In early October, I joined Amanda of Seven Feathers and a group of eight other women for a women’s retreat at beautiful Windhorse Farm for the first annual Wise Women Weekend.
We joined in an EmpARROWment® Arrow Break ceremony as well as Chakradance®. We did creative, joyful, meaningful work together – adorning our arrows with yarn, flowers, and feathers; weaving and wrapping flower crowns with gorgeous locally grown flowers, and creating a forest mandala together.
On our final day, Amanda invited us to practice personal ritual and ceremony with a solo Tree Meditation.
This post is part 2 in a three part series. Read part 1 and part 3.
Arrow Break – Vulnerability, Bravery + Compassion
My Arrow break experience is something I’ll only share a little bit of. The power of this ceremony, in part, lies in the unexpected elements.
It was a profound and emotional experience for me. The size and weight of my fear surprised me. Before I stepped up, I thought – I’ve pushed past the edge of fear so many times, this will be easy – but I was so afraid, that I had an intense physical reaction.
Oh wow, did it raise a lot of issues for me around shame and fear.
I was able to be so vulnerable during my Arrow break experience because the empathy inside the circle that Amanda facilitated made me feel safe and supported. And Amanda made me feel so seen and loved.
The Arrow break was undoubtedly a breakthrough experience for me – like looking straight into the eyes of fear and pushing past it.
(you can learn more about Amanda’s Emp”ARROW”ment sessions here)
Chakradance® – Courage, Healing + Joy
Chakradance® is a movement and art based experience that acts as a bridge between the unconscious and the conscious mind to promote healing. It incorporates blindfolds, meditation, guided imagery, and music designed to bring healing & harmony to your Chakras. It’s actually based on Jungian Psychology and Energy Medicine.
If you’re curious about the Jungian aspect, you can read more about that on the Seven Feathers Blog in Psychology of the Chakras
We were invited at one point to work with Mother Earth energy and Father Sky energy – and for me it felt so healing and grounding to bring those energies together. I moved intuitively with the music, moving energy between earth and sky, Mother and Father, rooting myself deep into the earth, churning up the wind, and opening my heart Chakra.
We were lucky enough to experience Chakradance® outside in the elements, and the wind was a big part of my experience. When the music would build, I would move my hands and arms to churn up the wind, and a big, purifying gust almost always came up, and it felt like I was inviting the wind to join the dance.
What it feels like to open my heart chakra
Ever since that Chakradance® experience, I can feel my heart opening up. Sometimes, I can actually feel the heart chakra turning out and opening up and light spilling all around, into my heart and out into the world.
Amanda’s website gives an overview of each of the 7 core chakras. About the heart chakra, it says:
“When this centre opens we can perceive the beauty and spiritual love in our fellow human beings.”
Also, “When this chakra is blocked, the person may experience self-rejection, unworthiness, create boundaries to allowing love to be received, or expressed freely. . .”
That second description of a blocked chakra sums up how I felt more than half of the time during Chakradance®.
I found flow a few times, and that felt really good, but I felt really uncomfortable for most of the dance. Too much in my head. It was emotionally and spiritually painful. The discomfort, punctuated with moments of joy and freedom, helped me appreciate where I am in unblocking the heart chakra – not done, that’s for sure!
The thoughts and emotions and sensations that come up for each person are incredibly individual – joy, anger, fear, grief. I’m told that people feel many different things during and after Chakradance®.
Snag one of two monthly drop-in spots at Amanda’s 9 Month Chakradance Journey.
process, reflect + express
It was so helpful that we had the space and support to process, reflect, and express our experiences throughout the weekend.
After Chakradance®, which explored the seven chakras and the four elements – earth, water, wind, fire – through music, Amanda guided us back into the present moment slowly and gently, until we were sitting, eyes closed. Then, we gathered the art supplies provided and sat silently in our own spaces on the grass to create our pastel art expression.
Immediately following that, we gathered in circle, sitting on wide stumps, around a small fire under a sturdy trellis canopied with vines. We shared our art and each shared a bit about our experience.
I shared how the actual experience of Chakradance® was quite different than my expectation of it. I thought I would feel so much freedom, with everyone wearing blindfolds. But, it turns out, it didn’t matter that no one could see me; I still felt awkward and uncomfortable, and self-conscious about my body and its abilities. This self-consciousness interfered with the flow of my movements, which made it difficult to relax into the flow.
After sharing this with the group, Amanda guided me to find acceptance and compassion for myself in that moment. She nudged me to feel the love and acceptance of all of the women. This experience, she said, simply provided more information to work with and nurture self-love. I did feel it, and I’ve held onto that feeling in the weeks since.
