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

Finding Purpose

Hold your hand over your heart for a moment. Do you feel it? It is a miracle, just like you are. THAT beating is the rhythm of your purpose. Your heartbeat is a reminder of the unique life, experiences and gifts that were given to you when you arrived on this earth. Think of the expressions we use: what makes your heart sing, the call of your heart, heart-centered, what makes your heart soar. We use these expressions, because following the song of our heart is as essential to our happiness and quality of life as our own magical heartbeat is to sustaining our physical life. And somewhere deep inside, you know this too.

For the past three months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a wonderful online community of women around reclaiming the purpose and joy in their lives in my Hänsel & Gretel program, then Overcoming Fear with Red Riding Hood, and, finally, Manifesting Magic with Cinderella. It has been such a rewarding experience to see these women go from feeling stuck and uninspired to gaining fresh clarity and, in some cases, even a new direction in life and relationships.

I will tell you from my experience in my own life and in working with private clients that the main reason most of us stay stuck is fear – fear that we are not enough, fear of the unknown, fear that we don’t deserve better, fear of failure, fear of disappointing the people in our lives. And I get it. I’ve been there. I stayed for so long in a job and a life that I'd outgrown, becasue I was afraid I would fail if I tried something else. But I’ve also been on the other side and I can tell you with a certainty that goes deep down into my bones that when you get past the fear, the world opens up and everything changes.

It saddens me when I see someone put away her dreams out of fear, because I know how how it feels. This is one of the reasons I am so drawn to doing the work that I do. I don't want other women to feel that way. I don't want YOU to feel that way. Part of the miracle of who we are is that we all have a unique voice and gifts that are meant to be shared. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we have a responsibility to share them, especially if doing so will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. So, what are you going to do, miracle? Where can you reclaim a bit of your life's purpose? What sweet song is your heart singing to you?

Fairy Tale Self-Care

One of the great beauties of fairy tale is that while the dark forest sometimes feels scary and unfamiliar, no one ever dies there. It is a world where we can face our blocks and fears and come out the other side stronger and empowered with the knowledge that we are enough to overcome them.

And that is what I’ve been working on with a group of women for the past couple of weeks – clearing blocks in preparation for the work of manifesting some big goals and big dreams! You know, I really believe that we are here to heal ourselves and the world around us and that we are best equipped to do that when we ourselves are happy, healthy, fulfilled, and content.

I talk to so many women who act as a kind of mean step-sister toward their own internal Cinderella. They feel like they are being “selfish,” if they don’t put others first. And so, they put their own dreams on the back burner, always putting the needs of others before their own. Does this sound like you? I know that it has often been me.

But I’d like for you to think about something.

Have you ever noticed when you’re on an airplane how the emergency instructions always say to put on your own air mask before attending to anyone else? There’s a reason for this and it’s not that they are encouraging you to be selfish. The truth is that we cannot heal, be of service to or take care of others if we don’t first heal, serve and take care of ourselves. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to get water from an empty well.

But moreover, it’s not selfish to want a piece of happiness, a piece of something good for yourself. It is okay to want to go to the ball too. Really, it is.

And, so, since tomorrow is the night of the new moon and new moons are the traditional time for setting intentions, I’d like for you to join me in setting the intention of sometime in the next month doing something that is gloriously, maybe even selfishly JUST FOR YOU.

Do it because you need to. Do it because you want to. Or do it for no reason other than that it would make you happy.

It's never too late

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Today I would like to tell you a different kind of story – a true story.

When I was 19 years old, I met the most wonderful women. Her name was Hilda and she was a first year German student at the community college where I worked part-time as a German tutor. While there is nothing so unusual about being a first year German student, Hilda was unusual, exceptional even.

You see, Hilda was almost 80 years old and as she came into my office hours for help with her homework, we became friends and I learned a little about her story. By the time I had met her, she had already lived a long and interesting life that included a real life fairy tale romance with her husband of almost 60 years.

From the stories Hilda told me, I could tell she had had a good life – she had traveled, she had explored exotic places and she had been lucky enough to do so with the love of her life. But then one day, her husband died and she was left alone. After losing him, it would have been easy for her to say “I am old and alone and there is nothing left for me,” but that is not what Hilda did. Instead, she took stock of her life and set out to do the one thing she had always wanted to do, but had never gotten around to. And so, in her late 70’s Hilda Kemp enrolled in college. When I met her, she was working on a degree in Mathematics.

Over twenty years later, I still think about Hilda Kemp sometimes, particularly when I am feeling “too old” or too paralyzed by fear to heed the call of my heart. Hilda taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned:

It is never too late to live your dream.

