Deep Ecology Retreat Experience
Balancing Being & Doing to Restore Harmony
Summer in an Ecofeminist Retreat : a suprisingly liberating experience
This summer I had the joy of co-facilitating a Work that Reconnects retreat for Shelter, a French ecofeminist association. While I was familiar with the concept of ecofeminism and what I had read about it made a lot of sense to me, I was definitely in for a surprise being immersed in a 100% ecofeminist gathering for 2 weeks …
Ecofeminism is a movement linking the oppression of women, minority groups & indigenous culture & the degradation of the environment as consequences of capitalist patriarchy.
It is impossible to describe in words and in a short post my experience but let me begin by saying it was intense and I came back from it a changed woman.
The ecofeminist gathering was in beautiful nature in the middle of nowhere, a hidden refuge nestled in the hilltops of the Aude region, the landscape a mix of pine forest and what they call “la guarrigue” locally. The place we met is a sanctuary for women, men aren’t welcome there. Initially I had quite some resistance to this, it felt really polarising to exclude men. If we want to build a more harmonious future, surely we need to do this together.
But I had signed up for this experiment, co-hosting with my dear soul sisters, so I just let go and saw it as an exploration of something new. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed, what an experiment in letting go of layers and layers of conditioning…
It was special to be in a land that had only been touched and walked upon by women and witness how little had been done to the land. There were a few wooden cabins, built by lesbian women who had lived there from the 70s onwards, completely crooked, imperfect and absolutely charming. There was no electricity, no source of water and “the shitter” wasn’t the place you want to hang around. We would collect water from a source at the village nearby, we needed to drive there and carry it by foot for the last meters up a hill during the summer heatwave. The whole symbolic of women carrying the water was special and the appreciation that stemmed from enjoying it for drinking or a rudimentary shower was immense.
I didn’t miss any of the comforts of modern life though during my time there. I discovered the joy of sleeping under the stars every night, of seeing the sun and moon rising and setting. I became really connected with these rhythms, it felt like all was in place and after a few days and would not miss one. I discovered what it was like to be in total darkness in the forest and how surprisingly safe and comfortable I felt especially knowing there was not any male presence or dangerous animals around, I didn’t feel like prey. It was so magical not to have artificial light for those weeks and no sign of civilisation anywhere close, how precious to see the night sky clearly, to experience and enjoy the darkness. I enjoyed sisterhood like seldom before, in profound and deep sharing in circles filled with words of wisdom and truth, hugging, tears, love, softness, fierceness, pain, power and rage. It was raw, moving, intense, peeling of layer after layer.
We were naked in every way, also physically, it was so hot and there were no men, so clothes were mostly superfluous. Initially as a retreat co-facilitator, I had some resistance being half naked but after so much intimacy and depth in our sharing, I felt totally comfortable in that nakedness. I never thought I would be facilitating a grief circle in my underwear with 18 women but it just happened and I completely surrendered…
I discovered what it was like to walk through my days without the male gaze, how suddenly it was totally safe to be completely naked. Being around this special group of women and without men gave me so much more space to be, so much freedom to express my sensuality, all of me. I experienced a freedom I had seldom experienced. It was blissful…
We had long walks under the moonlight in nature, walks in silence, singing songs, telling stories, laughing and howling with the wind in our hair and on our bare skin. I treasure images of our half nude bodies walking for hours in the moonlight and bathing and singing in the river down below.
I experienced the wild woman in me I had longed for, dreamt of, had glimpses of here and there. And the whole experience felt so sensual, playful, soft and powerful, with ann intense, feeling of aliveness and intimacy with nature. It was so liberating to be me so fully in this magical place surrounded by beautiful women and a couple of my dear soul sisters to share this experience with. Most of these women were healers, mothers, massage therapists, dancers, writers, artists, activists, etc.
It gave me a glimpse of what it feels like to be completely safe to be free, to be in a symbiotic state with the Earth and with a community of women. I carry this experience preciously in my heart and it motivates me to create and contribute to safe places for women to show up in their full power.
Living in Harmony with the Seasons
There was a time when our ancestors lived much closer to nature and honoured the seasons … They honoured the Wheel of the Year connected to celebrations bringing together spirituality and nature.
