Full Moon

Traditionally, the full moon is a time when we work on things like healing, completion, closure, and releasing. It's also a time when many traditions focus on workings for peace.

This month, I'm feeling really called to focus on letting go. We all carry so much stuff around with us that we really don't need to be shouldering. Hurts, feeling responsible for others, holding on to feelings, situations, and ideas about ourselves that do not serve us, none of that baggage is healthy for us to be carrying around long-term. And yet we all do it, right?

A couple months ago, I had an experience that created some baggage of just the sort I'm talking about: 

Someone I felt I had given a lot of support told me that she was not going support something I do with her participation (which amounts to reading an email), because "her time is precious." While I love helping others and  generally don't at all have a problem with people coming, going, and drawing boundaries for their own self-care, the way she put it really triggered me. I stewed over how I'd devoted a lot of my own precious time to supporting this person, often for nothing in return, even though it often involved things others pay me to do and even though I am generally pretty busy. Have you ever had something like that happen to you? It's not the best feeling and I won't lie, it hurts.

For a while, every time her name would pop up, I'd get this tight little knot in my stomach and start feeling hurt and irritated. Then one day, I started thinking about why I was triggered me so deeply (it touched upon my ego and insecurities and made me feel foolish for letting her in and including her in spaces where I was vulnerable). I realized that I just needed to let it go. 

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So, I helped someone and it turns out she didn't appreciate it in the way I would have hoped and wasn't in place of readiness to lend the same support in return. So what? We can't dictate how people receive what we offer. In this case, the way it was received tells me that this is probably not a person I am meant to be close with, but that is okay, because I know without a doubt that I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me and that we can love people as human beings while still holding the boundary of not inviting them into our inner circle. 

This knowledge forms one of the guiding principles in my life and work and remembering this makes it so much easier to let go. You see, even in my business, I look for clients I really click with. I have to live like everyone else, but I’m not just here for a quick buck. I genuinely want to help people and I look for projects and clients that feel like they're chocolate and I'm peanutbutter -- we're just meant to go together. We are on the same wavelength, like we could be Soulpod. And those who don't fit that bill, I release with love and good wishes for their journey.

The beauty of being able to release people, experiences, and ideas that are not meant for us without bitterness is that it creates space in our hearts for us to focus on those we are meant to love as well as those we are meant to serve with our work in the world. Won't you join me in doing some releasing at the full moon?
 

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For your soul:

One of my favorite activities do to at the full moon is to write down things that I want to release on slips of paper and then burning them to let them drift away on the smoke. This month, I'll be working on my own ego triggers, hurt, and anger. What will you be working on?
 
Where is your ego causing you to be triggered? Where are you holding onto hurt or anger? How are those feelings hampering you? How are they damaging your relationships? How are they closing you off from the people and experiences that are meant for you? Are you prepared to release them? How will you begin to do so?


Feel free to drop me a line or share in the comments, so I can hold space for you.

Love & Loss

Over the past week, I lost two of my best friends in the world -- Baxter and Teddy. Baxter was an almost 17-year-old terrier mix, whose health had been failing for some time. For the past couple months, my first task of the morning has been to check if he was still breathing. Teddy, on the other hand, was an 8-year-old vibrant and healthy (I thought) goofball, who was getting into mischief up until the night before I woke up to find that he had passed while we all were sleeping. One death was anticipated, the other was not, but both were heartbreaking. Even writing this now, I feel the tears trying to push their way forward. They were my family and I loved them.

But that's the thing about love, isn't it? Love can take us to the giddiest, most joyful heights and plunge us into the deepest and darkest pits of despair.Much like the Wheel of Year, it has its ups and downs and the pain of losing someone we love is one of life's most potent teachers. It's not lost on me that this experience of profound loss comes as we enter that part of the year that is the domain of Demeter and the other Death goddesses who teach us about grief and the sacrifice that comes whenever we enter a new cycle. It is the way of Nature, but that doesn't mean it's always easy.

I don't know about you, but I've had a lot of experience with death and living in the shadow of grief. I was born into a household where a child had already died, my childhood best friend, Jill, was killed in an accident when we were 18, my father, all my grandparents, and a cousin had all passed before I had passed my mid-20s. And today, I am a caregiver for a mother, who is slowly dying of FTD (Front Temporal Lobe Dementia). Unlike riding a bike, which becomes old hat with practice, Death never gets any easier.

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Anyone who has ever lost someone can understand Demeter's grief at losing Persephone. They understand why she would halt the growth of all thingsand scour spheres to find her daughter. But at the same time as it hurts, Death teaches us a lot about how to live. It teaches us to love unreservedly. It teaches us to sit and hold the hands of those who are experiencing grief, because we ourselves know sorrow. It teaches us that we do not have forever, so love and live unreservedly, because you never know when the Summerlands will call.

And so, this week I invite you light a candle for a loved on who has departed and sit with your memories of them and to tell (or better yet show) someone who is still here how much you love them.

Brightest of Blessings,

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Lughnasadh Blessings

Greetings Sweet Soul!

As we enter August and the first harvest of the year, I bid you Lughnasadh aka Lammas Blessings.  I love the harvest season. It is such a lovely, golden time of gatherings, friendship and community, so I wanted to share with you a beautiful story that originates with the Multnomah people of the Pacific Northwestern United States. It is a story that holds a very special place in my heart, not only because it is an origin story about one of my favorite places in the world, Multnomah Falls, but because it celebrates the love and bond we have to our people and the sacrifices we make for them.

As the story goes...
 

Long ago, there was a Multnomah chief, who had a daughter, who was especially dear to him. When she was old enough to marry, he chose for her groom a young warrior of neighboring Clatsop people. The wedding feast was already scheduled, but before it began, a sickness came upon the village. And the people were afraid, thinking they had done something to anger the great spirit. 

Unsure of what to do for his people, the chief called together a group of his most trusted advisors. After much discussion, the oldest medicine man came forward and spoke of a prophesy that the Great Spirit would send a sickness to the land and that everyone would die unless a sacrifice was made of the daughter of the tribe’s leaders and that the daughter must willingly give her life for their people. 

