likely to be dressed and ready first. So long as she know what happens next she can get organised in time (with a little patience and support from me).

5. Rhythm highlights our health. If predictability in rhythm is important does this mean that children in a rhythm won’t cope with spontaneity or suddenly changed plans? Not at all, unless their needs are such that predictability means the difference between health and high stress, such as very sensitive children, children recovering from illness or children on the autistic spectrum. Otherwise you’ll find that children who are used to a usual way of doing things will welcome the odd surprise with delight and great flexibility.

Rhythm flows in a way that supports all your needs – thus it should support your family’s health. Your rhythm can speed up or slow down from time to time, just so long as it DOES return to a rhythmic, predictable state before stress becomes a factor. If your life commitments become too rigid or too full then the rhythmical nature doesn’t flow and becomes frantic. This is not living in a space of good health. This introduces stress which will impact on children’s growth and development, not to mention their happiness. Arguments, headaches, stomach aches, nervous illnesses and defiance will start popping up in a family that lives a frantic existence zooming from one thing to another without adequate rest.

Likewise, it can work the other way: a daily or weekly rhythm that has no responsibilities, no time frames, no predictability will also not support good health. There needs to be just enough predictability, with room for just enough flexibility to keep a healthy family moving along together in harmony. One may say that living with no schedule is living intuitively. I challenge this. Nobody can live a healthy life without purpose. Rhythm celebrates our unique purpose, stops us drifting and encourages us to stay connected to our more natural rhythms and seasons, stay intuitive to our needs and take the time to do what needs to be done, and still have time to do what we feel.

6. Rhythm has room for wiggle. Had a bad night’s sleep? Baby thrown up all over you just after you got dressed? Been sick for a week? Have an assignment due? Your rhythm should have enough wiggle room to shift things about. As I mentioned earlier rhythm is about flowing with time rather than fighting with time. There is always time for everything that is important right now. And if there isn’t? How important is it really? Could you ask for help or delegate some tasks?

Rhythm gives us time and flow and room to wiggle. It helps us to focus on our health and safety. It brings security and organisation into our lives, especially for our children. And if we can’t fit it in by ourselves it is time to ask for help … and that is ok too.

So how do we put this rhythm together? That is another post. Coming soon …

This article is also posted at Sacred Essence – where the Sacred Moments of Effective Parenting is celebrated.

Recipe: Nut Butter Cookies

Oh my goodness I love simple recipes. This one is SO simple … and you end up with a crunchy yummy little biscuit. These little biscuits have no flour, no sugar, no dairy, and no tricky substitutes for those items. They are not super sweet, but just sweet enough and if you want them sweeter maybe add the whole banana rather than the half (and if you use the whole banana, then try leaving out the egg – which would make them vegan too)

They are just perfect for afternoon tea with a glass of milk or a cup of tea.

Nut Butter Cookies

NUT BUTTER COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

200g nut butter of your choice

1oog coconut – I used desiccated but I think it would work with shredded coconut too

1/2 banana

1 egg (or try it without)

METHOD

Mix all ingredients together in your food processor or mash all ingredients together with a fork. Roll into balls and cook at 160C until browned on top. Because of the high oil content in the nut butter, and depending upon how long you blend it for in the food processor, a bit of oil might bubble around the edges while they cook. Mine practically fried themselves in the oven.

Spontaneous Storytelling in a Group

I love ALL stories,  but I do from time to time like to vary from traditional fairy tales and our well-loved stories that we tell over and again. Sometimes though, I just don’t have any ideas of my own. Today was one of those days. It was glorious at playgroup today – this wonderful winter sunshine turned on a hint of summer today – we were all outside in our hats and singlet tops and bare feet really enjoying every moment of this magic day. I didn’t want to think about a story to tell the group today and I’d been so busy throughout the week that I hadn’t given any time to dreaming up some new stories.

So today we made one up on the spot as a group. It was fun! We sat outside under the shady trees on some picnic blankets together and picked an items from a variety of objects I had put in a pillow case. We sat with our item for a bit, thinking about its potential, looking at it with new eyes, stretching what we knew to be ‘true’ of this object, then we began to talk.

Our story today involved a knitted lady (wearing a sling), a needle felted figure with a cloak and a diamond, two tiny dolls (that just so happen to fit inside the knitted lady’s sling), a length of plaited wire with shiny beads threaded on, a long seed pod, a short seed pod and a doily.

