Tag Archives: Labyrinth

CloudCatcher 2017 The Naked Path Day 4

This is a time for celebration for the inner work done and insights we have gained.

I take a breath and reflect. I want to speak first, but I think I have had more than my fair share of doing this, so I wait. I hear someone begin. The person who speaks first has the option of speaking again at the end of ‘check in’.

Jane Merdith interrupts the first speaker, inviting them to speak and reflect while looking at their reflection in a mirror which she offers to them. My stomach crunches: it is a small thing but I dislike the teaching technique of ‘surprise, I’ve changed the parameters’.

As a teacher, I know it is a legitimate technique to create a disruption, disturbance or provocation. As a learner, I prefer permission to be requested before I am given a provocation: a bit like being asked for a hug in a neutral way. The participant can then choose legitimately: ‘yes, I’d like a challenge’, ‘no, thank you’ or ‘maybe later’.

My thoughts start to move towards this disturbance: the mirror. I decide that I will speak without it.

I become confused by the disruption, move between using the mirror, passing, or speaking without the mirror. My impulse is to pass, then speak later without the mirror.  By the time, the mirror has reached me: all the previous speakers used the mirror. I concede and I use the mirror. Later, I think it is interesting to observe how easily influenced I am by perceived peer pressure.

My thoughts are confused and come out in a jumble. My Inner Critic calls it an ‘old lady’ rant. Finally, I say that I don’t like getting old, and haven’t dealt with it, but It is not what I wanted to say. It is however the most raw, gritty, difficult thing closest to my animal thought, and what I chose to say.

I say ‘check’ and start to hand the mirror on. Then, I hold onto the mirror. I want to say more but I cannot frame the words. I pass the mirror on.

I reflect on my boundaries and the reasons I did not choose sovereignty of self and simply choose not to use the mirror.

It will be interesting to work on making the boundary of self stronger rather than meeting the needs of others. This is a life lesson I continue to learn: to follow my first, natural instinct and not acquiesce to the needs of others. When surprised, I need to listen to my gut.

After our final check-in we celebrate: chocolate; aromatherapy oils; quiet conversation; drawing; making colourful art; choosing a tarot card; and, with consent, face and body painting or massage. As throughout the Path, there are ‘no bums, breasts or genitals’.

I use colourful markers to allow my mind to relax and drift. I start doodling. I’m pleased with my colourful drawing and what is coming through to me in it. By being in this relaxed, almost light trance state, I start to access what I learned during Path. I allow the messages of my subconscious, my Shadow messages, to surface into my consciousness through my drawing. I am surprised by what I have learned.

Someone suggests walking the Labyrinth naked.

I say: ‘That’ll make three times for me. That’s a spell’ and I readily agree.

I had walked the Labyrinth naked with some members of the camp yesterday afternoon after Path. We talked about grief. As the cumulus clouds scuttered across the sky above us, one camper gifted me the story of sending my grief up to the water molecules in those white clouds. Each molecule could hold one tiny element of my grief, and as it moved away, my grief would be carried away with it. I used the metaphor, and walked the Labyrinth with the intention: ‘Resolving my grief’.

I walk the Labyrinth naked for the third and last time at CloudCatcher 2017. My intention: ‘Celebration’. I kneel and kiss the ground feeling my labia become cold from the soft breeze gliding over them. I think how brave the male gendered persons in our Path have been with no choice but to reveal their genitalia from Day 1. All persons in our Path have been gentle, brave, respectful and sharing. I thank their generous spirits deeply.

We return to the Bower. The Naked Path is drawing to a close.

A maiden offers to use body paint on my skin to create an artwork. I am hesitant, but agree. She senses my hesitation, and says: ‘It’s okay. You don’t have to.’  She has not heard my enthusiastic ‘yes’, and understands that this is not true consent. I am so heartened by her clear understanding of consent: something I still struggle with. I have learnt so much from these beautiful witches.

I add my fear of mirrors and reluctance with body paint into my mix of issues to think about.

Jane Meredith has skilfully lead me to my edges: my Inner Critic and my rather permeable boundary of self. I feel supported and nourished, with a clear direction for my growing edges.

I reflect on my reasons for being naked with other humans.

With consent, it is simply a joyful, trusting experience. With clear physical boundaries, I feel safe. It puts us into contact with our animal being: with this embodiment we care for the natural world more fully.