And so, gravely the daughters whose fathers’ and grand had been head men were called. Soon, a dozen or so stood before them and the chief, who loved his people too much to spare even a single one said, “No daughter shall be sacrificed. Tell our people to meet death bravely.”

And so, the disease stayed and more people died and the chief’s daughter struggled. She wondered, if she should be the one to sacrifice herself, but she couldn’t, for she loved her warrior too much to bear the thought of being separated from him. But then he too became ill and she knew what she must do. 


And so, she snuck off at sunset, following the river until she came to a great cliff. And as she stood at the stop, she prayed to Great Spirit and jumped. By morning all were healed and the tribe rejoiced until someone realized what this spontaneous healing meant. 

Once again, the daughters were called forth and one was missing. The young Clatsop warrior immediately set out to search for his love. Following the path she had taken along the river, he found her body among the rocks and buried her there. In grief, her father prayed to the Great Spirit for a token that she’s been welcome into the spirit world. Almost immediately, he heard a rush of water from above that great until the stream became beautiful waterfall that tumbled over the edge of the cliff.

And that is how Multnomah Falls was born and the Multnomah people were saved, because of the sacrifice of the young girl who jumped in a great act of love to save her people and her beloved from disease and death.

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It is a lovely story isn’t it? It is one that speaks deeply to our ideas about what it means to love and to our willingness to sacrifice for it. And it’s a complex issue.  Let’s face it, as women, we receive a lot of not so positive messages that sometimes seem to suggest that the quality of our love is proportionate to our willingness to sacrifice our voices, ourselves and what we want for the benefit of others and that is a very one-directional flow of energy that reflects a not always a healthy kind of love.

At the same time, there is no denying that as manifestations of the Goddess, we hold within us a great capacity to nurture and love our kind and community. Indeed, one could say that all the work we do toward self-development is with the end goal of equipping ourselves to be a great force for love in our families, our communities, or world.

But what IS love and how do we express it in healthy ways?

The dictionary defines it as "an intense feeling of deep affection."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

The Dalai Lama says:
"If there is love, there is hope that one may have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. "

 Civil Rights Leader Cornell West says:
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

And so, this week I invite you think about love and community.

What does love mean to YOU? What does community mean to you? How might you do the work of love in your own community (no sacrifices required)?

Brightest of Blessings,

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Blood Moon

Summer is in full swing and I thought it might be a good time to check in with you, because this week brings us a special event, Friday’s full moon eclipse, which will be the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century! While we always do workings for peace and healing in my Wildwood group at the full moon, this one will be a potent time for doing any intention setting or magic.

Why is this moon so powerful? Because the Blood Moon encompasses a full lunar cycle in one event and this amplifies any magical workings we might do under its energy. As the Earth’s shadow falls over and then again away from the moon, it experiences each of its phases from full to waning to new to waxing and full again and that is why some schools of magical thought believe it to be so powerful. The full moon is already its most powerful phase and when you add to it the power of all its other phases, you’re left with some pretty unique and strong conditions for intention and magic.
 

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So, what kinds of magic do we do at the Blood Moon? In general,  it is also a good time for developing our own intuition and releasing emotional blocks and other unwanted energy, but because this particular eclipse moon is in the sign of Aquarius, a sign that tends to be focused on humanity and the greater good, it is a powerful time for focusing on any intentions that benefit the world as a whole, especially looking at any conditions that need to be healed and released in order to create peace, equity, and prosperity for all. And this is important, because the more evolved and aware we become, the greater is our responsibility to do workings not only for our growth, but also for healing the world.

Areas you might focus on in your eclipse moon workings include:

  • Communication between realms (heightened intuition and ease of entering altered states of consciousness)
  • Working with the ancestors
  • Healing rituals (especially those tied to women and the community at large)
  • Divination like scrying, tarot, and rune work (hello heightened intuition!)
  • Setting transformational goals and intentions (magical workings are augmented!)
  • Offerings to and workings with any of the lunar goddesses

We have a powerful portal this week, may we all use it well!

Brightest of Blessings,

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Queen of Death

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Finding my place as a spiritual being, who is deeply connected to the Sacred Feminine has been a lifetime endeavor. From a very early age, I heard Her voice. I knew that the teachings of the Abrahamic religions did not call to me as did the song of the forest or the heartbeat of Mother Earth, even if I wouldn’t have admitted it publicly for fear of being ridiculed. As a young person, I was painfully disinterested in the pursuits that occupied other girls my age and always felt like I didn’t fit in. It is something I often feel today as well.

At the time, I thought it was because I was introverted or shy or awkward -- monikers I happily claim as an adult, because they are also where the great gifts my creativity, deep hunger for depth and knowledge, and strong sense of individuality are born. Even now, I am your weird friend, who loves poetry, knows how to craft a wand of an oak bough and sari silk, knows the magical, healing properties of different plants and stones, and can tell you how to remove negative energy from your person or space.

The difference between now and then is that I embrace the different beating of my drum, because I know that it is really the beating of my own heart and that I have a deeper calling.  Even though we get caught up in the trappings of our patriarchal and corporate “climb the ladder, if you’re not first, you’re last, he who has the most money is king, so win at all costs” society, the truth is we all have a deeper calling. Some of us have just forgotten it.

As I mature and grow, I’ve come to realize that a lot of my calling is around Death. Perhaps when you read “Death” you think of morbidity and dark, scary things. Of course, physical death and the mourning goes with it is part of it. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life. By the time I was out of college, I had experienced the loss of my brother, all six grandparents (in case you’re wondering how that works, two had remarried), my childhood best friend, my father, one of my young loves, and several pets (who are no less sacred lives than those in the human part of my Soulpod).   And, yes, the Great Unknown is scary.

But Death in the eyes of one who understands energy and knows it cannot dissipate or disappear, only transform, is not an end. Death is transformation. And that holds true whether we are talking about the physical death of a living body or the death of a cycle or a phase of life. When we hold the hand of a dying loved one, we walk with Death. When we help a client effect the transformative energy to build a new business or life, we are walking with Death too.

For anything new to begin, something must end. It is a basic principle of magic that when you create a void something must and will fill it. And it is the nature of existence that all things move in the pattern of the Great Wheel, flowing from moon to moon, season to season. It is also is nature that for us to be born into a new level of existence, something must die. This is true even of being born. In passing through the birth canal, we experience a kind of death in leaving the womb existence that has been our life for the past nine months.

Several years ago now, I worked with a healer, who told me that the energy of a past life in which I was a sort of Death Doula and Priestess living on the edges of society and that I should look to her in journey or meditation for guidance. At the time, I wrote it off as one of those things would be psychics and palm readers say that sound mystical, but have no existence in reality. I have pink hair and am a natural optimist, who loves wildflowers and forest groves that chime with birdsong and, while I admit to a righteous and fiery indignation in the face of injustice, I am generally overflowing with love and compassion. What do I know of Darkness and Death? But the Goddess, she knows, even when we do not or at least are not ready to admit it.

When I started feeling called to explore the Path of the Priestess and joined, among other training grounds, a Druid order in my quest for more organized spiritual training, who called to me, the gentle pacifist, who works with the creative fire and healing of Brigid, to preside over my dedication but The Morrighan and her Crows? And though she did not stay with me (though Crow remains with me as a guide), I have since heard the call of other Dark Goddesses since my mom was diagnosed with FTD, among them Inanna, Hecate, and in recent years Persephone.

Now in my 40s, I am faced with and prepared for what will probably be the ultimate loss to mortality in my lifetime as I walk the dearest friend and compatriot of my life, my mother, through a terminal, degenerative illness that steals her memory and twists her personality as her soul struggles its way out of this mortal coil. She is not even gone and yet as I watch her own pain as she slips away from me, I grieve for her already and that grief holds deep pain and sorrow even though Death and I have become intimate. And like Persephone, I am fully prepared to walk into the Underworld, even if I am not yet prepared to stay past this illness, which is the dark half of our recent years. My mother has begun her descent and she will not make this journey alone. And I too will emerge from it transformed.

Create a new star

No one day is like another, each tomorrow has its special miracle, its magic moment in which old universes are destroyed and new stars are created.
— By the river Piedra I sat down and wept - Paulo Coelho

This is me three years ago today. I was working in typical corporate job that had me doing regular 12 hour days. Most of my coworkers were nice enough, but the work was boring and unfulfilling and I felt like I was in prison. My creative and intellectual nature felt completely stifled and I felt as sad as I look, maybe even sadder.

When this picture was taken, I was in a lot of pain and probably drugged up as I was recovering from a broken shoulder the week before. I couldn't move my left side much, which sucks when you're left-handed. It hurt like hell, but the unhappiness was so much deeper than that. It went soul deep. My mom had just been diagnosed with FTD a few months before. I was overworked, completely unfulfilled and not living on purpose in any sense of the phrase.

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There came a day in my convalescence when I realized that I was more than okay with trading all the pain that went along with being broken and unable to do much in exchange for a few weeks away from my job. How messed up is that? But the time off turned out be a good thing, because it gave me something we often don't take time for -- time to think. And I mean real thinking of the soul searching kind.

If anyone needed it, it was me. I was already unhappy. I had just been told my mom, my best friend, had a terminal, incurable illness and I felt so miserable and alone and wondering things like "What is the point of life? There has to be more than this." And so, I resolved to make some changes, among them to create meaning in my life and also look for a new job that mattered, allowed me more quality time with my mom, and actually gave raises and paid overtime, something my company was notorious for not doing, even though it liked to spout the grossly false claim that we had a standard 37.5 hour work week.

More importantly, I decided that it was time to really explore what it was that I was here to do. All my life, I had wanted to do something creative and something that made me feel like I was was using my actual talents to help people in some way that made a real difference. And then, as if in agreement, the universe gave me her affirmation.

A week after I returned to work, we all got called to a mandatory meeting, where we were informed that the company was in crisis and there were going to be massive cuts. Then I got the email over the weekend (yes, a fucking EMAIL after 13 years of service that included a lot of overtime and working through "vacation" days!) that said my position was being eliminated. If there was ever an affirmation that the only person who was going to create happiness and fulfillment in my life is ME, this was it!

It was at the same time terrifying and electrifying. The universe was forcing me to follow my sickbed plan to transform the way I was living. And I mean we've ALL done that, right? Said we were going to find that new job, lose 20 pounds, start spending more time with our families, take more me time, more creative time, more whatever time and then fallen back into our old habits? Well, this time, I was left with no choice.

At 45 years old. I was starting over.

And you know what?

I did it! I made a plan and I did all the things I had decided I was going to do. I went back to school and studied coaching, aromatherapy, and hypnotherapy. I became a Reiki Master. I got certified in Earth Medicine. And then I found a mentor to help me weave all of that plus my lifelong interest in writing, self-improvement, spirituality, goddess worship, and comparative religion with my love of fairy tale, folklore, and myth with my graduate degree in literature to create my Into the Wild Woods of the Soul programs.

I'm not going to lie to you and say it has been easy. It has not. There are still days when it is tough. While I have loved it in so many ways, it has also been a LOT of work and a lot of uncertainty. There were months when I didn't know how I was going to pay my bills. There have been times I've had to dip into savings to pay debts or borrow money to work with teachers, who had the ability to guide me in ways that I needed. And there is still a lot more work to do and a lot more to learn as I continue on this journey.

I am a huge believer in the magic of setting intentions and putting our goals out into the universe, but believe me when I tell you this:

No dream happens overnight or without effort.

And believe me when I tell you that anyone who tells you it will be otherwise it full of it. It's a really popular thing right now for business coaches to peddle the myth that having your own business is easy peasy and that you can make unlimited money in your sleep without ever working, but it's not true and anyone who claims otherwise is doing their clients a disservice. Yes, it is a labor of love and there IS a kind of freedom that comes with working for yourself and the trade offs are so worth it, but make no mistake that it IS work. It is all possible, but you have to do the work.

