The colourful, auspicious poster for the Embodying Shakti weekend workshop enticed – the Goddess displayed called to me, seeming to say ‘Come and learn all the mysteries of the journey of being a Woman…..’
And so I signed up right away.
Transformation promised, a journey through the four Hindu Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali and Durga – the four aspects of a Woman’s cycle, the phases of the moon, seasonal changes and rich resonating chanting….witnessing each woman who attended connect with themselves and each other meant that the Embodied Shakti workshop was perhaps one of the most soul filling enriching experiences I have had the pleasure to enjoy.
It was tough in places. You do not just sit back and flow through the journey….get ready to strap yourself in and move, stretch, flow, dive, swim, sway and furiously dance yourself back to you. This weekend was about authenticity and reclamation – taking back what is rightfully ours, remembering what has been lost and rejoicing in the knowledge of being found and being seen. We were beautifully and expertly guided by co-facilitators Sarsha Hope and Christina Gaigner. These two exceptional teachers know the journey back to yourself and I felt they created a safe space, with support in place so that each participant could make the most of the their time together.
This is how it begins…..
Before even attending the first day I knew I would love this weekend. As well as be challenged by it. I have been doing my own bit of research around being more in tune with my cycle as a woman – having held a Womb Wisdom workshop a month or so ago and having struggled with hormonal instability – the resulting anxiety and dark days…the anger and sadness…so I had come across knowledge which made sense to me. That our cycles can be harnessed as a way to understand where we are at our best so we can make the most, and where we need to be resourced. This was the most valuable message – among many other jewels of woman wisdom – that I took home with me to keep and to practice. The importance of appreciating that we go through rough patches where we may be more susceptible to our emotions but that if supported in the right ways, we can ride this out and come out the other end more whole, having processed and gained new wisdom to take out into the month ahead.
We can learn to make new choices.
As I type this a song is playing the lyrics….Don’t let the Darkness eat you up….appropriate much.
I went into this workshop yearning for more knowledge around this powerful aspect of a woman’s journey. My intention being to learn how to harness all of the gifts of being a woman so that I may show up in my relationships and my roles as a Mother, Daughter, Sister, Partner, Friend, in my most authentic way which serves my highest purpose. And to be gentle when I slip (I just added that on reflection). I went into this workshop wanting more connection with myself as a woman and with other conscious growing women. I have been feeling the pull of the tribe for a while now…strange to me as a self-confessed ‘Ladette’ who use to drink the guys under the table and felt more comfortable with male mates then groups of gal pals. My best chicks have always been important to me, but at this stage of my life and as a Mother, Sisterhood has taken on much greater meaning.
Turns out a lot of the participants were of the same ilk – we bonded over similarities and resonance with masculine energy. Friday night kicked off our time together, with an evening spent discussing the history of womanhood, our cycles in particular with regards to the moon phases, the seasons – such as Summer being associated with ovulation (Feel like partying? Now you know why!) and the Hindu Goddesses. Each day of the weekend was split into two so we would be guided through each phase and Goddess. I enjoyed learning that most of us felt the same way at some stage of the cycle – it is certainly comforting in a way to know that we are meant to be changeable creatures – it’s incredible how much society instills in us that we are meant to be one way all of the time, (productive, driven and rational) or that we are taught to only pay attention to the time of the month that we bleed and even then it is still mostly a social taboo. There were many ‘A-ha!’ moments and nodding of heads in collective agreement.
The next morning our Spring Goddess Saraswati began the movement through the stages of the cycle. Saraswati relates to the post menstruation phase, when we feel relieved and ready to get it done – this is our creative phase, time to have power meetings, clean house and manifest our goals into the physical realm. We began the day with a settling meditation and gentle movement which progressed into a yoga flow class so that we were warmed up and ready to dance, guided by Sarsha Hope. Our intuition led us on a free flowing dance of joyous movement – freeing our authentic selves. There were many smiles around the room. Mantra chanting was a potent part of the weekend. I reveled in the sound bath we created through chanting to the Goddesses and hope to make this a regular part of my practice. We finished the first half of the day with a beautiful and powerful ritual – asking ourselves to open to infinite potential and to let go of that which no longer serves us….
A big part of the process is of course, Embodiment (hence the name) and how trauma can be locked into the body – movement in dance and yoga can be immensely helpful in releasing and moving through the processing of old hurt. This can be deep down stuff from long ago, or just this past months irritations which can and do come out to play during PMS (or the Goddess Kali phase). Using certain types of yoga can be wonderful for moving through this time with minimal destruction to those around you!