Being in touch with our natural bodies in modern society is simply an act of revolution. It is an act of anarchy. In the broader activist movement it builds internal strength, personal integrity and a sense of interconnected spirit with others.

For me, it is empowering to be naked with others and know that I am in control of my own body: what happens to me is dictated by me and my own consent. I have confidence in those around me: I can trust them, and that is empowering.

Someone starts chanting:

‘My body is a living temple of love;

My body is the body of the Goddess.

O, I am that I am.’

By Michael Stillwater.

We chant for awhile. Later we close circle.

The Naked Path Day 4 is complete.

CloudCatcher 2017 The Naked Path Day 3

I peel my dress over my head. My breasts rise up: caught in the folds, my nipples, stimulated, stand erect. I place my pendants on the Bower Altar: Cerridwen from a working at EarthSong WitchCamp, and Freyja from CloudCatcher, 2013. I breathe an intention.

From the EarthSong fund raising raffle, Freyja’s necklace with long needle-pointed crystals of a light amber shade: My Brisingamen, joins Cerridwen and Freyja.

The soft toy snake I brought to the ‘Gates of Paradise’ slithers among the cracks formed by the steep vertical cliffs where the mattresses abut. I imagine these edges as the sheer, solidified lava cliffs of the ancient volcano: cracks made hot as molten lava pushes through from deep within. Naked. My routine comforts me.

Twenty-three or twenty-four million years ago, the Springbrook mountain was formed from the northern flank of the Tweed Volcano. With a diameter of 100 kilometres, she was a massive shield volcano. For a million years, basaltic lava, ash and gases oozed and spewed.

The maiden mountain was erotic in her hot, steamy shroud.

I feel wary: Day 3 is usually the most difficult for me: sleep-reduced, effected by dietary changes I become easily triggered. The release that crying gives is generally denied: I am a product of my social history and upbringing. My marriage relationship reinforced the ‘no tears’ policy of my childhood: a stiff upper lip was mandatory and my mother tolling: ‘No use crying over spilt milk,’ still rings.

I can stand naked before others more easily than I can cry. I regret this: I scrieve a future WitchCamp when I crack my shield. As a role model, I dearly wish this crone, this elder, could show her vulnerablity to the maidens and mothers. It shows great maturity to express grief, joy, fear and laughter openly.

While I wait for Path to begin, I journal. I pick up my pen and realise I feel less naked with it in my hand. I experiment. Pen down: naked. Pen in my hand: less naked. Pen hidden: very naked. Mmm … interesting. I resolve to shed my pen whenever I pause my writing: it will not be a shield.

The deep work of yesterday’s path is integrated today, and celebrated tomorrow. The work of the individual is woven into community today. We do this through ritual and dance.

Jane Meredith  borrows the carpeted space next door for a trance exercise. Our ever patient and generous Path neighbours have agreed to lend us their room.

I hear the steady beat of a frame drum and go deep into trance. Yesterday, in Path Day 2, we were individuals. It is time to dance with community. Under the spell of gravity, Jane Meredith asks us to fall gently to the floor and then slowly rise. Jane says: ‘Imagine you feel the pull of gravity on your body.’

Throughout the dance exercise, we are asked to repeat this falling action over and over. As an elder person with mobility issues, the repetition is impossible for me. My health, back and self-care say ‘no’: I feel isolated. I dance on the periphery of community.

My feelings amplify as two of my age peers are able to complete the action.

Seemingly disengaged, a third, older, male-gendered person stands leaning against the wall.

It feels like we are no longer a party of thirteen: as if some have left the room, but I am unclear about this: absenting oneself during Path is not an action any witch does lightly. Witch etiquette dictates that we journey together unless a high level of self-care is needed.

There is a meaning for me in every activity. What is the message here? I continue to engage as fully as I can: feelings of anger stir. The upper palate at the back of my throat constricts. I feel my tongue tight against it. My mouth becomes dry, and my thumping heart accelerates. I breathe and move towards the edge.

During Path Day 1, our teachers gave us a tool: Pendulation. In trance, using the image of a pendulum, we took our thoughts towards a personal, disturbing thought, and then away from it. Our pendulum swung from the ‘edge’ to ‘not edge’.