And it is work that I am happy to be doing and I've started seeing results, but it took time. I am so grateful to have had the support of some wonderful mentors. I know and welcome that I will have the chance to work with them again and with others as I continue on my path. And with the challenges there have been some decided boons and pleasures. I have connected with amazing individuals, whom I would never have met, if I haven't had the courage to put myself and my work out there. I have discovered that it is possible to find a fulfilling line of additional work that I never expected doing in translation, writing, and transcription contracting on projects for some awesome clients like writers, creatives, film makers, the U.S. government, the UN and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Most of all, even though walking my mom through her own journey with FTD, a form of dementia that like all forms of dementia is incurable and creates a loss of memory and other functions as it causes the brain to shrink. This disease takes another piece of her away from me each day and it is no understatement to say that walking with her through its progression is one of the most difficult and most emotional things I've had to do in my life. And yet while there is great sadness in this journey, I make it with an undercurrent of peace that was never present in my old life. I consciously have built a life that allows me to be there for her while at the same time expressing myself creatively and doing work that matters. I am so proud any time I get a message from someone who has participated in one of my programs telling me that it left him or her feeling empowered and inspired  to make art or start a new business, make a major life change, remember their purpose or even just find a source of contentment and balance.

This work is important to me. Not just because I don't want anyone to wait 13 years to claim their happiness, but because I believe that we are all connected and because I am Pollyannaish enough to believe that happy, contented people are kinder people and that in illuminating that path to contentment for them, I am doing my little part in creating a kinder, more loving world.

And so, as Samhain passes and a new year in the wheel begins, I feel things shifting again as I retreat into the winter to listen for my path forward in the 2018 calendar year. Already, I sense some things I'm doing now will fade away, while others come forward. I welcome this with anticipation and such gratitude.

I know that this was long, but I hope that you've stuck with me and that this makes clear that you can reinvent your life at any time. If something in your life is not working for you, please don't wait. It may not happen overnight, but will happen. Take the steps to change it. And for God's sake, don't just sit there waiting for it to happen. I waited for 13 years and the only thing that gained me was lost time that I will never get back

Miracles do happen, but they happen a lot more often and a lot more consistently, if you know where you're going and you help the universe by doing the work to get there. If you are feeling stuck, drop me a comment below or send me a message on my contact page. I have learned so much on my own journey that I am happy to leverage in helping you to find your own path too. I'm going to be offering some free month-long coaching opportunities to celebrate the anniversary of my awakening and would love to help you. Because, truly, once you find your path of purpose, the universe cracks open in beautiful ways and there is no going back.

Lisbeth

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At Samhain, one of the two times a year along with Beltane when the veil grows thin, we remember our beloved dead. If you've been with me for any length of time, especially in one of my Wildwood programs, you've probably heard me talk about my German Oma telling me fairy tales and magical stories when I was a child. She always told them, never read them, I imagine repeating how her own mother told them to her. It was her stories that inspired me to go to grad school for German literature and that created such a deep love in me for oral tradition, magic and folklore.

Her name was Lisbeth Behrendt and she was one of the most gently strong women I have ever met. She lost babies, raised two children, and was a war refugee. She survived two world wars, Nazism, Communism, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Because of her experience with totalitarian regimes (and my grandfather's penchant for speaking out against them no matter the consequence), she carried a lot of fear, especially of authority, yet somehow in the middle of all the ugliness she remained the kind of person who would pull passing strangers into her house to feed them after the war when everyone was poor and hungry.

She was the kind of woman who sold her gold wedding ring on the black market in exchange for a loaf of bread to feed her family. She lived a lot of her life in excruciating pain from a leg doctors wanted to amputate when she was just a young woman, but she wouldn't let them, because she loved to dance.

I remember once when I was about 20 and she was in her 70s, sitting with her in the kitchen while she told me about the village she grew up in and the dances the local nobility there would hold, inviting all the young people in the area. And as she spoke, suddenly she started dancing around the kitchen, doing a little folk dance. She was always graceful, but in that moment all the years melted away and I could see the joyful, flirty, young girl she once was.

She was Lisbeth and she was my Oma and her compassion, care for others, and desire to make the world kinder and better live in me.

Who are your beloved dead and what are their stories? What piece of them to you carry with you and in you?

#Oma #AWAY #IntotheWildWoodsoftheSoull #Ancestors

Finding Your Path

Did you know that the story of Hänsel and Gretel dates back to the European famines of the 14th century? As horrible as it sounds, it tragically was not unheard for children to be abandoned, because their parents couldn't deal with having the extra mouths to feed.

When you think about the story in that context, you can see how for two hungry children, coming upon a house that was not just made of food, but candy, a treat many of them probably would not have ever seen, it would have felt to them like they were livin' the dream. And that's what makes the gingerbread house such a potent metaphor for what it feels like when we connect with our own dreams and purpose. And make no mistake, while it might not be the kind of nourishment that feeds our bellies, finding our purpose does something even better -- it feeds the SOUL.
 
I remember how giddy and happy I felt leaving my corporate life to create my own fairy tale business of helping women connect with the sacred femininewithin and illuminate their paths of purpose. I feel that same wide-eyed joy and excitement every time I guide a woman to look inwards, into the wild woods of her soul, to remember the joy of what lights her up and why she is here. That is something I want every woman to feel. 
 
And that is why I absolutely LOVE it when I get a chance to teach Illuminating Your Path of Purpose with Hänsel & Gretel. This is a program for every women who has ever felt like something was missing from her life or like she was lost and wanting to make a change. It is for every woman who just feels tired and wants to reclaim a little bit of joy and magic into her daily life by reconnecting with what fulfills her.

Through working with the archetypes of the two children and the wicked witch, this program will gently guide you to clarity and help you begin to silence the false doubts and fears that that keep you stuck.

This empowering journey will take place July 31 - August 18, 2017 and I would LOVE to see you there. Learn more and register by Saturday, July 15 to take advantage of the earlybird rate at www.martinarutledge.com/upcoming-group-program-with-hnsel-…/

Brightest of Blessings,
Martina

P.s. In integrity with my commitment to making this work accessible to everyone, a limited number of scholarships are available. If you have a need, please contact me for more info.

