Archive for October, 2011

Please Pass the Candle

On Friday, my friend Sharlene hosted a birthday party for herself.  Some of us knew one another and several of us were new to one another.  Of course, an excellent pot-luck meal began the process of getting to know one another.  After the meatballs, penne, chicken curry, and salads, something deepened the connection.

Kim and Jerry had taken a lovely beeswax candle as a birthday gift.  Kim asked the group, which was already circular in shape, to receive the candle one at a time and offer appreciation and good wishes for Sharlene.  The chit-chat slowed down and we became more focused as each person took a turn holding the long piece of fragrant beeswax, spoke words of appreciation about their relatedness with Sharlene, then offered specific blessings for her for the coming year.  The stories and wishes told us a lot, not only about the one being honoured, but also about each other.  To be in this spontaneous council was to witness the core of each guest.  Then the guitars came out and we sang and enjoyed music.

Imagine having the courage and creativity to call such spontaneous conversation circles more often.  What if folks concerned about local food stood in a supermarket using a baguette as a talking piece to respond to, “How might we engage this store in conversation with their local farmers?”  What if the cleaning person said to the room full of executives, “What can we do to ensure safe and green products are used by this company?”  What if a five-year-old girl delivered an autumn leaf to her parents and asked, “When will stop yelling so you can hear each other?”  What if the first 15 minutes of a holiday dinner became an opportunity to respond to, “In what way are you a gift to the world?”

Who knew that such musings would be called forth from a birthday party!  What spontaneous circles of conversation and listening have you been in?  What spontaneous circle of conversation can you see yourself calling next?

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Report on “Listening to the Earth” Retreat

For a long time, you’ve heard and read about preparations for Listening to the Earth: A Gaian Tarot Retreat.  Last weekend, October 7 through 9, it happened!  Twenty-seven of us gathered at Canterbury Hills Conference Centre in Ancaster, ON to engage in intentional circle-based conversations, nature-honouring ceremonies, deep exploratory workshops, and self-generated entertainment.  We humans were joined on numerous occasions by the more-than-human beings: deer, falling black walnuts, luminous autumn sky, a variety of splendid trees, swooping hawks, and a bubbling stream in the ravine.  The Canterbury cooks ensured that we had full, happy tummies.

Friday’s opening ceremony included poetry by our own Andrea Mathieson and by Alice Walker as well as an invocation to the Seven Directions, asking for their support.  The heart of this ritual was each person, one by one, stepping into the circle, stating hir name and where they’re from, then placing a sacred object in the centre with a brief story of its significance to hir relationship with Gaia.  Joanna Powell Colbert’s keynote talk was simple and meaningful.  What still vibrates in me from Joanna’s talk is to combine our bloodline ancestry with the bloodline or spirit of where we actually live and to fall in love with where the two converge.

During Joanna’s Saturday morning workshop, each of us had a soul encounter with a being in Nature.  A dead and fallen blue-beech tree called to me, so I sat with it, noticing what was right there, listening to its essence, and asking occasional questions.  That seemingly dead, grey trunk was so full of life; pale green moss and rich brown mushrooms abounded on and in its body.  A chipmunk enjoyed the tree’s shelter for a while and fallen leaves made their final resting place in its curvy crannies.  I loved the sensation of being with this more-than-human being and of the breeze and leaves touching my head, hands, and legs.  After sharing our soul encounters with the group, we learned and performed a Dance of the Four Directions, a series of tai chi-like movements that honours the earth, sky, and elements.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to breakout workshops with Bev Haskins, Andrea Mathieson, Jeannette McCullough, and me.  They were offered twice so that participants could experience a variety of wisdom ways.   Whether people took part in my “We the Ancestors”, Bev’s “Life Choices”, Jeannette’s “Celebration of the Sacred”, or Andrea’s “Repairing the Bridge”, they had direct Knowing of their connection with Earth and her creatures, their own feelings of grief and joy, and with one another.  Any veneer of separation fell away as people recognised that we’re all in these times together and that all of us have life-sustaining powers to contribute to Earth’s survival.

