With the waters of the outdoor hot-springs relaxing and nourishing my naked body on the night of the Summer solstice, under the bright sky of the full moon I sent out deep gratitude and love into the world.
My gratitude for this life, this opportunity to sit in deep soulful silence, gratitude towards meeting Suzanne and the other 18 beauties, gratitude for mother Earth, father Sky, the people I know and love, the people I don’t know and love, my work that I have now formed a very deep and special relationship with, and who’s value I am beginning to see reflected back to me in the shining faces of the women I teach, watching excitedly their ‘aha’ moments and receiving their excited feedback. I am grateful for it all and hope for the opportunity to let this work come through me more and more over the coming months and years!
Wow(!) so being one of the 19 women on Suz’s 4s4w retreat which began the day after my 38th birthday was utterly perfect. As soon as I had decided to go (causing me to change all my dates for the West leg of the Magical Menstrual Tour) a miraculous thing happened. The tour, which up to then just wasn’t working (with many people out of town/unavailable on my suggested dates) suddenly all fell into place easily! Magically and before I knew it I had an entire itinerary completely planned! Also it meant I had more time than I expected to travel around wonderful and beautiful Oregon. Some things are meant to be and this felt like one of them from the outset.
It was a deep honor to be in the Breitenbush environment, sharing a cabin in the giant forest with another sweet woman, waking up to the smell of pine sap, the sound of birds, and light dappling through the trees sending a tapestry of leafy shadows down onto the earth.
The sun shone, and at night the honey moon glowed brightly giving us their energy at this potent time of the year.
Our workshop space was a delightful circular building with rays of sunlight flooding down through the roof and onto the medicine bowl in the centre. I sat in circle with Melody, Wendy, Moriah, Rowan, Lauren, Tracy, Ilene, Jade, Rose, Laura, Harmony, Cynthia, Anna, Lauren, and Mary and listened to their stories. The beautiful space was held by Suzanne, Jaya Eagle Heart and Samar and all of us.
Each time we entered the room we were smudged with a mixture of Sweet Grass, Tobacco, Cedar and Sage (the four grandfathers) by Samar and Jaya Eagle Heart, who drummed and sang at the same time. As we were smudged with herbs, eagle feathers and loving smiles, it felt like a very special and formal welcome. Jaya later explained smudging as being scientifically proven to help centre us on a cellular level, putting us in our hearts and helping us to focus. The Lakota tribe say that the spirits don’t come near you when you are burning smudge.
Suzanne then introduced us to the healing Native American medicine bowl that asked to be in her care. We were very honored to have access to it through the retreat as it is old and a very very sacred healing vessel. For me, as a European having never experienced Native American Spirituality before, this felt like a moment I had been hoping and waiting for ever since I had first dreamed of the majesty and power of this culture as a child.
A former river stone, this bowl was once chosen and created; chipped and carved out by a healer of the Native American tradition. It is not known how old the bowl is, or how many people have come to it for healing over the many many years this tradition has been vibrantly alive. Water and flow represents the divine feminine and so the bowl is ritually filled with water for healing ceremonies. The bowl is stone and the stone people are the story people; they hold the laughter and the tears and support us whenever we ask them to. Suzanne told us the story of how the bowl came to her; it asked to be passed to her by Star Wolf a wise Elder of the tradition in the light of all the healing Suzanne’s work will bring to people. I couldn’t agree more.
In the spirit of flow being healthy and stagnation being disease and with blessings of flow and abundance to all I was bestowed the honor of adding some drops of spring water from Chalice well, Glastonbury; representative of the sacred feminine, for our ceremony. We each added a stone to the water to be infused with the healing energy and had a moment to connect and introduce ourselves to the medicine bowl. That night the full moon peeped between the trees finally rising in its majesty over our cabins as we slept.
