This post is dedicated to Darry Oudendag Estes with whom I spent many engaging hours discussing love and attachment as we drove back and forth to our intensive study with Dr. Gordon Neufeld in the summer of 2010.  Darry was instrumental in bringing the AfriGrand Caravan (sponsored by the Stephen Lewis Foundation) to the Comox Valley. She left this world in December 2012.

My friend Tara Sophia Mohr is doing her magic again - bringing light to women's voices that are often in the shadows. This time she has organized a blogging campaign to bring attention to Grandmother Power - inspired by the book by Paola Gianturco.  How could I not be a part of this when all proceeds from the sale of the book go to The Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign (Stephen Lewis is a beloved Canadian hero).

When I think about grandmother power I think not only about my biological grandmothers, but also all the wise older women whose words and ideas have helped shape my life.  Women I consider to be my spirtual grandmothers. Women like Marion Woodman, Clarissa Pinnkola Estes, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf and on and on...

I want to share with you a poem that enlarges and deepens our understanding of grandmothers.  It was written by Jeannette Armstrong, also a member of my communion of spiritual grandmothers.  I first met her over 20 years ago when she came way up into Prince Rupert, where I lived at the time, to give a reading at the local library. Her words cracked me open then and still do.

Jeannette writes about this poem: "The poem "Grandmothers" was first written in N'silxchn and interpreted into English. The English term grandmother as a human experience is closest in meaning to the term Tmixw in Okanagan, meaning something like loving-ancestor-land-spirit."

How gorgeous is that?


In the part of me that was always there
are speaking to me
the grandmothers in whose voices
I nestle
and draw nourishment from
voices speaking to me
in early morning light
glinting off water
speaking to me in fragile green
pushing upward
groping sun and warmth
pulling earth's breath
down and in
to join with porous stone
speaking to me
out of thick forest
in majestic rises to sheer
in the straight slight mist
in twigs and fur
skin and blood
moon and movement
feathers stroking elegant curves against wind
silent unseen bits
in the torrent of blood
washing bone and flesh
earth's piece
the joining of winds
to rock
igniting white fire
lighting dark places
and rousing the sleeping moment
caught in pollen
a waking of stars
and when blue fire
slants to touch this water
I lift my eyes
and know I am seed
and shooting green
and words
in this hollow
I am
night glittering
the wind and silence
I am vastness stretching to the sun
I am this moment
earth mind
I can be nothing else
the joining of breath to sane
by water and fire
the mother body
and yet
I am small
a mote of dust
hardly here
unbearably without anything
to hold me
but the voices
of grandmothers

little epiphanies

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany - capital E - in the Catholic church in which I was raised - as well as many other churches.  It marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas and is the day the three wise men brought gifts to the nativity.  Here are a few Epiphany gifts for you.

1 - A story

Often in my psychology curriculum we are talking about relationships and love and infatuation around winter break, so I often take the time to read to them one of my favourite Christmas stories - The Gift of the Magi by O Henry.  It's a story of young love that hits all my sap buttons and I can't get through a reading of it without choking up - which just adds to the entertainment for my students.  If you haven't read it - here it is: The Gift of the Magi

2 - A new celebration

I just discovered that in Ireland, Epiphany is also celebrated as "Women's Christmas" - a day when women gather togther and celebrate amongst themselves. I often hold rest and reflect gatherings for my female friends early in the new year and discovering this feels like I had tapped into something passed onto me intuitively from my Irish great-grandmother.  The author Jan Richardson has more about this and a free PDF to help you commemorate your own Women's Christmas.

3 - A poem and a wish

Beyond the capital E Epiphany, I wish for you a year filled with little epiphanies that guide you ever closer to your self.  This poem by Alison Joseph captures this wish perfectly:


Little Epiphanies

The difference between what’s required
and what’s desired is the difference

between the chocolate and the cake,
the car and the new car smell, the nightie

and the night. There’s so much I want
to twist round my fingers, to stroke

and stir, sketch and stretch, but so much
I should sweep and scrub, strip

and sterilize.  But I’d rather wring dirt
from my pores, turn it to ink instead,

rather scurry to my driveway to study
the moon’s abrupt phrases than kneel

with bucket and mop to banish shadows
that have sprung up on my kitchen

floor, darkening my soles as if I were
anointed, a kind of low-rent henna

for the lazy and uninhibited.
I should keep the unmentionables

unmentioned, nudity prohibited,
purses to a minimum, but I thrive

on clutter—my gaudy bras and bags
of yarn, my malfunctioning pens,

last chance reams of slightly damaged
paper. The difference between what’s whole

and what’s held, what’s withheld
or revealed, what’s real and what’s

revelation—that’s what I seek,
rest of my life spent in search

of little epiphanies, tiny sparks surging
out of the brain during the clumsiest speech.