It was not too late for her and it’s not too late for you, so next time a dream comes up, entertain it. Follow Hilda’s example and see where it leads you.

Do you believe in fairies?

Do you remember that part of Peter Pan where Tinkerbell has been poisoned by Captain Hook and is dying? In the story, the only way for her to get well again, is for children all over the world to clap, if they believe in fairies. Peter cries out to all the children, dreaming in Neverland:

Do you believe?

And many of the children clap. Some don’t, but enough do and Tink is saved.

Our dreams are a lot like fairies. Some of us don’t listen to them. We ignore them, stop believing in them, and slowly a piece of our hearts withers and dies. As we grow older, we develop a lot of reasons for why we are too busy for them, why we don’t deserve to have them, why they are not possible, why we’re selfish for even wanting them. I know, I’ve done it myself.

For a long time, I wasn’t much of a clapper. I was working 60+ hour weeks, trying to take care of a household – my mom who has Alzheimer’s disease, my family, my little pack of stray dogs. I was exhausted as it was. I didn’t have time for clapping!

But here’s the thing:

You can’t get water from an empty well.

We need our dreams. We need fulfillment. We need happiness. It is only when we have those things that we can show up in the world as our best selves and do the work that we were put here to do. That might be raising strong, kind, healthy children. The might be being CEO of an innovative company. That might be nursing the sick or feeding the poor. That might be creating beauty in the world through our art.  It might be a job, it might be a few hours of your day or simply how you choose to live.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is that it fills you up, that you have some corner of your busy life that fills you up.

The thing is that you have to believe.

You have to believe there is time for you too.

You have to believe you deserve it.

You have to believe you can do it.

You have to believe that you (yes YOU!) are entitled to happiness

So, what do you say? Are you going to be one of the ones who claps?

I hope so. You know you want to…

 “You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it is better to listen to what it has to say.”

Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist

Claiming Our Voices

Over the past months I have been blessed with the experience of working with many women to reclaim the sacred power of our true voices. I feel like it is an honor to be entrusted to hold that space and hear truths that have sometimes never been expressed outside of internal monologue. We work through some pretty heavy issues together and it's truly amazing to be a witness to that transformation. It always leaves me thinking about when I was younger and struggling to find my voice and my place.

Many years ago when I was a student, I was so shy that I barely spoke in class without prompting. You would never have believed back then that I would one day be leading groups through anything, let alone deep discussions about purpose and truth. I’d have ideas, and then when I went to raise my hand, my heart would start thumping and my throat would close up. Somehow, despite having had to meet the same requirements to get in as they did, I was convinced that my peers were all smarter, more insightful and more deserving of being there than I was. They all seemed so confident and I foolishly thought everyone but me had it all together. And that's a feeling that dogged me into adulthood.

But, boy, did I ever have it wrong! It took me a few decades to learn it, but one of the world’s best kept secrets is that everyone feels insecure sometimes. Everyone. Some are just better than hiding it than others. But I didn’t know that then and I was so afraid of not being enough that it often paralyzed me.
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Luckily, college me had a professor who would watch closely, then gleefully pounce saying things like, “Martina’s got an idea! I see it in her eyes!” The first few times he did this to me, I was so flustered that I think I must have looked like the love child of a beet and a deer caught in the headlights, but eventually, I started to speak up on my own. And you know what? No one thought I was stupid, didn’t deserve to be there or any of the other nonsense that I feared they would think. And you know what? I'd be willing to bet that other people aren't as hard on you as you are on yourself either.

As uncomfortable as his attention sometimes was at the time, I will be eternally grateful to that professor, because he took the time to see the depth beneath my youthful shyness and insecurity and it changed me. Sometimes we all just need a little encouragement to get the ball rolling. 

And that is the thing about using our voices and sharing our gifts - the more we do it, the easier it gets. Sometimes we just have to feel the fear and do it anyway. 

And here's why:

The truth is that we are all here for a reason. We ALL have unique perspectives, gifts and insights and you are no exception.

The world needs you (yes, YOU!) and it needs your voice, so please share it! Trust me, everything opens up when you do!

“Who the hell do you think you are?” your darkest interior voices will demand.
It’s funny you should ask,” you can reply. “I’ll tell you who I am: I am a child of God, just like anyone else. I am a constituent of the universe. I have invisible spirit benefactors who believe in me, and who labor alongside me. The fact that I am here at all is evidence that I have the right to be here. I have a right to my own voice and a right to my own vision.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear