Our human system—the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual body—is designed to heal itself, and is in fact in a constant state of correcting imbalances, clearing out toxins and seeking wholeness—a state we call “healing.” And at the same time, as we live our life we are constantly impacted by forces in the world and within ourselves that interrupt or reverse this healing process. The practice of Reiki creates a container, flooded with energy resources, within which our whole system can deeply engage the process of healing that we are built for.Read More
“Leadership is best practiced from the inside out,” I mused as I watched the college students silently working with magazines and scissors. I had entered Saint Mary’s College of California’s graduate program in Leadership Studies desiring to work on how I show up in the world as a leader. I was surprised and delighted to discover that the program invited—in fact insisted—that before we begin to lead others, we must first explore and attend to how we lead ourselves. The two years I spent earning my Master’s Degree in Leadership Studies with a concentration in Social Justice was a deeply personal, spiritual, and ultimately transformative experience, exploring my leadership from the inside out.
I’d spent years attempting to choose between a career focused on my creative, intuitive gifts, or on my commitment to make social change. Through exploring core values, our internal resistance to change, and expansive definitions of leadership, I came to realize that there is no need to choose: my creative, intuitive, spiritual gifts are in fact my strongest leverage points to making positive social change.
A program that so deeply values the internal landscape became a natural space to share my SoulCollage® practice. My cohort appreciated, my SoulCollage® cards related to the topics at hand. Over the course of the program, I created many new cards related to my leadership terrain. Our faculty asked me to share this practice, and in our closing retreat I led the students and faculty in a SoulCollage® experience about leadership.
This became the first of many opportunities to teach leadership through SoulCollage®, as an instructor in the MICAH (Mulvaney Immersion Communities for Action & Humility) Summer Fellowship Program, a social justice leadership immersion for undergraduate students. I have found in three years of bringing SoulCollage® into leadership training programs that this practice is consistently effective in taking the study of leadership beyond theories and into lived experience. The result is students and leaders with deeper self-awareness who take more responsibility for understanding and, when necessary, shifting the parts of themselves that contribute to successes and challenges as leaders.
Each of us, whether or not we identify as a leader or hold a formal leadership position, has the ability to influence other people and situations in ways that are conscious and unconscious. SoulCollage® has much to offer in understanding leadership, as it is a pathway into our subconscious beliefs, biases and behaviors that govern how we show up in different spaces.
Within the Committee suit, we encounter aspects of ourselves that contribute strengths to our leadership, and those that pose barriers. The Council suit brings us into deeper relationship with the archetypes that influence our leadership, and provides a pathway to invite other archetypes whose influence we seek. The Community suit is an opportunity to reflect on the ways key people in our lives impact our ability or hesitancy to lead. Deep within our bodies, imbedded in our DNA and the imprints of experience, lies wisdom about the ways we respond to situations that call us to leadership. This wisdom is made available to us through the Companions suit.
“The SoulCollage® process has been invaluable in deepening and developing students' leadership capacities,” says Ryan Lamberton, Co-Director of the MICAH Fellowship Program. This begins during the program orientation, when I lead students in creating their Observer card. We teach a leadership form called Adaptive Leadership, which requires us to cultivate the ability to “get on the balcony.” This means to observe and get curious about ourselves and our situations from a broad perspective, taking into account the many contexts and subtleties involved beyond our immediate experience. We teach students how to engage their Observer through its SoulCollage® card, to help them better understand their internship experiences and the group dynamics within their learning community.
At the close of the program, we again engage SoulCollage® as a way to integrate their experience and give form to it in ways they can continue to work with after the program. We find this to be an ideal way to invite the students into ongoing learning because, as Ryan explains, “[SoulCollage®] inherently invites new ways of knowing and being, of welcoming curiosity, mystery, and discovery.”
Last year one student, Amy Maltz, found the process so transformative that she decided to use SoulCollage® as the basis for her final project, and as an on-going practice. Amy shares, “One of the biggest takeaways from MICAH for me was learning practices and tactics to reflect and care for myself so that in the future I can better serve others.” We can see how Amy took up the inquiry of adaptive leadership in her card Adaptive Leader.
Several of Amy’s cards explore the parts of herself that draw her to social justice work. Deconstructing Comfort celebrates her ability to resist conformity to social norms and to seek wholeness through deconstructing limiting social structures.
Amy also explored parts of herself that could get in the way of living fully into her potential as a leader. Through Uncertain Adventurer, for instance, she honestly assessed the ways she both yearns for and distances herself from the risks necessary for adaptive leadership.
When we endeavor to understand leadership from the inside out, we need solid, proven processes for connecting our inner terrain to our lived experience in the outer world. SoulCollage® does this beautifully by engaging our intuition and creativity. This is why we have chosen to incorporate SoulCollage® into our learning models, and why co-director Ryan is confident that we “… plan to use it for years to come.”