After dinner, we enjoyed an evening of drumming, singing, and sharing stories and jokes in the Fireside Area.  Immense fun!

On Sunday morning, people pulled out their tarot decks and gathered in small groups of four or five to do this three-card reading:

  1. What profound and simple truth is Gaia giving us this weekend?
  2. What allows us to live this truth in the world?
  3. What gifts can emerge from living this truth?

Each group summarised its findings to the assembly in a single sentence, a few in entertaining ways.  This led to a council of summing up what was in people’s hearts and minds from the retreat.

After lunch, Joanna shared a few words about each card of the Gaian Tarot being a portal into the heart of Gaia and every card essentially saying, “Get outside!”

Over the course of the weekend, folks had written their reponses to “Having listened to the Earth, we now declare…” on sheets of paper.  During the closing ceremony, four people read these declarations aloud.  We enlivened the statements with drumming, rattling, and vocal sounding.  People retrieved their sacred objects from the centre as they completed the sentence, “As I return to my community, I leave here ready to _______.”  We thanked and released the Seven Directions and hugged one another good-bye.

Many participants want another Gaia-related experience next year!  Let’s notice what Life whispers to me.  It might happen  😉

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New York poet and tarot practitioner Enrique Enriquez and I had a fantastic online conversation.  Some of it includes these words:

“Even without doing readings/consultations, the tarot could inform us.  Spending luxurious, contemplative time with the symbols and characters of the tarot would be enough to change us from the inside out.  That, to my mind, is a simple and strong political gesture, subtle activism as some of my friends call it.”

It was immensely opening to be interviewed by Enrique.  It even prompted me to do a one-card reading about how all of existence will end!  You can read the whole conversation at http://tarology.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/a-conversation-with-james-wells/  


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In her introduction to the interview she did with me on her blog, the Tarot Lady, Theresa Reed, has this to say:

“Recently I took a class with James Wells called “Tarot Counseling“.  This month long course delved into using tarot in more of an interactive counseling format which is quite different than how I tend to work with the cards.  James is an incredible teacher – wise and compassionate and infinitely patient.  I thoroughly enjoyed everything I learned in that class and have been able to put some of his techniques to good use with my own clients.

The best part of the class is that I received a reading from James which helped me to get a clear feeling of how tarot counseling actually worked.  Using deep questions and a custom made spread, James helped me to get to the root of a situation that I had been struggling with for some time.  His reading gave me the advice and tools I needed to liberate myself from the problem.  I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for the experience.  This was exactly the reading I needed!”

It was a treat to chat with Theresa via email.  To read the full interview, please visit http://blog.thetarotlady.com/2011/10/05/talkin-tarot-with-james-wells/

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Simple Journal Activity

A few days ago, I was standing in the driveway awaiting my ride.  A neighbour stopped to chat for a couple of minutes.  At one point, she inquired, “You teach about journal writing, don’t you?  I’ve been trying to do more journalling, but get stuck sometimes.  What’s something simple I can do?” 

You can try this activity that I suggested to my neighbour:

  1. Take your journal and pen/cil somewhere outside or to a part of your home where you don’t often spend time.
  2. Sit.  Close your eyes for a moment.  Enjoy a few deep, wide, slow breaths in and out of your abdomen.
  3. Open your eyes.  Bring all of your senses to what is in front of you.  Really notice what’s there in front of you.  Now write something.
  4. Bring your awareness to what is behind you, really noticing what you perceive behind you.  Write something.
  5. Bring your awareness to what is to your left.  Be with it.  Write something.
  6. Bring your awareness to what is to your right.  Be with it.  Write something.
  7. Notice what is above you and really be present with it.  Write something.
  8. Notice what is below you and really be present with it.  Write something.
  9. Bring your awareness to your centre, your heart, your inner space, your feelings, your thoughts.  Really be with what’s within.  Write something.
  10. Close your journal.  Close your eyes.  Enjoy a few deep, wide, slow breaths, then open your eyes.  Get on with your day.

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