Though the grocery store racks are full of magazine covers on organizing, decluttering and losing weight - don't forget to make time for your heart and soul in the midst of all the new year hub bub. 

The world needs more wise women.

You may want to consider joining me and Julie Daley in our WildSoul Book Club winter session.  We are reading a book by one of my treasured wise women - Marion Woodman.  The book is called Dancing in the Flames and is all about tapping into your deep embodied feminine - a great source of wisdom. Click for more details.

putting desire on the map

How many people go through life trying to do what they ought to do, fearful of judgement, fearful that they will say the wrong thing?  Instead of looking to their own feelings, they look at what will please others and as a consequence that desire, that quality that says, "This is what I want and I will reach for it," that passion for life, isn't developed. 

~ Marion Woodman

I believe Desire is the antidote to a society that is all about being driven.

Desire is the wild child running through the forest in her barefeet, climbing trees, blowing kisses and beckoning us to come play. 

Drive is the machine that cuts down the forest.

A return to desire can allow for healing to happen - for you, for me, for our world. Coleridge called desire "love's pure flame" - a return to desire is to light that flame of love.

My friend Danielle LaPorte has a new book coming out tomorrow - The Desire Map. I read an advance copy. Loved it.  If you like my thoughts on Ambition vs. Actualization or on Being Drawn instead of Driven, you are going to want this book (and it isn't just a book - it's a whole package of goodies).

That it is called The Desire Map is not insignificant.  In a world filled with books, blogs, and magazine articles wanting to give us directions with how-to this and seven steps to that, we are stuck in a limited view. Just like when someone gives you directions to get from point A to point B in your car - you are consumed with looking only for the street signs and landmarks they have indicated. And if you happen to be distracted and miss one, you're lost. You miss the entire landscape in your preoccupation with signposts.

Instead of directions, Danielle gives us a map. A map is a full, whole lay of the land. It highlights the landscape. You can see the many ways to navigate, you can always find your bearings, you can choose a different path to the same destination. You can walk across the countryside and aren't limited to the roads. And desire, in case you didn't know, means "from the stars" - also a great navigation tool for humans throughout history.

With the stars and a map as your companions, this book will help you find your way home to yourself, to re-ignite the desire spark you were born with and hear the cry of your soul.

If the supressed desire in the unconscious is not recognized as a soul cry, if it is ignored, the soul is put to sleep instead of awakening into its symbolic delights - in nature, in imagination, in relationship.

~ Marion Woodman

The Desire Map launches tomorrow - and there's a party, of course - come join the party!

wild soul women

One of my favourite things in the world is meeting kindred spirits. My heart fills up, I lean in and just want to sit with them for hours, drinking wine and marvelling in the soul connections.  I have been doing a lot of that the last couple of weeks - spending time planning a rich, deep online course with my soul sister, Julie Daley, and interviewing women in relation to that course.

The course is full of archetype explorations, active imagination, authentic movement and inquiry writing practices all rooted in readings from the classic bestseller, Women Who Run with the Wolves. The people who have been signing up so far are amazing women - this is going to be gooooood.

The conversation I'm sharing with you today was a with a woman I was so excited to meet - Amy Palko is brilliant in her work with Goddess archetypes - we're talking the real deal here, no cheesey Goddess-y stuff. Check out her wonderful offerings at her website.

And listen in as we chat about Women Who Run With the Wolves. (right click to download MP3).

For more about the course and to listen to previous interviews with Ronna Detrick and Desiree Adaway click here.


waving or drowning - part two

“She is the most famous person who cares the least about fame that I know. I remember thinking one day—it was a total epiphany for me—that she would be just as happy being a fourth grade teacher with a little house, a porch swing and three oak trees, because she would be working to be the best teacher for those students and that would be her mission."

Sherry Salata, Oprah's Producer for over 17 years, talking about Oprah

Does being successful mean you aren't actualized? Is it even possible to be actualized and successful? 

"Can selling your work, getting your work out there feel the same way?" [ie. come from a place of actualization] (from Susan Gallacher-Turner in the comments of part one of this exploration)

When students are doing their course selections each year, I talk to them about my Psychology courses. I am passionate about why I think they would love my course and how it will impact their lives. I have no qualms about sharing my deep enthusiasm for what I offer. I'm essentially telling them why they should spend time with me.

When I started my coaching practice, I felt the same way about it that I did my Psychology classes - I loved it, I knew it was valuable, it was changing people's lives, it felt like what I had been born to do - but to ask people to pay for it? That was hard.

In "selling" my classes I was asking for students' attention and their time. Things no less valuable than money. More valuable, in fact.  Why was I okay with students spending their time on this thing I believed was so valuable, but I was not okay with people spending their money on a similar thing?

The common refrain out there is that I had to "heal my relationship with money." That deep down I didn't like money and therefore I needed to work on that until I liked money. Huh? That assertion did not resonate with me one bit.

Instead, I had a different realization that was a huge shift for me.

Carol Dweck and Alfie Kohn are two researchers who have highlighted the problems of praising and rewarding children. They found that when children receive certain types of praise or rewards it is detrimental to their growth. Imagine a child immersed in drawing for example - deep in a state of actualization, they are creating with no thought or concern as to how their finished drawing will be received. It is emerging from that place of actualization. Then they finish, and a parent or a teacher comes along and starts praising the work, telling them how good they are and how beautiful the drawing is. In our culture we believe this kind of acknowledgement is positive, that it is building the child's self-esteem. We are wrong. That praise takes away from the child the initiative that moved them to draw as part of their own growth process and now frames it as something that was done to please the adult. Each time this happens the child becomes more aware of the reaction to her creations and less able to enter into doing it unselfconciously.

Money, fame, acclaim and other things we associate with "success" are the adult versions of praise and reward.

When we are selling our work or putting it out there, these things can become a stumbling block to doing it from a place of growing into ourselves. It can feel like it is sullying our work - robbing it of it of it's creative, authentic genesis. We resist the idea of taking money because we don't want the thoughts of how our work is going to be received to interfere with our creative process. Take this feeling as a good sign! You do not want to give up moving from actualization. Instead of beating ourselves up for having these reservations we should be honouring our emergent spirit that wants to maintain it's independence. Excellent!

In Carol Dweck's work she found there was one type of praise that was supportive of a growth mindset - a simple acknowledgement of the work a student had done that focussed on the process, not the product. Things like, "You worked hard on that." or, "You looked like you were having fun doing that."

Just being aware of this praise/reward dynamic disempowers it. If we can recognize and then release our ideas about money/acclaim/success as a reward for a product and instead see it as part of the process of sharing our work with the world, it becomes supportive of our growth.

Recently I had this show up in a big way when I was contemplating making the video of my talk about love public. Giving that talk was such a deep growth experience and felt so important to me that I was very reluctant to share it more widely for fear that I would become too focussed on how it was being received and that would cloud over the beauty of what the experience was for me. It took much contemplation, many conversations with friends and a whole lot of courage to trust that I could put it out there and not lose what it meant for me. When I knew I could put it out there and not be obsessed with the repsonse, I saw that putting it out there was honouring the actualization characteristics of creativity, authenticity, vitality, self-esteem, playfulness, and integration. I put it out there in the spirit of a gift - that it may be liked or not, but I was offering it with an open heart. I also knew that the potential of it making a difference to even one person who watched it made worth the risk. And I am happy to say, it was. Putting it out there did not detract from my growth, but enriched it.

Being reluctant to put our work out there is an understandable and even helpful impulse. It gives us the cue to get clear with ourselves. It affirms that what we are doing is important to us. And moving into the place where we can put it out there with a spirit of generosity, not needing it to be received in any particular way - can be an important piece of going further along our path of actualization.

Any money/acclaim/success that comes about is just a byproduct of our process of growing more and more into who we are.

It is not the reason we do it.