 Heifeitz, Ronald; Linsky, Marty. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.
*This article was originally written for the SoulCollage® facilitator newsletter, The Neter Letter
The echoes of our drums fade away as we breathe deeply into our bellies, sitting in front of the fall altar, and a smaller one just crafted spontaneously for this night’s ceremony. I lead us in a meditation to connect with the resonant field of our glorious community, the NorCal region of Shakti Rising, tapping into our intertwined roots. We listen and are seeking to answer these questions: What is the nature of the living energy of our region? What are the special medicines we add to the pot of magic Shakti is cooking up across our five regions? What is needed to expand this medicine, particularly in the Sacramento micro-region where we live and teach? And why does it matter? We are exploring , in the fall tradition of Shakti Rising, to Uncover Our Roots.
I wish to share with you, Dear reader, what was uncovered that night; to invite you into the magic available to women in our community through Shakti Rising's classes, community circles, and spaces for exploring the embodied feminine.
Many images, stories, sensations and ideas came to us that night as we entered the web of our intertwined roots, including:
Water—scarce and abundant and always precious.
The unseen mycelial web that lays the underground map of our region, and the places where a ring of mushrooms breaks the surface, making our work plain to the community around us.
Darkness, and a calling from our region for opportunities for deep shadow work, the work of unlearning the internalized oppressions that the outer social systems embed within us.
And rising to prominence in our imaginations and journeying that evening: The Sword and the Salve, an alchemical mingling of power and love capable of bringing about transformation.
We are a region baring the swords of fairy lore, interpreted by oracles and seers, poised to cut through the noise and falsehoods around us. To cut the ties that keep us tethered to toxic ways of being so that the healing salve of love medicine can penetrate the deep and forgotten wounds of our many peoples.
What does this communicate about the NorCal region of Shakti Rising? We reside within the heart of California’s political and activist landscape, a major artery in our nation’s social justice network. To our south lies the Bay Area, a land of rich historic and contemporary social justice activism, home to one of the highest concentrations of non-profits in the nation, and layer upon layer of deep and complex healing and wounding of those of us who participate in it. To our north lies the California State Capitol in Sacramento, a political cauldron that is teeming with a powerful brew of nation-leading progressive policies and also deeply entrenched toxic systems of political oppression.
The mycelial web that underlays the Norther California region—the energetic and spiritual system of communication and fortification that connects each of us within Shakti to others working in the realm of spiritual activism—draws all of this together, positioning us as a region poised to explicitly and directly express Shakti Rising’s identity as a social change organization. Because of our location, we have access to women and organizations on the forefront of both political activism and political policy making--perhaps you are one of them. For this reason, we also face specific challenges in the ways these systems are so deeply entrenched within toxic ways of being. And yet it is here that we can make deep and profound impacts by bringing the Shakti Rising Way of being into these spaces, whether explicitly or implicitly.
I have seen first-hand the ways in which the transformational presence cultivated within Shakti can instantly shift these rooms. Last month I had the joy and honor of bringing a Self-Care Circle to the staff of MISSSEY, a social justice organization in Oakland whose mission, as their name explains, is Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. These women operate on the frontlines of one of the most violent expressions of our society’s illness. The culture that they, like so many non-profits, operate within is one of scarcity: Not enough resources or time to do the work, not enough support, too many youth to support and not nearly enough of us to do it all. “When I look at my mentors,” one young woman shared in circle, “they are pushing themselves at a million miles-per-hour to get it all done. And I look up to them, and so I learned to do the same. There’s no time for self-care.” Their wells are running dry.
As we worked to expose the ways in which the self-care industry damages and disempowers us, and worked with embodiment practices to reclaim the ability to care for self in any given moment, we discovered deep wells of pain carried by those most directly subject to oppression and internalized oppression. From the perspectives of the dominant culture, the deeply internalized message is that caring for self is simply not allowed, is not safe.
I was deeply grateful to be allowed to bring this work into this space, and I learned so much from them about the deep complexity of this one, simple curriculum. These women were willing and courageous enough to take the sword and "cut through the noise,” as one participant described it, of the scarcity mentality and the unhealthy coping mechanisms we often develop to navigate that noise. They allowed themselves to apply to their hearts the healing salve of self-authorship, of the alchemy of power and love operating in harmony.
This alchemy of power and love, of sword and salve, is a necessary tool in making the journey into the dark to connect and work with our shadow selves, as the winter calls us to do. As the three of us sat in circle that night, we felt deeply the call of our NorCal region and Sacramento micro-region for opportunities to engage and heal our shadows, and the shadows that lie with our state government and non-profit systems. Writing recently about why it is critical for social justice activists to engage in shadow work, and why manifestations of the Dark Goddess can be our guide, Layla Saad recounts the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna and Ereshkigal. She concludes that:
"In order for us to be reborn, we must be willing to personally and collectively dismantle all parts of ourselves that make us who we are in this patriarchal, white supremacist world and die to it all completely - so we can give life to a new vision."
