We invite you to join us in a sacred journey dedicated to the spirit and grace of Bali as we embrace our Self … our deepest beauty nature. In that embrace, mystery and transformation quicken and dance.
Winter Solstice 2016
Happy Holidays of Light!
We are living in challenging times! The siren’s call to descend into fear and despair can feel compelling and yet we have the capacity to resist her call.
Let’s align ourselves ever more strongly with our Moon Mother, she who knows how to reflect and reminds us of the power of how we are designed in interconnection with one another. She with her wise sword of discernment cuts through the illusion of “aloneness”… helping us to maintain the truth that as we weave our spider’s web of unity and right action we are a mighty force for the good of one and all.
The Moon will not countenance lies. She reflects back the truth in all situations with clarity and with compassion. Her distance allows us to have “metta” moments of certainty and time to reflect on and then take right action. She is always present in moments of great transition and attends moments of birth with tenderness and wisdom. The moon encourages us and cheers us on to find our own clairvoyance, our clear vision of what world we want to create and inhabit and supports us in the creation of our vision. The moon has been making her energy particularly abundant and accessible this year, beaming with directness and great brightness (think super moon) and is rooting for us, her daughters, to anchor ourselves in her wisdom, strength and clarity. Whatever we love now, it is the time to rise up, to stand grounded in courage and compassion, to witness and reveal truth and take action consistent with our integrity. Our mother is always on call, lending a hand, cutting the cords of all obstacles, inspiring us and strengthening us as we rise to the challenges of this time. We are co-creating and re-birthing her ancient lineage that rejoices in the knowledge of the relatedness of all beings and revels in the luminosity of life. Let us hold on tight to one another, embrace each other, as we sing and dance and march on behalf of all beings.
And so it shall be…
With love, Ceci & Karen
Winter Solstice 2015
Dear Circle Sisters,
I have been thinking about light, particularly being lit from within and the incredible beauty we radiate out. So what is this place of light, how do we find the light in ourselves and bring it forth. Fundamentally we all know this light has to do with love and connection. Perhaps it is the spark that emerges from reciprocal care, attention and acknowledgement. Really seeing another being and allowing ourselves to be bathed in the light of someone seeing us. It seems to me that this light has the properties of warmth as well as clarity … wisdom held in the hearth fueled by love and acceptance.
I know that we are all sending our shining, healing light everywhere it needs to go on its mission of healing and hope. If we illuminate the fundamental truth, that we are all in this world together, and that together we must stand for love and connection, telling the hard truths, sharing darkness and light together, then we can emerge into truth and our deepest beauty natures.
Let us come together in this season of light. Let’s hold hands and crystallize our intentions. Let’s warm and nourish ourselves and each other with what has heart meaning … and then share from our abundance with all beings, especially those trapped in darkness. Let us be courageous and shine and shine and shine.
On this darkest night, may the magic of returning light fill your life. Happy Solstice!
Light, love & generosity to all beings,
Ceci and Karen
Happy fall! Here in Ohio the leaves are changing, transforming before our eyes and the apples are ripe and ready for eating and baking. Halloween is around the corner and we have just passed through the Autumnal Equinox. The Equinox and working with the Balinese creation story has sparked my reflections on the interplay of light and darkness in our inner and outer worlds. Thank you for allowing me to share some of these ideas with you!
As we approach the Winter Solstice darkness appears ascendant as the light increasingly fades. Yet, light and dark are so inextricably connected that we can’t even name, nor conceive of one without the other. It seems to me the trick is rather than contrasting these two forces, we are called to hold both together, to develop eyes of wonder that see light in the darkness and the darkness that appears in light. Perhaps this is the time devoted to attending to shadow … to delight in how the darkness punctuates moonlight!
How do we hold the connection between light and darkness in our psyche? Are we able to trust as we enter the darkest night that we are still illuminated with warmth and clarity that allows us to see clearly in the dark? Are we able to allow the darkness to befriend us and appreciate its great silent knowing? Can we be still, allowing ourselves the time required in the darkness and not knowing until our clarity becomes manifest? Can we open to the transformative nature of what St. John of the Cross refers to as the “Dark Night of the Soul?”