What story would you make up with these objects? It’s best really not to think about it too much, just to open your mouth and the story come out. One person began the story with their item and then we took turns introducing the object we had and developing the story. Sharing a story with other adults is delightful because while you think you may know what is going to happen next, another person always has a wonderful idea that you hadn’t thought of!

Would you like to read our story?

I will write it down and post it soon 🙂

 

 

Stories of Motherhood: Soulful Mama

I love stories of Motherhood. Every mother has a story – and you know every child would love to hear their mama’s story. I love seeing how wide my children’s eyes become when I tell them bits of my “other life” before they joined me here. My journey into motherhood has been interesting too and  one day I’ll share it with my children but now is not the time. I’ll tell you about it sometime though. Here is a letter from a mama that I adore. She is passionate about women living a life that is beauty-full and truth-full and soul-full, and I believe she will never stop working to connect women and their spirits. This mama does a pretty thorough job of introducing herself to you and so I will just let you read on.
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Dear Soulful Mamas,
This is a letter from my heart, to share with You who I am, and why I’ve started this page.  I am Hollie B. and I come from a long story of Women’s Magick and Circling. I hold Space for Women’s Ceremony, Red Tent and other such awesomes in the Canberra region, which is the capital city of Australia. You can look me up via Lunation on Google or Facebook.
I am Mama to 2 children aged 9 & 7. I also have 3 children of my heart, aged 16, 17 & 19, my step-children, the children of my husband Bolj. We live a very happy, carefree life on our bush forest property where we are building a small homestead and spiritual retreat centre. We wake up to the sounds of kookaburras and cockatoos everyday, we watch wombats meandering and kangaroos chewing. My children are Out of School – home educated – and they spend more of their day riding bikes and exploring the forest than they do sitting at a desk. We eat organic food, make as much as we can by hand, drive a HOT car, love to exercise and are known to drop everything in the moment in order to do something more fun.
As a Soulful Mama my life really is Perfect. But it hasn’t always been like this.
My 2 babes have different fathers, neither of whom are my husband, and I’m telling You this because I want You to know, that I have known what it is to feel unsupported and unsure and fearful and to ask yourSelf ‘how the fuck did I get here?’ Their fathers do stupid shit all the time, like drop them home when there’s nobody here, or leave them in front of a TV screen for hours at a time, or feed them food they are sensitive to. When my children return home after a weekend at dads there is invariably a meltdown within 24 hours – from the over stimulation and stress and exhaustion. It has happened like this since both of my children were one year old – that is when I left each father, and when I had to let my child go away at night. You see, dear Soulful Mama, I know all about that.
There are times when I’ve made decisions that didn’t  honour me into the future, for whatever reason, and I’ve had to learn to forgive mySelf, in order to find a Space for love. That’s how I found my True Love, my Divine Twin Flame, my Sacred Beloved and I married him and we live happily in a bush forest with the People we lovely nearby. We are living our dreams and being Soulful parents and we are showing our kids how to dream big, face our fears and Be everything  we came here to Be.
But it wasn’t easy. It was painful and scary and I had to face many parts of my Self and my old stories  in order to make this all happen. I had to get vulnerable and raw and open mySelf. I had to surrender all the unconscious parts of my Self that played out over and over, and step up to Be the Real, authentic me.
I had to learn to accept what is and lean into the things that hurt the most, to allow mySelf to be curious about my feeling, and to eventually surrender it in order to heal. There have been so many times I thought ‘I cannot do this again’ but somehow I do, every time. I want to be All the Mama I can Be, so my children are my inspiration, again and again.
My children have seen me at my best and my worst. I’ve sat on the bed of my two year old, with my newborn in my arms and cried for their forgiveness for us being where we are. They’ve loved me when I’ve hated myself most.
All the while I circled with Women. I held Sacred Spaces and went into other Sacred Spaces. I’ve actively studied and Worked in frameworks of the Goddess, on feminist spirituality, Magick and SpellCraft, in natural healing and conscious, alternative living and all of it has helped me step into my Infinite, Whole, Cosmic Self.