This and many other special experiences happened over the next few days at the Breightenbush retreat. I was refreshed and revitalized by the fresh perspective and energy that Suzanne gave in her 4seasons in 4weeks workshop. I loved that her work danced and entwined itself so beautifully with the work I share too, though it was still different and fresh, and that the reactions from the women present were of personal revelation, understanding, empowerment and intention. I loved the light and laughter that Suzanne managed to bring to the work and the laid back and balanced way the work came through her. She is AMAZING!!
One woman described meeting Suzanne as feeling like she had just met a friend, and how Suzanne is one of those people who just makes you feel like you are her ally and companion right from the word go. I wholeheartedly agree with that; the moment I met Suzanne in the car park of Breightenbush she made me feel exactly the same. If you ever have a chance to meet this woman I suggest you seize it with both arms!
Cynthia led the most wonderful movement and meditation, centred around the work of Suzanne and gave us all beautiful home-made gifts; a foot rub for nurturing, a delicious herbal tonic, an essential oil perfumed spray, and a candle for reflection. Perhaps the biggest gift of all was the time within the exercise to reflect on our inner 4seasons in 4weeks, fill in our lunar rhythm journal and identify our needs for each phase. It was done beautifully Cynthia, thank you Xx
Soon it was time for Moriah to lead our voice workshop; a powerful collective exercise that focused around releasing stuck energy in the throat chakra. It was so interesting listening to my inner responses to these sounds escaping from between my lips, then listening to the sharing by the rest of the group. A similar thing happened when Queen Ilene (who makes me laugh without trying) and Rowan held the laughter yoga workshop outside vand we experienced the exhausted tummy muscles and (eventual) surrender to the giggling. Here Jumping Jane was born!!!!! Thanks for the bubbles Rowan.
We had a Hawaiian chant and dance led by Jade, and I did a short spontaneous workshop about eco-alternatives to disposable menstrual products passing around the menstrual cup EcoFemme pad. We had a lot of fun laughing at the practicalities of menstrual blood management, and I felt utter joy at the freedom to really let rip in front of these women and tell them EVERYTHING. We had a lot of laughs; no warming up exercise needed at this product workshop, hahaha!!!
Then we all got to make a talking stick! The teachers brought to the retreat a touchingly large and beautiful selection of things to create with – the sticks collectively were incredible and were all colors and sizes and designs by the time we had finished playing with them… This was one of my favorite things and I played around with a giant piece of lichen and strips of ribbon for hours in a deep and very peaceful space. I could have gone on all night!
Samar later held a womb dance; a sacred and incredibly beautiful workshop, that, despite all of us being exhausted, was a deep and special moment where we danced meditatively three at a time in front of/witnessed by the other members of the group. The idea was not to think about our movements like in normal dancing, but move with closed eyes, mindful of the breath and of our subtly rocking pelvis on the in-breath and out-breath, and naturally allow our bodies to move the way they wanted to. I witnessed much beauty that evening that will stay with me for a long time… dreamy touching sweet powerful movement.
Slowly and surely over the course of the retreat hair became tousled, faces brighter, eyes shinier, feet muddier, shoulders lower, foreheads open and spacious.
It was time to be anointed with Ochre for the Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony led by Jaya Eagle Heart. This was a huge honor for me having never experienced a Native American Ceremony of any kind before. There was a fire pit, hot river stones, antlers, ancestors, an altar, prayer ties, herb filled pipes. We sat on the dusty dry cool earth inside a dark lodge entering clockwise on our knees, herbs were burned ceremonially on the red stones. Steam billowed, we were led through four sacred practices with love and care by Jaya. A magical self-care experience and chance to go within that no words could describe. With deep gratitude to all XxXxX Aho Xx
And then it was time to leave, with friendships forged and stories told…
Huge love and thanks to all the teachers. With huge thanks to Lauren for driving me there and back from Portland and generally taking me under your wing. Your support and kindness in helping me explore the springs and waiting for me when I was dithering about was much appreciated! The coat you gave me when it was raining and cold meant the world to me.
Thanks all Xx Aho.