This month, a small group of women will launch of Persephone’s Journey, a Shakti Rising course that takes a deep dive into the underworld, with Angie Hensley as guide. I am grateful to this group for making this significant gesture towards this challenging and sacred work of the soul. May their journey be blessed, and may their rebirth signal a new flourishing of love and power operating in concert to shift the broken places in our souls and in our world.
Take a moment now to center yourself, connect with your breathing, and then send your consciousness down into your own heartscape. As you breathe, hold out one hand and imagine that it holds a sword...Feel it's weight, how it moves in your hand; feel its power to cut through the barriers that stand in the way of your soul's purpose. Now, hold out the other hand, and imagine that it holds a jar of salve, a healing balm to lovingly sooth the raw and painful places in your heart and that of others. Now bring your hands together over your heart and feel the mingling of power and love inside yourself.
Where in your life do you need the sword? Where do you need the salve? What does it look like for you to live from the intersection of power and love?
**Like reading about Shakti Rising? Check out more on their blog here.
The most valuable experiences of our lives, those that have the deepest impact on our paths to becoming and expressing who we are, must sometimes cycle in and out of our lives for a while--sometimes years--before the time is right for us to reach out and claim them as our own. They come into our awareness when we are in a space of curiosity or vulnerability, a space that lends a certain stickiness to our minds and hearts. It's just sticky enough to capture a lasting impression of the potential that this experience could hold for us. Some day. Not today, but some time in the liminal future. When we are ready, or curious enough, to step into it.Read More
What does it mean to be fully present with another person? This question has been on my mind, as I deepen my learning and practice as a coach. The concept of presence is central to both Integral Coaching (New Ventures West) and Values Coaching (Values Technology), with whom I am training. Presence is the primary ingredient of coaching, the foundation on which stands everything else a coaching relationship can be. It is so simple, and something that generally comes naturally to me, and so I find myself taking for granted that I am consistent in my practice of being present and holding space for others. Until a painful experience ran me right up against the reality that this is not always true.Read More
When the Goddess fell, Woman learned to expertly conceal, to deflect and to hide in plain sight. Concealing the natural grace of her body within the rigid hourglass of the corset and the destabilizing tilt of the high heel. Hiding her spells and incantations within the lullaby and the bedtime story. Deflecting attention from her cat’s eyes with the distraction of mascara and a down-turned gaze.
When the Goddess fell she did not die; no, she shape-shifted, sank into the softness of the soil, into the tangle of the roots, into the consciousness of the mycelium, into the darkness of mystery and life and growth and death. Territory that was always Hers to begin with.Read More
“You know? I’m just not feeling the way I should be feeling at Christmas time this year. I can see it all around me, but I’m not connected to it at all.”
Joe’s tone of voice caught my attention, and I looked across the restaurant table at him. For my heartful, sweet and deeply optimistic partner, this was the closest he’s been to seeming depressed. Although Christmas means very different things to each of us, I, too, was struggling to feel connected—not just to the season, but to my own sense of openness and engagement with the world. I nodded in silent agreement, feeling my mood slip further.
And in that moment, when I dipped my toe into the pool of despair on whose banks I’d been standing since the presidential election, my heart responded with inspired resistance.Read More
I’m silently observing from the back corner of the classroom. Bent over art supplies and paper, the students are bringing to life images of a world at peace, drawn from a guided meditation I’d led them through moments before. A visitor to the room might guess that they’d entered an art class, rather than the Women’s Leadership Seminar I had the honor of teaching at Mills College for seven years. Overseeing this creative moment, a part of me feels excited and proud. But that part is drowned out by my beating heart, sweaty hands, churning stomach–physical manifestations of genuine fear and dread coursing through me. In this moment–the first time I’ve brought my identity as an artist into the classroom–I feel exposed and vulnerable. I feel afraid. For my students, the point of this exercise is to make images of a world free from injustice. For me, the point of this exercise is to stand in this fear, to observe myself within it, and to answer the question of whether or not I can survive it.Read More
Sitting down to make my first SoulCollage® card, I wished to step into an experience of myself as creative, powerful, beautiful, or perhaps mysterious. But all of the beautiful, inspirational images I had torn from magazines refused to come together into a coherent card. Through this intuitive process of collaging one’s inner world, I intended to represent my Artist, or Goddess, or maybe the Archetype of Joy. In other words, I wanted to make visible a beautiful aspect of myself I could feel proud of.Read More