In the sacred art of Balinese puppet theater, light and dark, dance with each other as the backlit figures are illuminated and shadow surrounds everything that unfolds. This play of light and dark calls the participants and audience’s psyches to also play with their own sense of their shadows and selves, their public personas and their private nature. I am using the word “play” very specifically, because in the theater, the encouragement to suspend our insistence on the linear and rational becomes replaced by our willingness to consider possibilities … to enter mystery, to experiment with new knowing that arises from our bodies and spirits. Perhaps as we get better at holding our own spirit-light and our own psyche’s shadows, we will be able to see our beauty natures with more clarity. Perhaps we would not need to project darkness onto others and our world. Perhaps then light and dark could return to their own rapturous dance … the dance that began Creation herself.
Love, Ceci and Karen
Embracing the Goddess: A Sacred Journey to Bali
June 12 – 20, 2016
Join us in a sacred journey dedicated to beauty and grace in Bali. As we follow poet Derek Walcott’s instruction and “feast on our lives,” we will embrace our deepest beauty nature. In that embrace, mystery and transformation quicken and dance! Bali herself is a sensual feast, filled with beauty and light. She has been called by many names … including the “dawning of the world.” Let us ask her to illuminate us, so that we may walk in our beauty nature and reflect our light into the world.
Our abode in Bali is Bagus Jati, set on 12 acres of hillside gardens amongst lush tropical forests in the mountains outside of Ubud, Bali. “Imagine a place so green and rich from nature’s creation that the only noises you hear are exotic birds and butterflies, the views you see are of tropical forests, mountains and springs, where the healing foods you eat are grown organically in our garden, a place where your every need is met with a smile … where you are offered daily inspirations to live a more healthy, more harmonious way of life.”
We will stay in luxurious villa dwellings, each with a bathroom with tub and shower and a private veranda where you will enjoy stunning views. We will create our sacred circle in a beautiful circular pavilion with 360 degree views of bamboo forest! Please visit www.bagusjati.com for pictures of this beautiful retreat center.
The majority of our time will be spent at Bagus Jati and we are overjoyed to share that Lisa will join us as our yoga teacher! This amazing retreat center has a pool, a variety of spa services, Ayurvedic massage, nature walks in the gardens, meditation, Balinese dance lessons and more if you so desire. Or take the time to sit in meditation and silence during unstructured time.
In addition, we are planning three half-day journeys, all very close to our retreat center, so we will be spending very little time traveling. One trip is to a traditional Balinese village, home of sacred white cows, where we will meet local artisans and see the countryside. Another day, we will trek in the jungle with a guide where we will experience the magnificent variety of flora and fauna that inhabits the forests surrounding our abode, and might glimpse monkeys in their natural habitat and the chirping of a thousand birds composing a melodious symphony of natural sounds. Our last day, we will learn how to make a traditional flower offering to bring to a purification ritual and blessing ceremony at a nearby temple and waterfall where we will immerse ourselves in the purest water in Bali.
The cost of the retreat is $2650 for a shared double villa and a $650 supplement for a single accommodation. The fee includes the retreat, yoga sessions, accommodations, all meals, a one hour massage, use of the pool, jacuzzi and herbal steam spa and activities offered at Bagus Jati, a plate of tropical fruit and water delivered to your villa each day, and the three journeys … everything but your flight, airport transfer (DPS Airport) and tips.
There has been a lot of enthusiasm for this long-awaited retreat, and space will be limited to 18 women.
To secure your space, please send a $500 non refundable deposit or use the PayPal cart on the registration page of our website. Installment payments over the next 12 months are welcome!
Grace and blessings on your path, Ceci & Karen
Happy holidays to all our circle sisters! As we enter this time of holidays, holy days and rituals, the common theme across all traditions is light … the lighting of candles, the marking of intention and anticipation, and the abiding faith in the power of light, even when the world literally and figuratively is very dark.
We have been reflecting lately on light and darkness and their inextricably woven relationship. If we were living more tribally and in synchrony with the earth and her rhythms, we would be spending much time around fire these days … time with the hearth as well as the bonfire, with our immediate families and our larger community. The fire would sustain us with its warmth, the hearth would cook our food, and our stories and kinship would sustain our hearts and spirits.