The dancing and the sharing both took courage and vulnerability for me. Its a muscle one must exercise again and again before reaching anything resembling comfort.
Tree Meditation – Connection, Ceremony + Intuition
The tree meditation came at just the right time during the weekend, on the second morning, the last day. We’d had opportunities to connect with the forest and trees in several different spots at Windhorse, on walks in light and in darkness. I felt the sacred energy of the old-growth forest.
By now, we had each honed in on some areas and relationships that need healing in our lives. Some of us had experienced significant breakthroughs. This felt like a natural time for a personal ceremony to begin to integrate the experience and practice bringing ritual and ceremony into our daily lives.
For me, it was also a natural time to set intentions going forward. I need solitude for that, and I crave ceremony around these declaration of intentions.
This is something I want more of in my life. Sitting in the forest and loving on trees is something I’ve always done, and meditation is an important tool in my toolkit (I write about my experience with meditation in this blog post). Tree meditation resonates with me.
The tree I chose and connected with for tree meditation was at the top of a steep bank near the river – a coniferous tree – spruce, I think – tall, straight, with a little earthen pocket under one root. This is where I left my crystal gift.
The crystal was offered by Amanda with an invitation to give thanks back to the land, ask for support, and experience the benevolence of reciprocity with the elements and the earth.
Again, this is much like something I used to do as a child, in all seasons. I’d leave little gifts for the fairies who lived in the trees – berries in Winter; stones and flowers in Spring; fruit and flower in Summer; seeds and colourful leaves in Fall. I’d also make up songs to sing for them.
Ceremony comes naturally to us as children, especially, I think, to those raised close to nature.
What do you think?
Stepping into the flow
I sat in meditation with the tree; carried out the forgiveness ritual Amanda invited us to do; placed the crystal with gratitude in the tree’s roots.
Then, I felt drawn to the river, so I followed my intuition (something Amanda encourages in this blog post on ceremony and ritual) and stepped down the bank and into the marshy reeds and stones to the spot where we had closed a very special ceremony the previous day.
The river has always been a powerful symbol for me. I find sitting beside rivers meditative, and I seek them out wherever I travel. I love the white noise, the way Nature asserts itself, the energy of its movement, the cleansing power – and now, I see, the energy of letting go!
To meet a river is to meet yourself at a unique time and place. The flowing river embodies the impermanence of all things, but also offers some reassurance in its energy that is both constant and in a state of flow.
Meditate on that, bathe in all of your senses, and you’ll naturally begin to enter a state of allowing.
There is so much compassion in its flow, so much renewal.
The Flowing River
I had pulled the Flowing River card that weekend. Here’s some of the interpretation provided:
“Everything is falling into place because you aren’t resisting the drift of the great river of life. It’s time to let go. You’re entering a period of gracious ease and flow. All is unfolding perfectly and with good timing. When you’re in a state of flow, you aren’t pushing the river to go faster, and you aren’t swimming against it. Let go of the shore and enjoy the ride. . .
. . . The way to move into flow is through gratitude and appreciation, and by allowing others to support and help you. . . when the card Flowing River chooses you, you’re being told to let go and go with the flow. If there is something or someone you need to forgive, this is the time. This is also the time to forgive yourself and just let go.”
Forgiveness is a powerful form of releasing
The work I expected to do this weekend was not the work that asked to be done once I was here.
The tree meditation ceremony, for me, brought to light wounds that need to be healed. What came up for me again and again was, unexpectedly, nearly decade old grief and trauma.
I received such clear messages during this tree meditation ceremony. It all felt connected: a tree by a river; the Flowing River card reminder to forgive and let go; the invitation to meditate on forgiveness.
The entire thing, in my experience, was empowering and cleansing – a sort of denouement to the Nepalese Shamanic Releasing Ceremony Amanda led us in the previous day. Forgiveness is a powerful form of releasing – combine that with tree medicine and forest magic. . .
. . .I get shivers thinking about it, it was so sacred.
In Amanda’s blog post Raising Heart Consciousness Through Ceremony and Ritual, she invites us to consider what rituals we practice now. She talks about transforming daily patterns into sacred rituals through the power of intention.
I love that ritual and ceremony can be incorporated into the rhythms of daily life and also shared with and even passed on to children.
What rituals do you practice in your life? Can you recall a ritual you practiced as a child?
In Part 3, I share some of what I did to integrate the experience when I returned home.
Disclosure: This blog series is sponsored content. It is, however, written from personal experience and the opinions are all my own.