My work involves holding space for groups of people to illuminate their shadows, face their fears and embrace the gifts that have been waiting to be discovered, so they can live more meaningful lives from a place of authenticity. The key to transformation lies within our hearts. I support participants in reconnecting with their own heart’s wisdom to find the answers and healing they are seeking. I have witnessed how sometimes our greatest fear is not our shadow, but our light, like the famous quote by Marianne Williamson in her book ‘A Return to Love’. I believe our power and what we can create through our thoughts, words and actions is what we are most afraid of, as then we must be accountable and take responsibility for what we think, say and do.
Under the Surface
Although our retreats are gentle, they offer deep personal growth. The discomfort of unprocessed emotions, trauma and fear that is healing can initially be externalized to other participants or facilitators. During those uncomfortable moments, practices that cultivate presence are essential. When I am fully present to what I hear, feel, see and sense, within myself and another, I am more aware of the needs that are presenting and how those needs can be met. The gift of having a group experience is that often an individual’s need is a reflection of a collective need for transformation. Being gentle and compassionate with myself and the participants creates a potent environment for transformation.
The Bowl of Light
One of the practices that has helped me through the years came from a book by Hank Wesselman called ‘The Bowl of Light’.
Wesselman shares a teaching by Hawaiian elder ‘Hale Kealohalani Makua’. Everyone is born with a bowl of light in their heart. Over time, rocks, pebbles and boulders can be placed in the bowl, covering the light. Sometimes we put those rocks there ourselves, through our own doubts or fears. Sometimes other’s can place those rocks in our bowl, projecting what they are not ready to recognize within themselves. A helpful practice is to know when our bowl of light has become dimmed and to turn the bowl over, emptying the rocks, so the light may shine brightly again.
After each retreat I undergo a deep period of reflection discovering what I learned and what I can change, while also not taking anything personally. Sometimes my own life can reinforce these insights in very tangible ways. In early May my husband Todd invited me to paddle the South River, which is only safe to paddle in the spring when the water is flowing and high enough to navigate around the many rocks along our journey. We gathered our gear and set off, meeting our friend at the river head. The river was moving very fast and we noted a small waterfall 100 meters past where we would put our boats in. After checking it out we decided to go for it. Our friend went first in his kayak and managed to negotiate the falls without any problem. Reassured, Todd and I guided our canoe towards the fast flowing falls. Suddenly, the bow of the boat dipped down, and we quickly took on water. Our canoe was swamped! Shocked but unharmed, we made our way to the edge of the river, holding onto the capsized boat while catching our gear before it floated downstream.
Todd and I worked together to upright the boat, emptying it of water. It reminded me of another recent group paddle when an experienced paddler offered some sage advice to the beginners to focus on where you want to go, not on the obstacles.
As we were now both soaking wet and the water was freezing cold, Todd asked me if I wanted to go back home. We were 100 meters from our vehicle and only at the beginning of our 2 hour paddle. Whatever extra clothes we had brought were now drenched. It made logical sense to go home, but something primal and powerful in me pointed forward.
I heard a voice in my head very confidently say, ‘We will not allow obstacles to keep us from continuing on our journey!’ We climbed back into our boats and had a delightful paddle, without any more upsets or difficult moments to navigate. After the experience, I realized the boat was like my bowl of light, and the waterfall was an opportunity to empty my bowl of rocks, or beliefs about myself that had been weighing me down, keeping me from moving forward. My bowl of light was restored.
If you are feeling like your bowl of light has been dimmed by too many rocks, how might you restore it? A reflective practice of emptying your bowl might be supportive.
What makes this simple practice so effective is your intention behind it as you recognize what thoughts are weighing down your bowl of light. You can try this practice yourself by taking a bowl of water and adding to it some pebbles. As you spend time reflecting on the emotions you carry: such as fears, expectations and responsibility, how you might name them and gain wisdom from them as you remove them from the bowl? You may decide to reserve one rock that is for ancestral beliefs and responsibilities. Afterward, you might wish to float a lighted candle in the bowl of water as you journal about your experience and then return the pebbles back to nature with gratitude.
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