The Star Maiden

Are you familiar with the story of The Star Maiden? It is a beautiful Ojibwe tale that we recently worked with the women my monthly program and I love it, because it dances around the idea that it is worth taking the time to find where we belong.

As the story goes, a star so loved the earth and its inhabitants that she came to live among us. But once she got here, she had some difficulty settling on which form she should take. First, she transformed into a prairie wildflower, but was almost crushed by the buffalo stampeding over the open plains. Next, she decided to try being a rose, but found that the garden in which she dwelt was too far away from the people she so loved. Eventually, discouraged and disappointed that none of the forms she has tried have worked out for her, she decided to go back to the heavens. 

And so, she rose back into the sky, watching over the people of the village as she floated over their lake. And as she looked down she saw her own reflection and that of her sister stars twinkling upon the surface and she called to them, saying, "Come sisters! Let us make this water our home!" And the next morning the villagers were delighted to find the lake was covered with floating star-like flowers that came to be known as water lilies. And the star maiden was happy, because she could be near the people and the children she so loved, living among them on the earth she had so grown to love. 

And isn't that such a beautiful message, this idea of finding your place? I don't know if you've ever felt like you've lost your sense of direction or purpose, but I know I have and that it was miserable. In my 15 years in the corporate world, I spend a lot of time feeling unhappy and lost, because it wasn't where I belonged. While it might be great for some people, for me it was like trying to shove my square shaped body into a very round hole.

And that's the whole thing, isn't it? You have to find YOUR way, not the way you think you're supposed to travel. I had always wanted to do something creative and artistic with my work, but had been too afraid, so I stayed in my "safe" job for far too long, feeling like a prairie wildflower who was constantly in danger of being trampled by the buffalo around me.

These days, I feel a lot more like a water lily who has found her pond, because I have found my calling. And one of the things that I want for you (and every woman) is that you find yours too. Because you know what? You have one. I fervently believe that every single person on this earth comes here with special graces, gifts and a purpose. If you have found yours, congratulations!

But if you haven't or you've found that it's changed over the years, don't be discouraged. It is never too late. If you don't know where to begin, think aboutwhat lights you up, what are you good at, and how can you use those two things to be of service? And, most of all, in this busy world, where we don't often do it, make a commitment to simply take some time to listen, really listen to your heart, and get used  to examining the question "What do I really want?"

Mermaid Month!

Do you love mermaids? Maybe it is because my Piscean heart has an affinity for anything to do with water, but I've always been fascinated with them. And because July is Mermaid Month in my Around the World, Around the Year program, I've been indulging my mermaid love this month by reading a lot of mermaid legends and lore.

People have been telling stories about mermaids and sirens for thousands of years. In fact, one of the earliest written references comes to us from 800 BC in Homer's Odyssey, when the sorceress Circe warns Ulysses about keeping his distance from the sirens lest they enchant him. 

And if you look at the lore around mermaids, most of it touches upon this idea of them possessing an intoxicating, sensual and dangerous beauty. They are the embodiment of the mysterious and sensual power of the feminine and its ability to summon, attract, and conquer in a way that is very different from the male paradigm. In a way, mermaids are everything men fear and don't understand about feminine power whose strength comes from such a different place than theirs. 

Mermaids dwell in the water, the womb of life and domain of the feminine, sometimes guiding sailors to safety, sometimes luring them to their deaths. And though we may have forgotten it, they are closely linked to the sacred feminine and her power over birth, rebirth and transformation and therefore these ancient stories serve as a potent reminder of the magic of the Goddess and her mysteries and of woman's place within them.

If you're interested in engaging more with mermaid lore and connecting with the power of the sacred feminine, I invite you to come join me in July for Around the World, Around the Year.

Solstice Greeting

You know, so often in mentoring, self-development, and magical/spiritual environments, there is a kind of shiny happy people syndrome. And I get it. We all want to keep a high vibration, put good things out into the universe and attract good things back to us. As one of my favorite sayings goes, "Whatever you call into the forest, will also echo back to you." But we there has to be balance.

Life holds both joy and sorrow. And the Solstice, when the light changes position with the dark and the days start to grow shorter is a good time to talk about this. Sometimes this whole "My life is SOOOOOO amazing" culture of self-help and social media can make us feel bad or like there is something wrong with us, if we're struggling. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with you. ALL of us struggle from time to time and it is okay to make space for and honor our darkness, our sadness, and our grief just as much as we honor the bright and the light in life.
 
For me, a big part of my struggle is my mom's diagnosis of FTD, a form of dementia that is similar to Alzheimer's and affects the frontal lobe of the brain. There are times when being her primary caregiver makes me really sad, even depressed and exhausted. And who wouldn't be? So, believe me, when I get after you to make sure you fill up your well, I know what I'm talking about. 

At the same time, I will tell you that living with a terminal, degenerative illness that might be genetic in the house really puts things into perspective. Things that once frightened me are so unimportant now. I have such a huge sense of "Do it now, because you never know if later will be an option." There is no point in waiting to find happiness and fulfillment. The only moment we are guaranteed is this one. And that is why I so passionately want you connect with the power of your feminine wisdom and to find your voice and engage with what lights YOU up.

During this break, I've been been thinking about you and how I can best be of service.from this gloriously feminine, intuitive, woo-filled, gentle and sexy-sacred space. And that is something that is still evolving, but I do know this:  I want to create circles, not build ladders. Whether one-on-one or in group programs, this work is really about empowering women like us recognize and celebrate and connect to the sacred feminine within Goddess energy and find our path of purpose. We all come into this world with unique gifts and graces and, especially today where the world is in need of so much healing, it is important that we use them in ways that are authentic and benefit not just us, but our world. It's time we breathed some life back into the goddess and into ourselves. 

But don't worry. There will still be fairy tales and they will be magical, but there will be so much more in the coming months. You see, fairy tales are just a gateway into a whole realm of oral, magical and earth based tradition that aligns with my own practice as a Druidess, bard, and keeper of old ways and I want to share those things with you too, because they are all intertwined. When you connect with your voice and purpose, you are connecting with your true nature, God/the Goddess, and with yourself as part of nature and that is a journey I want to be on with you.

So, let me again welcome you to the Wildwood Sisterhood. I am so happy that you are part of my tribe and value your presence more than you know. I want to be in dialogue with you, so please always feel free to reach out and interact, because I love hearing from you!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Boy did 2016 go fast! I keep hearing from people that it was a rough year and, truth be told, while developing the idea of fairy tale healing and launching Into the Wild Woods of the Soul and www.martinarutledge.com last year were among the highlights of my existence, it was also one of the most difficult years of my life as well. The last two months in particular were fraught with acknowledging and truly processing my mother's illness, my role as caregiver and teacher and what it means for my life and the time we have left together.

One of my teachers likes to say that "your wound is your message." It sounds good, but when the wound is deep, like a knife twisting into you, it's not always as easy as it sounds. Coming to terms with a disease that ends in death is messy and all of these little milestones like medications, qualifying for benefits, getting help with caregiving are not only helpful, but each one is an admission that we are on this path and there is no turning back. 

And it's also such a profound reminder that our time is not guaranteed and that we must use it well.

Life is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking, but it is also filled with moments of sublime beauty. This gift you are given, this beating of your heart, the soft current of your breath, they are not permanent. There is no time to waste, so spend it well. Take up your wand and take on the mantle of being your own fairy godmother and take it seriously. Create memories you will want to look back on when you are old and grey and nodding by the fire and ALWAYS remember that the answer to every question is love. 

Yes, there will be pain. Yes, there will be fear, but you must feel it and forge ahead anyway. And, no, it may never be perfect, but life can be better, more beautiful and more fulfilling than you dare allow yourself to dream. There will be people (including yourself) who will tell you you can't or that you shouldn't, but at the core of it all, there is you and you are so much stronger and so much more magical than you may even know. 

I believe in you. I believe in us. I believe in this space and cannot wait to go deeper with you, to be more real and to make more magic in 2017.

I have so many magical, soul stretching creations that are bubbling forth, beginning with a month of Ceridwen and her cauldron in Around the World, Around the Year. If you'd like, you can learn more about my own personal journey with this goddess and her story here.

And, finally, as we move into 2017, I am so happy to have you here as part of my tribe and hope we can connect more often and more deeply as the year goes on. Whether it is this blog, in the AWAY program, the Wildwood Sisterhood group on Facebook (if you aren't there yet, it's a lovely community and it's FREE, come join us! <3), your responses to posts or newsletters, I really do love connecting with you and am so thankful you are a part of my world. Happy New Year, my friend.

xoxo,

Martina

The Breath of the Ancestors

When I was young, Halloween was my favorite holiday, because I loved the costumes. On Halloween, you could be anyone and I wasn't all that happy being me. Today, even though I finally love myself, this is still one of my favorite times of year. And while I still love to dress up, it's not because of the element of disguise, but because of how close the thinning veil brings us to the wisdom of the ancestors and to our beloved dead. I don't think about it often, but like all of us, my life has been punctuated with loss. My father, my grandparents, my half-sister, friends, loves, many of them already gone before I turned 30.

Before I even came into this world, I had already lost a brother. It is a grief my mother has carried with her for 49 years. She still talks about her little Mark, even more so now as she advances into dementia. For her, the veil seems to grow thinner as her disease progresses. Other caregivers tell me their loved ones "hallucinate," but there are moments when I wonder if it's just a closer awareness and growing connection to the other side as they prepare for their own journeys across the veil. In many ways, patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are walkers between worlds. Their bodies are here, and yet pieces of them are already sometimes drifting, sometimes being torn away in heartbreaking ways.

But for me at this age, the veil is more distant except for those rare moments like around Samhain and Beltane when it comes closer. Maybe it's that way for you too. When I was young, there was always an edge of spookiness, of thinly cloaked fear around the holiday. I remember writing a letter to my brother on Halloween. I was still a child, an only child, and wanted so desperately to know what it was like to have a sibling who was there and who cared. Struggling to belong, my quirky little Piscean heart felt that if he were still around, there'd at least be one place where I fit in.

Today, this time of year fills me with the same sort of longing for the departed, but now I see it as a celebration of those who have gone before me and a reminder that our time here is not infinite. We must make the most of it. And so, I do not fear them, but pull them close to me, to dance with them in joyful celebration of their lives and listen for their wisdom and what they have to teach me. And that is how much of today will be spent - in the sacred space of journey, journaling and listening for the messages that linger in the air.

I think that's one of the reasons I love working with stories so much in my mentoring programs. They keep this sacred space of receptivity to the wisdom of the ancestors open for me and for my students year round. Just as we do today, our ancestors created stories to understand our world and put it in context. The folklore and tales that have been passed through generations through the breath of the ancestors connect us to a knowing that is so much greater than ourselves. Working with them is my way of celebrating where we come from in ways that use the experience of those who walked before to help us show up as our best selves and to create a better world for those who come after us. Because one day, they will be telling our stories.

Have you found your tribe?

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I was born into a family of occupiers and refugees, of natives and foreigners, of engagement and apathy, of openness and bigotry, of poetry and Nascar. Growing up, I always felt like I inhabited some kind of midland that was neither German nor American, neither of my mother's people nor my father's. I suppose my sensibilities lean more toward that of my mother's people. My maternal grandmother was a gentle warrior, a heart healer who sold her wedding ring when she and her family were refugees during the war to buy food for her children. My paternal grandmother was a bitter woman who beat her sons with heavy duty flashlights and wooden shoes. She referred to her son's immigrant wife as "the foreigner" and told his little girl "You have eyes just like your father's, they could stare a hole in a brick wall." If this taught me anything, it is that blood does not always bind. The family you want is not always the one you get - sometimes, but not always.