In the ‘not edge’ place, we created an image of our own personal ‘oasis’. I realise if I mentally move towards the disturbance, and become activated, I can pendulate my thoughts back to my oasis. I use Pendulation now.

I pendulate to my edge: During the movement piece, I cannot sink deeply to the ground and rise. I feel nauseous when I can’t do what is asked of me.  ‘What is the source of my anger? What lies beneath?’ This is a community that prides itself on inclusion: the all gender bathrooms witness this To encourage fuller participation the dance could be modified easily. I feel invisible, my needs discounted: I relate to those disabled or marginalised by their perceived ‘imperfect’ bodies.

I pendulate to ‘not edge’: my oasis.

Towards my edge: Some in this community are yet to confront the reality of aging. I remember that what I project on others is most likely what bothers me about myself. Sigh, reluctant, I admit this truth: my aging body reminds me each day that I have less years to live than I have been alive. I do not want to write further about this. It is too hard: I feel crushed, powerless.

I pendulate towards my oasis, and then move back to the disturbance.

I think: ‘I cannot stop the clock, nor can I turn back time.’

I swing mentally to my oasis. I hear the drumming and instructions change. Our individual naked bodies form a tableau. We move to a central point, get as close and as low to the ground as possible and build a mountain shape rising from the floor.

Towards my edge: We are asked to extend one finger and/or toe to touch another on foot or hand. I choose a simple posture but It is difficult for me to keep my balance for the extended time required. What if I tumble, fall and break our agreement? I know my sisters will understand but my heart breaks at this thought.

Oasis: We meld, hold the pose and then dissolve: individuals shaping into community.

As a check-in we ‘popcorn*’ a few words summarising our experience. Mine are: jealousy, rage, envy and disquiet. I’m taken aback at how angry I am. 

Later, in small groups, we contribute to a ritual linking our community to Mother Earth. I am the element, Earth, I hear my voice rumbling like a stirring volcano. It is angry, constricted, not the sound I want to make for the mountain. It is not what I feel the mountain is telling me. She is calm, not pent up. She is a crone. She is wise. I have found another edge to investigate: the unintentional, seething anger my voice is expressing.

It is clear that I need to do more work around this issue of my ageing.

I have an image in my head of a young maiden running from cave to cave at the base of the mountain looking for some place to hide. She wants to be invisible. She doesn’t want to come out and face the mountain and see how old she has grown. Where did the green lush forests of the mother stage go? The mountain feels old, eroded, scarred by her human experience. She is wounded and wants gentle tending. She is tired, weary of human impact and wants to be healed.

Path Day 3 closes.

___________________________________________________________________

popcorn: a term used to describe sitting in circle and individuals speaking as they feel the need, rather than going around one by one. The first to speak may speak again at the end.

CloudCatcher 2017 The Naked Path Day 2

I awake dreaming of walking the labyrinth naked.

At this camp, a temporary labyrinth is created on a grass field. Buildings surround it on three sides, on the fourth, north side, there is a creek and the fire pit. The mountain cradles the entire scene. Above, the clouds skim by. I see a giant, invisible serpent resting on the mountain skyline. It surrounds and protects us.

In 2015, after ‘The Gates of Paradise’ path, a young witch walked, skipped, danced and leaped the labyrinth. She was naked: with each step she became more centred. At the time, I had just walked the labyrinth clothed. I looked up in amazement as the sun shimmered through her hair. And I thought: ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

I could have shed my layers. I wasn’t brave enough. I desperately wanted to feel the elements on my naked skin, but I couldn’t take the necessary action. Next time … if I get the chance. In that moment, I’d already regretted my inertia.

Steeped in frustration, I thought: ‘How old do you have to be before you realise there may not be a next time?’ I was 62 and had more NDEs* than I had fingers.

Now, as my homework for ‘The Naked Path’, I will walk the labyrinth naked. I have on a long, loose dress and clogs. No underwear. It is going to be a quick and easy thing to get naked before I change my mind. I’m becoming a cunning witch. Ha! I breathe.

I kneel, kiss the ground and create an intention: ‘Celebrate.’

I walk the labyrinth and honour the four points: starting in the south and working anticlockwise: Life; Ideas, Fire and Water Shape the Mountain. Clothed people walk along the paths to breakfast, people enter the dining room from the verandah overlooking the labyrinth. I am oblivious and proud of myself.