Through my own deep stirrings and in working in the Circle where Women find empowerment within, I’ve identified something important missing from our connections and communications. As Mamas, I believe that it is our responsibility to heal the ‘missing’ within ourSelf and give to our children a world where they can live as Wholehearted individuals. I believe in generational wounding and healing, and I know that what I heal in mySelf heals down my line, through my sons and daughters and their sons and daughters… It also heals up the line, through my mother and her mother. I’ve done so much of this Work and I know it is Real. When we do this our relationships change. We learn to forgive in its ultimate meaning of giving over and surrendering to the essence of vulnerability rather than the story we have carried. It’s hard work but its worth it.
My own research has reminded me that Being the ‘housewife’ – the ‘Woman who belongs to the house’ and therefore the Woman to who the house belongs, was once an incredibly Sacred position. While men were out hunting and protecting the land physically, Women were in the house, literally weaving the Space with Magick and energy to ensure that the family was nurtured, nourished and protected. The housewife was a power-full weaver of magick and healing. It was Women of Power who could do this, not the weak subservient woman we have been led to think of with that term ‘housewife’. She was a Space Holder, a Woman of power-full Magick and knowledge and she was a She-bear Mama raising babes to continue this same Work as they grew into adults. Along the way the Woman of Power has been battled down. She has been judged, abused, wounded and hated out of the system. But now we are bringing her back. We are healing her wounds. We are repositioning her in her rightful place as Woman of Power. As my friend Jane Hardwicke Collings says, WE HAVE BEEN DISBANDED FOR TOO LONG.
I believe it is time for Women to re-empower the Work of Being Mama and Housewife. There is nothing more important, no greater contribution in my eyes than holding the Space for a family while they grow into the unlimited Cosmic Beings they are here to Be. And to do this means learning just how power-full we are as Women.
It is time for Women to reclaim the Magick. It is time for Mamas to trust their instincts and grow the unlimited children they want to raise. It is time to question EVERYTHING because so much of what we’ve been told and what we do is not ours! We’ve picked up stories from the past, from our own parents and teachers and everyone who told us ‘that’s just how it’s done’. It’s time for us to respond ‘that’s not how I do it’ and to reshape the foundations of the way we want to Mother – from our Soul. It is time reshape what it means to be a housewife – a Woman of Power who commands the energy and feeling in her house, who leads with compassion and beauty and who is an example to all those she meets.
That’s why I started this page, the Soulful Mamas. It’s an invitation to Women to Be the Mamas they really want to Be. No more excuses or stories about the past. We are standing for what we believe in right now! We are making it happen right now. And we’re not waiting for anyone else to give us permission.
I want You to know Soulful Mama that You are exactly who and what You are meant to Be. There’s no text book for Soulful Mama-ing. The only way to go about it is to trust the voice inside that says ‘this is the world I want for my children’ and then follow your feeling to make it happen.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Mama of adult kids, whether you’re a single Mama, whether You co-parent, whether your beloved is male or female, whether You are still waiting to get pregnant, whether You have a shitty relationship with your own mother, whether You’ve never held a baby in your arms, whether You have 10 kids…. Your journey to Soulful Mama-ing  is about opening your heart, listening to where the vulnerable is and expressing it in a way that sets You free!
If you’re reading this and you’re thinking ‘I wish I was one of those Mamas’ don’t wish anymore. Give birth to the Mama You want to Be by stepping up, stepping in and expressing the True You inside. That’s all You have to do! You are powerful beyond all measure! Now is the time.
It is the time of the Soulful Mama. Our world is calling us! But we don’t need to venture out to the great abyss to prove a point. We just need to focus our most Sacred commodity : our Attention, on the one thing that we already have the most impact on – our Self. Be the Mama You wish You had. Be the Mama You wish the world had! And then our children won’t have to try so hard. Because for them, parenting from the heart will not be something they have to work at, it will simply be what they do. What a gift Soulful Mama-ing is to everyone it touches!
They, our children, learn from us. You can go out and protest all You want to the big companies about the way they are destroying the world. Or You can make Real choices at home, and teach your children the right way to live and honour the Self and the Earth. You can treat them as You want the world to be treated. Let us raise ethical consumers and wholehearted individuals who know no limits – then they will change the world, just by who they are.
If this is the world You wish to live in, I invite You to join me on the new Facebook page Soulful Mamas. Tell your Mama friends. We are building a community of like minds. There are many possibilities in the pipeline for this Soulful Mama Vision but it all starts with the coming together of many hearts. The Wholeheart. Will You open yours?