After the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire, these traditions and beliefs were persecuted and largely disappeared (my 12 year old daughter is currently learning about this in her history class).
Regardless of whether you practice Christianity, our Western European calendar today is significantly influenced by Christian celebrations be it Christmas, Easter, All Saints Day, Ascension day, often public holidays with specific traditions.
Most of these celebrations originated from ancient Celtic celebrations that have been banned or strategically transformed to fit the dogma of Christianity.
Nowadays these pagan celebrations are re-emerging as feminine wisdom is on the a rise and there is an increased awareness of the importance to live in harmony with nature for our own survival as a species. We can draw on this ancient wisdom and the powerful energetic portals of the seasons to navigate life today in a more grounded, balanced and wise way.
Regardless of labels, what is particularly interesting with Celtic celebrations, is how connected they are to nature, to the rhythm of the seasons, to agriculture and the trajectory of the Sun and the Moon which is echoed in our biorhythms.
In the Northern hemisphere, the Celtic or pagan calendar (of which the New Year starts on 1st November, the day after Samhain) marks 8 key celebrations or sabbaths : Samhain (between 31 Oct to 2 Nov) that has become Halloween/All Saints Day, Yule / Winter Solstice (between 19 and 23 December) becoming Christmas, Imbolc (1 0r 2 February becoming Candlemas), Ostara / Spring Equinox (between 20 and 23 March) becoming Easter, Beltane (1st May), Litha / Summer Solstice (19 to 23 June) , Lugmasadh (1 and 2 August) and Mabon / Autumn Equinox (between 19 to 23 September). Days differ depending on the year and the inclination of the Earth.
Each of these celebrations were associated to rituals practiced at home or in community. Celtic traditions are closest to home but many traditions honoured and continue to honour this cyclical wisdom. Native Americans live by the Wheel of the Year in harmony with the seasons, each associated to a direction representing the stages of human Life (Winter is North, Spring is East, Summer is South, Autumn is West). I find it fascinating to discover more about these different traditions anchored in nature and use this wisdom as a navigation compass for life as it unfolds.
Becoming aware and honouring the rhythms of the Earth is healing and beneficial at many levels. Living with the wheel of the seasons and the year supports our awakening and connects us to Life. It invites us to live more in harmony with nature, to bring appreciation to each moment of the year and its gifts. To become aware of how these processes mirror our own evolution. Through the wheel of the seasons, we honour the cyclical nature of all Life, including our own cyclical nature, we too are cyclical beings. Everything is in balance through this year wheel: day and night, light and darkness, life and death, woman and man.
To bring balance to how we evolve on this planet today as human beings, it is wise to draw inspiration from this cyclical rhythm. It is impossible for us to disregard it, as we evolve on a planet that revolves around these cycles and that means we need to be in sync with these rhythms to ensure our own survival. This is such a simple truth. It is an illusion that we can disregard this fundamental physiological fact. And we’ve been living in this illusion for quite some years, major blind spot. Modern society has evolved in a linear and accelerated way since the industrial age and it is clear nowadays that this is no longer sustainable without great threats to existence. It is time to start to integrate the wisdom of nature’s circularity into our daily lives be it intimately or professionally.
It’s certainly a long way to go towards that transition and it can be daunting even where to begin. This involves gradually changing our belief system, our routines, our relationships, our behaviours, ….
Being out in nature, listening and feeling into these rhythms and how they are echoed in our bodies, honouring these cycles of Life and drawing wisdom from them is a wonderful and joyful place to start.
I will continue to offer gatherings and ceremonies to support us to remember, integrate and embody this natural and seasonal wisdom. Join me on that journey for a Spring Equinox ceremony and morning walk on 20th March.
LOVE FLOWS THROUGH ME
This poem flowed out of me today as I connected to the LOVER in me.