Both Christina and Sarsha are passionate about empowerment and embodiment – Sarsha is a local yoga teacher, ecstatic dance facilitator and she also offers Theta Healing, a talk therapy which works with belief systems. Through yoga and dance Sarsha creates healing and freedom in the body. Her ecstatic dance classes are attended religiously by a local tribe of enthusiasts. For me, its absolutely a type of therapy – a release to the weekly or monthly build up of tension. I’ve come to understand how important such a release is. In this weekend, we were gifted the opportunity to dive deeper with ‘stuff’ from way back coming to the fore – we tended to generational and ancestral wounds. Christina’s core values as a teacher further the message of embodiment and the power that the body holds to unlock past traumas. I was excited and enlivened by discussion around integration – whereby we learn how to collect back all of our aspects that we may have rejected or suppressed out of pain and fear. Christina’s bio on her website puts this into perspective with the simple statement, “..the body holds the opportunity for awakening (theembodiednomad.com).
Lakshmi was introduced to us in the second half of the day, inviting joyful celebration of universal abundance. We reveled in the goodness as we moved through the room, hands on heart, allowing ourselves to go where we felt comfortable and settled, led by intuition. I let a smile play on my mouth as I found myself near the window, attracted to the amethyst crystal and small statue of a Hindu God. Maybe Ganesh. I lifted my gaze to the mountains outside, the sun striking the planes of the crests. Azure blue sky. My heart glowed. And then. A large bunch on balloons lifted into the year – all different bright colors. As they soared higher I took it as a sign from the mischievous Goddess of Joy, bringer of Blessings, Lakshmi. She is associated with the lunar phase of the bright Full Moon, when many woman will ovulate – when you wanna go out into the night and dance it up, wearing that sparkly little number and a slash of red lippy. Confidence and moving with ease are the hallmarks of this time of a woman’s lunar month. We were then invited to journal about our deepest desires. It was so beautiful to bask in this exercise and truly ask, without hesitation for what the heart desires. We connected with our sisters and received beauty and wisdom, a challenge surprisingly – to receive recognition of our divine selves. The day closed as we chanted our reverence to the Goddess Lakshmi.
The next day would be challenging in different ways, as we continued on the journey and began the decent from the height of Summer into the stripping down season of Autumn. Kali – Goddess of death, destruction and transformation.
That night an Earthquake had my heart hammering and my being un-grounded. It felt as though Kali was on her way.
Kali…Autumn…the premenstrual phase….she can be barren and harsh, cool and unrelenting – but stripped down to your core your truths are revealed in the bareness of your bones. She can rebuild you too….if you open to the wisdom that is available at this phase of the journey. If not, then it can often be a bumpy ride. Kali represents the path of illusion and the path of awakening. This is an opportunity to integrate our pain or our shadow self back into the whole of yourself. As we discussed this in relation to all the dark gifts of Kali, Christina explained a theory underpinning Parts Therapy – where it is believed that when a part of ourselves has been disowned or neglected then it can and does come up when triggered or threatened. This will often look like a coping mechanism such as rage or defense. “You can get lost in the darkness instead of meeting it one resourced step at a time.” Which is where the next Goddess Durga comes in. Kali will kick your ass till you know, in no uncertain terms what you have to do, and Durga will show and say, here have a helping hand. Go easy on yourself woman.
We moved our bodies with the awareness of Kali and all the crap that comes up. We moved through it and met ourselves on the other side with soothing, powerful chanting to the Goddess who destroys ignorance. After a lunch break we arrived into the final part of the workshop. the Mother Goddess Durga, associated with menstruation and Winter, who is our chance to dip out of the hectic pace of life – who gives pause and in the depth of her being meets our wounded selves with heart centered love. She calls to us to love that part of ourselves needing love. She may be mistaken for being the soft vulnerable Goddess of the four described but to be able to in that space of tenderness requires great courage. Perhaps she is the most courageous of them all. It is important to give careful consideration to this time of the journey, to rest where needed, give yourself a break, resource yourself and make wise decisions around your needs. It doesn’t mean the journey back to ourselves will be easy, but it will be worthwhile. And if we are able to carry Durga’s message of compassion with us through the darker periods of Autumn and Winter then we will arrive out the other side – more whole and complete. Therefore enabling us to show up authentically in the world as we emerge back out into it, into the season of Spring once more.
As the workshop came to an end, it was clear how humbling it was for each Woman to have witnessed one another’s experiences over the weekend. The depth of sharing and the space created to feel supported by those there was incredible. We closed with a nod to the New Moon, which poetically arrived the following day. We were invited to set our New Moon intentions. I asked for my heart to be healed. To better form a deeper relationship with myself and to practice the art of Self Love. The Embodied Shakti workshop has been revealing and supportive of transformation. I feel it stirring in my bones. I don’t know how this journey before me will continue to unfold but I know that I now go into it armed with the four Goddesses at my back, their resonant chanting a war cry, each with a gift to keep me moving forward, back to myself.
photography credit: Lauren Brown