Story: The Old Woman Who Went Inside

I am working more and more with fairy tales for adults these days. I have re-written a few, and I have written a few new ones. I have been re-discovering the amazing transformational power that is held within a simple story and have worked closely with a few people recently to re-write stories or write new ones that re-tell their experience with a new eyes. Stories don’t always have to have happy endings to be powerful, either. Melissa and I have been writing transformational stories and meditations for Sacred Essence for several years. You can read a few of them on our website (and keep checking back, we add a new story every month!)

This particular story is not one for playgroup! It is one I wrote at the end of last semester. It came into existence after listening to the song “Hold It Up To The Light” by David Wilcox, and it partly describes my personal experience, and partly describes the companioning journey of client and creative arts therapist, however, like most fairy tales, there is a subtext. I know what it says to me – what does this story say to you?

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Crone, by Jennifer McCormack

The Old Woman Who Went Inside

by Jennifer McCormack, 2013

Once there was an old woman who lived in the middle of a village. She would sit on a bench in the sunshine at the front of her house spinning her yarn, and people would come and sit with her when they needed some support. She would share her wisdom with those who had troubles without answers, for she had lived long and listened well. She would mix up special brews, lotions and make talismans, for she was interested in many things and had long realised the power of the natural world. She would also tell stories and people would come to listen, for her words took them to other places.

She was happy to help, and had done so in this way for many years. She would receive payment, exchange news, enjoy the company of the villagers and was loved in her community, but she wasn’t content. She was starting to get pissed off.

The villagers would come to her and praise her for being so wise, so patient, so clever at knowing just the right thing to do. Of course they were right – SHE knew it! She’d lived long enough to recognise her own wisdom, experience and mistakes, but she had grown tired of being everyone’s first stop. She thought they probably could have solved their problems by themselves if they’d given it some thought, or if they had listened to her last time they asked. She had begun snapping sharply at people who came to her for answers. She left her bench in the sunshine and shifted her spinning wheel inside where she sat in the darkness, the only light coming from the one window in her small cottage.

The villagers were confused and left her alone for some time. Old women can do what they like. They had a right to be snippy if they chose to! They were not sure what the matter was though, and they didn’t know what kind of reaction they might receive if they knocked on her door. Inside her house, sitting in the dark the old woman was enjoying the solitude, but after a few weeks she opened her door just a little. She didn’t mind the darkness, she didn’t mind her own company – but why wouldn’t anyone come inside? She might not want to solve their problems but she missed their company, and besides, the less people who came, the less payment she received.

Eventually someone did knock at her door. The door creaked open a little more at their knock and they let themselves in, calling softly to her as they stepped hesitantly inside. The went to sit beside her and the old woman pointed to a chair but said nothing, just kept spinning her yarn by the light that came through the window. Except for the hypnotic rhythm of the spinning wheel, the house was quiet. Still the old woman did not speak. Eventually the visitor held their trouble up to the light of the window and the old woman looked up. With a few words, she pointed out the obvious, the not-so-obvious, and the curious but would not give an answer, just kept on spinning. The visitor thought for a moment and suggested an idea that came to them, suddenly finding that their trouble felt lighter. The old woman smiled as her visitor went home, after leaving payment in a bowl on the table.

Soon others arrived. Those with troubles held them up to the light and they would tell their story and together they and the old woman would comment on what they saw, and somehow things started looking clearer. Those who need talismans and potions were directed by the old woman with a flick of her head to her garden, where they helped themselves to the things they felt they needed, and those who came to her for stories found rhythm in the sound of her spinning wheel, and they ended up telling rich and wonderful tales of their own. Some people just came to sit in the dark and the quiet with the old woman. It was cool and reassuring in there. They would leave payment in the bowl as the left the house: some money, a gift or some food.

After continuing in this way for a while the old woman began to leave her house again, to tend her garden, to do her shopping, to sit on her bench in the sunshine to spin. Sometimes she would sit with the villagers on her bench, at other times they would go inside and sit by the window. Sometimes she would mix a brew or make a talisman or tell a story, but at all times people were invited to respectfully choose what they felt they needed, and create their own stories. The old woman began to enjoy the company of the villagers, again discussing ideas together, walking through the garden and meeting on her bench. She lived a long life, sitting on her bench in the sunshine. As far as I know, she is sitting there still.

Lavendilly Dolls: A Faerie in my Garden

There is a faerie playing in my garden. I spotted her yesterday with her hair flowing free … She had nothing on so perhaps she’d been for a swim in the river. I invited her in to dry off and rest.

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This morning she was gone from my house but I spotted her again … saying hello to my flowers …

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… playing in our trees …

Summer Faerie 3

… flying freely and happily over the lawns and down to the river …

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She said she isn’t staying long. Just a stop over before she heads up to bring some sunshine, warmth and playfulness to the mountains …

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