In every breath, in every heartbeat, in every moment, in every second of every day,
Love flows through me
Love within & Love without
I feel the sweet nectar of Love filling & softening all of my body, inviting me to open to Life, to Love it all,
I feel myself shining, sparkling within, tingling, pleasurable sensations rushing through my body simply by connecting to the Lover in me,
What a bliss to be alive in this body, what a gift
Love from Above & Love from Below,
From the light of the stars, enlightening our darkest nights, inviting us to remember where we came from
To the warmth of the sun, brightening up our days, its soft warmth joyfully melting our hard edges, teasing our hearts to open,
Love form the Earth, our mother, our home, the great womb of Life,
gently cradling us within her protective arms, creating a membrane of Love for life to emerge,
Our great mother providing, nurturing, generously nourishing us with all of her gifts,
Pure Air, Water, Soil, the foundations for Life in its multitude of forms to flourish,
Love from the fresh, pure air,
We are surrounded with life giving substance,
A substance that awakens and infuses all of our cells with love,
Life force pouring through us, the ultimate energy of love.
Opening up like a rose to receive the gifts of love, of Life
Every breath is a blessing, every moment, a miracle, an opportunity to feel deeply the bliss of being alive in this living, breathing, dancing body,
An ocean of love flows through me, pure crystalline waters, inviting me to love all the parts of me, the light and the darkness, the shame, the fear dissipating as it is seen, felt and Loved,
Taking it all in, Feeling it all, embracing it all, loving it all,
Every moment an opportunity to embody Love,
Love is abundant, Love is for sharing,
Love wants to speak, to express, to create beauty all around,
Love has no end, love overflows, love pours from me
Love opens my eyes and heart as I breathe in the world around me,
Love sees the beauty in everything and everyone, the universe in every being, and all that connects us into this wondrous Web of Life that is Love’s expression,
Love flows through me as it flows through you and every Living Being,
Love want to play, to savour, to wrap itself around and merge with all of LIfe,
Love feels the winds though all directions, Love from the West, Love from the North, Love from The East and the Love from the South, caressing my face, whispering love songs from distant places, uniting us through time and space. Love hears the sweetest bird songs inviting my heart to sing along, Love tickles the soft grass on my bare feet and charms me into dancing to the beat of my own song,
My love song resonates in harmony with the Earth and all beings partaking in this endless dance of Life, that has no end and no beginning, that is boundless and eternal, soft and fierce, powerful beyond measure, as is LOVE.
The LOVER in me embraces all that is with nurturing arms and invites the magic of Life to Flow,
The magic is LOVE
The Power of Intention & Attention
Our intention creates our reality.
– Wayne Dyer
Every action originates in the mind, it starts with a thought. If we are on autopilot, this process can be largely unconscious, we just run off habits of mind. However, when we become conscious of an unmet need and feel a desire for change to meet this need, that thought becomes what we refer to as an intention.
Etymology of intention : to stretch towards
From Latin in- “toward” (from PIE root *en “in”) + tendere “to stretch,” from PIE root *ten- “to stretch.”
Old French entencion “intent, purpose, aspiration; will; thought” (12c.)
Every transformative process starts with an intention. This intention often arises from a need, a longing. Something in our life isn’t aligned with who we are and what we believe in, our values and needs. When we notice this, there’s the intention to move ourselves towards what we long for, to stretch or extend towards it. To bring about change so we can experience more well-being, balance and alignment. Setting an intention can be like a course correct : noticing you are aren’t heading in a helpful place and reorientating yourself towards where you want to be, where you intend to go, what feels right for you.
An intention can be very specific such as landing your dream job or finding as soul mate and it can be more linked to qualities you want to embody, what matters to you, your purpose.
For instance: I intend to be kinder towards myself, I intend to bring more presence into my day, I wish to bring more peace in my household.
An intention holds in itself immense potential for positive transformation. It is nothing less than the voice of your soul emerging to remind you who you are and what you are here to do. An intention when nurtured, has the potential to expand well beyond what we think is possible (our minds are limited in many ways).
And how do we nurture intention? By bringing our attention, bringing our focus to it. We bring our mental energy to the intention, and more importantly, we bring our heart to it, we take care of it.
When we keeping our minds focused, our vision clear, our heart open and really embody the qualities of our intention, it starts to unfold and become our reality as we walk through life.