One of the greatest epiphanies of my life was that we have the power to create our own communities, that family can be intentional. And it's an important thing to be intentional about, because the people with whom we surround ourselves affect everything from our self-image to our income to our belief in ourselves. As we move through life, communities change, but family (and I mean of the heart and not necessarily of the blood - though one certainly doesn't preclude the other) is always there. I really do believe that some of our relationships are not meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes we develop passing (but not necessarily insignificant) friendships with individuals who are only meant to be with us for a short while before going off on their separate paths. But, then, there are others who are meant to accompany us throughout our journey in a deeper way.

These are our tribe, our soulpod. They are the people who offer to come over and clean up the detritus left behind by the paramedics when your father has a heart attack, bring soup when you're sick, and help you move. They bring your favorite mint milanos when you're having a bad day and cheer you on when you're having a good one. They encourage creativity and expression of self, and they know you'll do the same for them. They make you feel comfortable taking your crazy out from under the bushel where you normally hide it, because you know their crazy too. Intimately. In fact, your crazies have been on parade together, dancing a manic tango down Main Street. They may live close or thousands of miles away, but their mere presence in your life augments it and makes you better. And even when you haven't seen them for ages, when you finally do get together, it's like you've never been apart. Sometimes they nag, sometimes they even annoy you, but deep down they make you feel you are loved not for what you do or what you have, but simply for who you are. And I would take that over some DNA or a knock on the head with a flashlight any day!

What about you? Have you found your tribe yet?

I believe deep in my bones that every one of us brings to this world special gifts, graces and enough MAGIC to be our own fairy godmother. Whatever "happily ever after" means to you, you have the power to create a story of our own choosing. But here's the thing: If you don't know what you stand for, you won't be able to pin down what you truly want. And if you don't know what you want, you'll never get it. That is why so many people remain stuck and that is why we need to be crystal clear on our foundation, the core values from which we operate.

For me, what that means in my business and life is this:

When we honor our unique and sacred voice and follow our hearts from a place of authenticity, integrity and service, we create beautiful things in our lives and in our world. And that's important. It's not just about you or just about me. None of us are islands. We are all part of a vast and beautiful web of life. People who are happy and truly fulfilled are also kinder people who are inspired create healing and beauty around them. I don't know about you, but I think the world could use a little more kindness and joy.

And that's why I believe that when we show up in a way that honors our voice and the gifts we've been blessed with, we do so much more than just better our own lives. Everybody wins. And that is worth doing the work. YOU are worth doing the work. And the work starts with knowing who you are, knowing what it is that you are about and what you want, and having faith in your own power to create it.

SACRED VOICE+ INTENTION + INSPIRED ACTION = YOUR FAIRY TALE

Be brave. Be bold. Be you.

The Stolen Bairn and the Sidhe

Can you believe it's almost September? Kids are going back to school, fall it coming, and soon we'll be living in a world of pumpkin spice everything. It's late enough in the year to see if any of the intentions we set in January have gotten off course  and early enough to steer them back before the year ends. I don't know about you, but I set some pretty big goals for my year and sometimes I have to remind myself that success in bringing a meta-intention to pass means holding space over the duration, even on those days when we're feeling a little discouraged. 

And so today I'd like to share with you one of my favorite fairy stories about holding space for a dream, a Scottish tale called The Stolen Bairn and the Sídh. 

The story is about a young mother who momentarily sets her baby down on a path near a cliff by the sea while she climbs down to fetch him some water. As she is climbing down the cliff, she falls and is rescued by two fisherman. While she is away, two woman of the Sídh come across the little mewling bundle and steal the child away with them to Sídhean. The young mother is, of course, beside her self and undertake every means possible to locate her missing child, even though everyone else tells her it’s hopeless.

And then one day, she comes across an old gypsy woman who helps her find the magic to create a harp that sang with such sweetness the Sídh would be greedy to possess it, allowing her to buy her way into Sídhean to reclaim her missing child. The king of the Sídh falls in love with the harp and is so eager to possess it that he offers her riches untold, but the only price she will accept is the return of her son. The king finally agrees, striking a chord upon the harp that is so beautiful that the Sidh stood spellbound listening to its beautiful music. So enraptured were they that they never even noticed the woman leave with her child.

I love this story for its magic and for its acknowledgement that it is in our power to create what we want, if we just believe in and give voice to the magic we all possess. The truth is that one of the hardest things you'll ever do in holding space for a dream, especially during the times where it feels like you are just spinning your wheels, is waiting, continuing to hold space over the duration. Holding space when it seems like nothing is happening, holding space when others tell you are crazy. None of that matters. If it is in your heart and it is important to you, keep holding the vision, keep being grateful, keep working toward it and, eventually, it WILL pay off.

Brightest of Blessings,

 

P.s. If you love world folklore and fairy tale like the Scottish tale I shared with you today, you'll love my Around the World, Around the Year monthly program that starts September 4. You can register and get more information here.

Why Fairy Tale?

It all started when I was a child. When I was a little girl, my German Oma used to tell me the fairy tales her grandmother had told her when she was a child growing up in the Kingdom West Prussia. She’d beckon me to her lap, calling me Schneewittchen (Snow White) and weave magical stories without ever opening a book. As grandmothers do, she doted on me, always making me feel like I was beautiful and clever and like she would love me no matter what I did or who I grew up to be. But sometimes as we grow up, we start to forget all of the things that make us our beautiful, unique selves. And that’s where the fairy tale wisdom of Into the Wild Woods of the Soul comes in!

Fairy tales are soul stories. When they take us deep into the forest, they are taking us into the wild woods of the subconscious. The fairy tales we know today are echoes of an older oral tradition. Like other forms of folklore, they hearken back to our past and contain universal archetypes and lessons that we can use as a lens for finding clarity and facilitating growth in our own lives, so we can show up in the world as our best selves. In working with fairy tales, we can confront and overcome our fears, illuminate our dreams and bring them into being!

That is what makes them so powerful not just as entertainment, but as vehicles for self-development. They also serve as a reminder of a time in our lives when things were simpler, clearer. Most of us are introduced to these stories at an age when we are not so weighed down by the fear and blocks that can keep us "stuck" as adults.  We meet them at an age when we easily and eagerly accept their invitation into into their land of magic, dreams and hope.