As we gaze into the firelight, at first we tend to see only the flames, but after a little while we see the interplay between light and dark. Then, we see what inhabits the dark: shapes and movement that may begin to emerge into our consciousness. Rather than encouraging us to banish the dark, we begin to see it’s inextricable with the light, and the beautiful dance they create. It becomes possible to simultaneously hold the light and darkness together, literally one image holding both fields. It is also possible because the dark is held in the light. The penumbra of light helps us tolerate seeing our dark, hard-to-bear thoughts, feelings, and wishes. As we hold our darkest parts, surrounded by light, the shame is bearable and literally melts into lightness and warmth, creating self acceptance and compassion. Shame grows in the dark, in secret, in the refusal to name and recognize. The soft light of the fire, the company of our kin and elders makes it possible to see and recognize those parts of ourselves that we have dismembered and that need to be reclaimed and transformed.
Fire pits are selling like hotcakes as the urge to sit around the fire is powerful and wise. Let’s avoid the conflagration of our overstimulated nervous systems while we sit at the edge of the fire. Instead, gather yourself and your people, dream and dance by the fire, tell stories, make music and make love. Offer yourself the gift of self forgiveness and compassion this holy season. In healing ourselves, we heal the world.
Love and light,
Ceci & Karen
Accessing the Divine Feminine – Greece 2014
As some of you know, Karen and I and twenty two Grecian Goddess sisters just returned from a spiritual journey in Greece. I think we have all been slowly unpacking and will continue to unpack psychologically and spiritually from this trip for a very long time. The luminous, loving, challenging experiences and gifts we received are potent and prodigious. How we manifest the gifts we gave and received will unfold as we go forward in both our ascents and descents as we walk the labyrinth of our lives.
There is one story I feel compelled to share about my experience of the embodiment of the Goddess shining through a woman we met in Crete. Her name is Katerina and she is full of the knowledge, power and energies of the great Goddesses Hestia and Hera. In her embodiment, we see and feel and sense the Goddess and recognize that the Goddess is alive, present and available for all of us!
We were exploring the ancient town of Rethymno in Crete, with our amazing guide and sister Ioanna. She took us to meet a couple named, Katerina and George Haddziparashos, who are one of the last families who still make baklava by hand. The scent of their magical pastry…phyllo dough sheets layered with nuts and honey, fills the bakery as we enter (the honey bee is beloved by the great Goddess, and bee and hive icons are prominent in Neolithic art.) George’s hands are gnarled like the myrtle tree’s roots from his long and hard labor. Katerina’s eyes are bright as a hawk, smiling and gesturing us into their bakery. We troop in…eager, respectful and expectant. Sure enough a performance is coming as George twirls and lifts the paper thin dough and throws it like pizza dough into the air!
But meanwhile, it is Katerina’s rapier focus that I sense and as I meet her eyes she is transfixed on my Hestia/Hera peacock bag that is snuggled against my hip. We didn’t have a common language, but we certainly spoke…she in her instant recognition of the old symbols, and me in my immense pleasure at speaking in a mythological language which is still living and breathing. She spoke in Greek to Ioanna, with hands cupping her lips, giggles escaping from the corners of her mouth. Ioanna, meeting my eyes, acknowledged the moment. We knew we were in the presence of a whole and healthy Hestia/ Hera woman, who held her heart in a devoted relationship with a partner that she baked with and the family they created. She literally warmed the hearth each day, lighting the fire in the ovens to prepare sweets for all who desired them.
My gorgeous peacock bag had been made by an artisan from Etsy. Peacocks have been coming on in powerful ways for the last several years in my life, so when I saw this beautiful purse, it was clear to me that the vibrant iridescent colored feathers wanted to come along to Greece and be a part of the adventure! At this moment, it was practically leaping off my shoulder to meet Katerina! As I slowly snaked my way through my sisters to reach her, I could feel tears beneath my lashes. The name of our retreat was “Dreaming with the Goddess” and in this slow, honeyed moment of recognition, I felt the most profound gratitude to have received the call and presence of the Goddess since my childhood, literally, learning Greek mythology on my mother’s lap.