Intention + Attention = Transformation
I like to think of it as Magic because it is a process that involves a lot of trust. Sometimes the outcome may surprise you, be different to what you expect. Because it is not a process of control, it is a co-creation with Life. By focusing on your intention, you begin to embody it and attract that reality. Your environment responds to the energy you emit sometimes in very creative ways, remember everything is vibration. We attract what we emit, our beliefs become our reality to an extent. Our reality is in large part constructed by how we view the world, whether through thoughts or conscious intentions.
Nature is always a great mirror to illustrate this principle. Think of the potential that there is in one tiny seed. With the right conditions (fertile soil, water, sunshine, etc.) and the right care, a tiny acorn can become a great oak!
“An intention is the budding flower given life by all of the underlying thoughts, words, and actions in the rich soil below the surface. Intention gains its true power through the focus of your attention on what you may do in the present moment to bring your intention into physical manifestation. Attention energizes and intention transforms… Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate and disappear.” – Deepak Chopra
Whereas an intention describes something that you desire to take place in the future, your attention is what you can do right now to make that intention a reality.
It can first help to formulate an intention, reflect or journal on why this is really important for you and visualise it manifested to embody its energy. To empower your intention, you can take a few moments to focus on it in your daily practice. And also at the end of the day perhaps notice moments in which you honoured it.
Acting in Service of Life
How are you acting in service to Life as this beautiful butterfly is?
Business as Usual, the industrial growth society so many of us are evolving in today is clearly no longer sustainable. With the latest IPCC report there’s no denying this fundamental truth and the challenging present and consequently large scale life-threatening future we’ve created for ourselves and all living beings. As human beings we need to live in a radically different way for complex life forms to continue. We need to stop doing anything that is harmful to the greater web of life which we belong to, change radically our belief systems and engage in life-sustaining behaviours. This is certainly no easy task. It requires great awakening, inner and outer transformation, freeing ourselves of past conditioning and dysfunctional belief systems, creating new ones, and tremendous bravery and supportive communities as we step into not knowing and creating a new way.
At my micro, humble level, with determination and at times hope, joy, confusion, insecurity, fear and plenty of not knowing, learning and exploring I’ve committed to walk along this path of transformation. I am opening up my antennas to those that are agents of change that I can learn from. I am open to discover how I can contribute and engage in this Great Turning that is asked from us all. I don’t have the answers but my purpose drives me: “being the nurturing arms that invite the magic of life to flow”
I am blessed that so, so many are further along this path than me, that there’s so much collective wisdom I can draw in, so much ancestral knowledge, many open minds and hearts, goodness and inspiration. I feel so much gratitude, it is so empowering to realise that we never walk alone but with a collective of light warriors who care about acting in service to Life.
Citing some of my recent inspiration below, certainly not exhaustive. Please feel free to share yours so we can harvest more collective wisdom here?
#mindfulness #spiritualecology #activehope #extinctionrebellion #workthatreconnects #transalquilmia #treesisters #demeditatietuin #pachamamaalliance #roseauxdansants #plukcsa #getdowngetdirty #ecofeminism #offgridliving #kaskantine #resurgencetrust #icanchangetheworldwithmytwohands #nayanature
Active Hope – The Cairn of Mourning practice
I am currently following a training with Chris Johnstone & Madeleine Young to facilitate Active Hope Circles. This training will come to an end before the summer and it is my intention to start hosting regular Active Hope Circles in Amsterdam in the near future .
I shared the “Cairn of Mourning” practice together with one fellow trainee last week.
This practice in essence consists in spending some time (ideally outdoors) reflecting on the following question: What is being lost in our world that you mourn for?
As strange as it may seem for the uninitiated, having a space to mourn and share our pain for the world is perhaps the most powerful way to wake up and feel our interconnectedness, to start healing individually and collectively and to free us to take meaningful action or to continue doing so without burning out.