And we need that magic, some of us need it desperately. As someone who spent many years allowing herself to remain stuck in situations and relationships that didn't serve her, I can tell you that dreams, hope and belief in happy endings make all the difference. Because the truth is that happiness was within reach. I just didn't see it at the time and no one was keeping me stuck but me. The good news is that I woke up and now that I am unstuck, I am taking every woman with me who wants to join me along for the ride.

We were made for more and I hope you'll join me in blazing a new trail.

Facing the Baba Yaga

Once upon a time, a beautiful young maiden named Vasilisa was sent by her wicked step-mother into the dark forest to borrow fire from the witch, Baba Yaga. The step-mother knew that most who entered the witch’s hut never returned. Knowing this too, the girl steeled herself, and obediently set about her task, knowing that she might well not survive. But sometimes the dark forest yields the unexpected...
 

While the witch does demand Vasilisa stay as her servant to pay for the fire, she neither kills nor eats her. Rather because of her cleverness and bravery, Vasilisa’s time with the crone changes her life beyond her wildest dreams bringing into it magic, riches and happiness she never dared imagine possible. And do you know why she was able to do this? It was because that magic doll she possesses teaches her to trust her own wisdom and intuition. This same magic resides inside all of us. It's just that we sometimes forget to listen. Lucky for us, there are stories and tools like meditation and journey work to remind and help us cultivate that gift.

You know, one of the things that I love about fairy tales is that these stories connect us to the ancestors and the breath of the eternal. It is always amazing to me to think that these stories survived by being passed down through generation upon generation through the oral storytelling tradition.

Some of the tales we work with in my programs have roots as far back as the Bronze Age and archetypes that hearken back to ancient goddesses. And Baba Yaga is no exception. In fact, she is has roots going back to pre-Christian times and, like other witch figures in these stories, is a proxy for our fears and blocks. If we can overcome them, the rewards are huge, just as they were for Vasilisa.

Stories like that of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga teach us to overcome our fears. Our stories are a way of explaining the world and fairy tales teach us that we can face the witches and big bad wolves that live in the dark forest of the subconscious and we can emerge victorious. And these stories are OLD. They are containers for teaching lessons and knowledge about our world, the world of spirit and the nature of life itself. And that is why they are such powerful healers.

You can listen to a beautiful retelling of Vasilisa and Baba Yaga here

Saving Ourselves

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On the surface, fairy tales don’t always look very feminist. Many of the most famous ones boast happy endings that come about only when the princess is saved by a prince. But we have to remember that these stories are a product of a different time when the options for women were a lot more limited than they are today. In that spirit, I think it is useful to look at their endings not so much as a validation that happiness only comes through someone else saving us, but as a metaphor for finding our happiness, whatever that means to us. Because the truth is that no matter how beautiful true love is, no matter how handsome the prince, no one else can complete or save us. It is our job to save ourselves and to create our own happiness.

Stories are powerful and one of the reasons I started the Into the Wild Woods and its programs was to create a support system that uses them as containers for feminine wisdom that empower women to create meaningful, fulfilling lives that they love. We do this through knowing ourselves through finding the confidence to show up in the world as we are. And that takes a lot of courage. But you know what? It’s worth it.

When we are happy and fulfilled, that joy ripples out into creating more kindness in the world. Maybe it sounds idealistic, maybe it sounds naive, but when I look around at some of the things going on in the world, I think we all could use a little more kindness, a little more understanding, a little more light.  

I want to live in a world where we lift each other up, a world where there is enough room for everyone. Because the truth is that there is enough for everyone. I am tired of operating out of a paradigm of lack, where we all have to race and push each other out of the way to grab the prize. I am tired of competition. I am tired of ladders. I want to create circles - loving, nurturing, empowering circles. And if we can use that empowerment to heal our voices and show up in the world as our truest and best selves, imagine the difference we can make! Are you with me?

Scheherezade, the Power of Story & the Creative Mind

Do you know the tale of Scheherezade, the famous queen and storyteller o fOne Thousand and One Nights? The thing that I love about her is that unlike so many fairy tale heroines she is as brilliant as she is beautiful.

As the story goes, the king Shahryar’s wife was unfaithful to him. Upon learning of her infidelity Shahryar is so upset that he vows never to be betrayed again and marries a new bride each day and killing her the next, so she never has the chance. At his command this horrible fate befalls a thousand women...but not Scheherezade.

You see, Scheherezade convinces the king to allow her to say goodbye to her sister, whom she has secretly told beforehand to request she tell a story.Scheherezade begins to weave riveting a tale for her sister and the king, who listens with rapt attention. He is so disappointed when it remains unfinished as the dawn breaks that he spares Scheherezade, so she can finish the story the next night.  
 
The next evening, she finishes it and begins an even more fantastic tale only to leave it unfinished as the dawn breaks. Again, the king spares her, so she can finish the story the next night. This continues for 1001 nights and 1000 stories and the king realizes he has fallen in love with Scheherezade and makes her his queen. And talk about the power of story!

Telling her stories literally saves Scheherezade’s life.

And what a beautiful metaphor that is for creating, sharing our stories and expressing ourselves. When our voices are silenced, a part of us slowly dies. For those of us who write or paint or dance or sing or create heart-led businesses and other beautiful things, expressing that creativity is a kind of lifeline. Even if we don’t think of ourselves as creative (and, believe me, we allare creative beings!), we all need some kind of outlet in our lives to express ourselves. But, even more importantly, as human beings we need to be heard. We are by nature expressive and we need creative play, but often we don’t gives ourselves the time to explore the right half of our brains.

And this is sad, because the truth is that beautiful things start to happenwhen we use our voices and when we give in to our creative impulses. Einstein described creativity as "seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought." And it's true. Using our creative mind shifts our perspective. Through creative endeavors, we often find ourselves processingideas and sometimes even deep feelings that have been with us for a long time in new ways and we start to flourish. And that's why storytelling is not just Scheherezade’s art, but her lifeline. Have you found yours?

Creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

~ Ann Lamotte