In Path, I sit content. After check-in* and reminders around consent, we work in groups of three, each sharing a story of our body. It is a luxury to be heard uninterrupted on such a deep level. We hold space for each other. I choose the story of my sexuality. It is a hard story to tell: much harder than the story of the twenty centimetre, twelve year old vertical scar on my abdomen that is my reminder of a NDE: cancer.

Returning from a bio-break* I find the witches have re-arranged the mattresses and each one is lying on a separate, single mattress. They have generously left me a mattress in the middle: pushing my edges and shifting me from my usual position in the corner. ‘Ah, witches, they sometimes work in less than mysterious ways’, I chuckle inwardly.

Jane Meredith is explaining the next exercise. It is breathwork*. It involves hyperventilation. Instantly, I am on high alert. From a scientific, personal and medical viewpoint, I have reservations about this technique, but Jane Meredith is an experienced teacher and I decide to open myself to the idea. Self-care is the responsibility of the participant, and all activities are an invitation. Each experience in Path is what it is meant to be and learnings can be gained from whatever is experienced.

I have a history of panic attacks. I cannot do the simple ‘extended pause’ of the buteyko* breathing method without panicking. I decide I will engage in the exercise with sincerity but opt out at the first sign of discomfort. Jane Meredith asks us to think of a question or intention and we start.

From my journal: ‘I try it (the exercise) for a little while. I get an intense feeling of panic. Panic. Panic. Overwhelming panic. Then I get a feeling of a pillow over my head. A mushroom pink pillow, square with beads on it.’

An awareness washes over me that there is a pillow like this in the room. I stop the exercise, and I roll over to lie on my stomach. I must ground my hands. The old light grey linoleum is cool under my fingertips.

I feel myself acting as a conduit for all the pain I feel in the room. I hear my fellow journeyers making indescribable noises. It is overwhelming for me. I continue channeling their pain down, down into the floor. Through the floor and into the air space below. I push it into the ground. This is why I was meant to be in the middle, and stay grounded. I breathe. I come to the realisation that I have been attracting and channeling the pain of others my whole life. I ground others’ pain. I no longer want or need to do this. That is the answer to my question.

I have an impulse to make a really low, low soothing noise. I notice I am kneeling on all fours. I have a high soprano voice but I hear myself toning a low bass note. It is the sound of a cow giving birth: a long sustained note. It is so earthy and primal that despite the noisy chaos surrounding me, I am hesitant to continue. 

I am lying in a room naked with those around me groaning and yelling: I become aware of how ludicrous it is to hesitate in my bellowing. I become curious: ‘Why do I feel embarrassed about making this low note?’

As a woman, having a low voice is not socially or culturally acceptable: but a low voice is viewed as commanding and authoritative. Through training, it is possible to deepen one’s voice by several notes. Women are not encouraged to do this as they are not supposed to assert themselves. This is why I feel so unsure: my social conditioning in a patriarchal society.

From a corner, I hear someone thumping the wall. Jane Meredith comforts someone elsewhere in the room. Later, other camp participants will comment on the noise our Path made. In the next room, the noise is so disturbing to the Path that they leave.

I am in the centre of a noise vortex: my panic rises. I turn on my back, place my cupped hands over my nose and mouth, focus, breathe, and settle back to out wait the swirling, frightening storm. Breathe, breathe, breathe. I resist the urge to leave. Physically and psychically it is impossible from the centre of the room to escape now. Breathe. For others’ privacy I keep my eyes closed. Finally, it is over. The ability to self-soothe is a prerequisite of this deep inner work.

We journal and then check-in through song. The student teacher plays the harmonium and we are asked for a few words or a phrase to summarise our learning. Mine is: ‘I know that I know’ and I feel the bud of transformation. I have received an answer to my question, which I keep private even on this blog. We create song.

Using the words ‘Welcome home’ repeated six times to make a chorus, we create verses from our word or phrase. We sing our discoveries into the centre of the circle, creating another, much sweeter vortex. Path Day 2 is complete.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________***check-in: in circle, one at a time each Path member briefly expresses how they feel

*bio-break: although we are ‘between the worlds’ during WitchCamp, witches still need to pee and eat!

*breathwork: conscious control of breathing to change physical, mental and emotional state

*buteyko breathing method: a breathing technique with evidence that supports improvement in reduction of symptoms of asthma