In this post, I wish to share with you some of what came up for me in this particular Cairn of Mourning practice I did recently. Sharing this is a gift to the Life within and around us. So here goes, prepare the tissues …
I mourn the loss of fresh air, clean water and healthy soil. I mourn the loss of purity of air, water, earth that we as humans have caused through our industries adding toxicity to all that is offered to us, sustaining our Life. I mourn that instead of appreciating and taking care, being guardians of these amazing elemental offerings we suffocate Life including our own human bodies made mostly of water, air and earth. I mourn the loss of vitality, the destruction of habitat, the disappearance of species happening at an unprecedented rate, almost 1000 times quicker than before we humans appeared. I mourn that these species aren’t properly mourned, that they disappear in a huge silence in the midst of our frenetic lives often unfolding in corporate towers through all sorts of digitalised devices.
I mourn that our activity and way of life has destroyed most wild mammals, 83% are the latest statistics I remember. I mourn that our once beautiful oceans are now overfished and full of toxic plastic that will linger there for hundreds of years. I mourn the loss of over half of the world’s colourful and magnificent corals due to the warming ocean, the loss of 90% of big fish and countless others.
I mourn that we spend more time on screens than outdoors. I mourn that we are so busy and disconnected that we barely take the time to pause and feel deeply what is happening to our world. I mourn our loss of freedom, we have become slaves to systems and modes of consumerism that do not serve us and are largely destructive. I mourn the many humans who suffer the consequences of “modern” lifestyles, the poor, the oppressed, the displaced, the indigenous people, the victims of climate change, of conflict, of discrimination.
I mourn the loss of wilderness, the loss of untouched natural spaces where one can go and not hear a human sound or the sound of some human-made machine for days. I mourn the melting ice, the flooded regions, disappearing under the rising oceans, the many lush and ancient forests being burned away, the desertification of so many regions losing their natural fertility due to rising temperatures, the loss of habitats, the loss of beauty, the loss of softness, the loss of feminine values, the oppression of the feminine, the disrespect of women who are sacred givers of Life, the loss of value we place in care and nurturing, the loss of treading lightly on this beautiful planet that is our mother, the source of all Life. I mourn the loss of life, the destruction of Life that we are causing directly through violence and wars or indirectly through the modern industrial lives we have created and come to think of as normal.
I mourn with all the fellow humans who have the courage to stop, to feel how much they really care. I mourn the loss of intimacy and community and places to mourn as well as places to celebrate, give thanks and rejoice through song and dance.
I mourn that we suppress and numb feelings of helplessness, despair, fear, sadness grief when faced with the state of our world. These feelings are natural and healthy, they make us human. Feeling them allows life intelligence to flow. It takes a lot of energy to suppress and numb then and cuts us off from our power to respond appropriately to the challenges we face.
I mourn the loss of meaning of what it means to be alive, to be a human at this particular time, to belong to this world.
What is it that is being lost in the world that you mourn? I would like to hear and receive that and make space for your process. I know how much moving through our pain opens us to Life.
Our mourning is natural and healthy. Our tendency to resist pain is dangerous. Through numbing our pain, we cut ourselves from our life energy and our ability to respond appropriately to the challenges we face.. It is very draining to suppress difficult emotions & overtime causes dysfunction and disease. When we allow ourselves to feel it all, Life flows again in us and all around, our hearts break open, we get in touch with the depth of our longing and from this incredible creativity can arise.
The Great Turning Towards Life – Summer Solstice Gathering on 20th June
During this evening we’ll hold a nurturing space in which you can explore where you are called to in this Great Turning, honouring your unique longings & gifts and deepening your contributions. This vibrant time of year invites us to rise fully into who we are, who we are becoming and what wants to be born through us.
We (Marjorie and Suzanne) have connected through this beautiful course we are both following at the moment “The Great Turning Experiment” from the Findhorn community. The Great Turning Experiment. All the precious learnings and community received there have energised and inspired us to host this evening together, share our own journey and insights from the course.
• Deeper insight into your own journey and contributions to The Great Turning
• Celebrating the Summer Solstice and abundance of life and light
• Space to explore as a community our grief and concern for the world. Moving through these feelings opens up the door to deep connection and creativity.
• Connection & community as you navigate through this Great Turning.
Registrations : send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 20 June 2022
Time: 17h30 – 22h (including a potluck dinner, everyone brings something)
1065 DA Amsterdam Nieuw-West
• €60 standard fee
• €30 student / low income fee,-.