When I reached her side we grabbed each other’s hand. Her eyes were fierce and kind, with some shyness as well. I whispered to Ioanna, “I want to give Katerina the purse. She should have it. It came along for her.” Ioanna responded that she would be too shy to take the bag, so I found a little spot in the back of the kitchen to stash the bag, but that didn’t feel right either. I didn’t want to embarrass Katerina, but I needed to recognize her, to acknowledge the connection the Goddess creates among all women. We had recognized each other. So I gave her the bag and Ioanna translated what had already been said, without words, between she and I, and I was then presented with a box of baklava…heavenly…made with such love, hard work and skill.
Sometimes it seems like a lot of hard work, the re-membering, the re-creating, the life work devoted to returning the ascendancy of the Divine Feminine, but here in Crete, the veil is so thin, that in a blink of an eye, a peacock feather reunites and re-establishes the truth of our divinity…in an instant…effortless and transcendent and very sweet!
Love and blessings, Ceci & Karen
Greetings on a beautiful, snowy day in Cleveland! It is early on in our new year, and the earth here is covered in a soft, silent snow. I have had the enormous gift this holiday season of days filled with silence. I took some time off and my wonderful tribe cooperated to help me create some peaceful time alone with very little talking or external distraction. A deep blessing from them to me.
I have been thinking a lot about a book I read years ago, called, The Day the Voices Stopped. It is a powerful story of a man, now deceased, who developed schizophrenia at age sixteen, and ended up criss-crossing the US for twenty years, from one psychiatric hospital to another, homeless, hallucinating, with a tremendous spirit and a wish to be well. He returned to NYC, where he had started his journey, just in time to meet a compassionate social worker and the advent of new medications which helped him tremendously. There is a moment in the story, where he wakes up in the morning, after the medications began to work, and he doesn’t hear any noise. He thinks the world may have ended. He rushes to the window and sees traffic on the street and it looks like a regular day, but for him it is the first day, since he began to hallucinate, that his internal voices are silent. He is frantic and disoriented but in that moment begins to understand what it is like not to have that noise, that torment. I remember weeping as I read that paragraph and it has resonated for me ever since.
Winter is the season associated with silence. And while I am one of the incredibly lucky souls that does not have schizophrenia, I do often have noises and thoughts running in my head a lot of the time. It seems to me that we conscientiously, continuously, create sounds and stories to distract ourselves from simply being in silence. And of course there really is nothing simple about being in silence is there? It is a profound spiritual practice. I think as much as we yearn for and need time in silence and stillness, we are afraid of that psychic/spiritual/emotional territory as well.
The gift of silence restores us to ourselves and replenishes our being. It allows us to renew and restore our intentions and focus. Silence also loves her sister, dream time and invites our dreams and visions to emerge, in whatever form they inhabit, to incubate in our vast, personal and collective consciousness until it is time for them to be born in the spring.
It is an irony to me that often, while the low heavy horizons of the mighty grey great lakes feel heavy on my shoulders, and I feel like I am trudging in the tundra, the great silent spaciousness of winter is there for the asking as well as the heaviness. When I am respectful, when I slow down, I am able to enter into the magical mystery of silence. I am restored and enter dream time effortlessly.
The wisdom in my family is do not interrupt Mom, when she is in her quiet space – it is like poking a hibernating bear with a stick. Never a good idea! So here’s to giving ourselves permission to hibernate, to nest, and to spend some time in silence and dream time. Let’s retreat from the often relentless demands of our noisy, insistent, intrusive schedules and hunker down into our own soulful wisdom and dreams. It is our birthright as humans … sons and daughters of the earth, to honor the season of winter. Let us gather our courage and allow ourselves to be brave enough to allow time in stillness. We can call on an abiding faith that while being in silence may initially feel disorienting or even frightening, in fact, some time being silent will actually allow us to restore our selves and allow our dreams to incubate and emerge.
Here is a prayer for winter, that a wonderful friend and artist shared on winter solstice.
Abrazos, Ceci & Karen
Winter Solstice 2013
May the light of justice brighten your holidays! Que la luz de la justicia alumbre sus fiestas!
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
– Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
Peace and love, Ceci & Karen
Summer carries the energy of manifestation. As the sun shines down its warmth it potentiates our dreams into matter. The word matter is derived from mater, the great mother who in the Greek tradition is the Goddess, Demeter. Whether you are reading about these amazing women for the first time or whether you remember meeting them during the retreat and eating the tres leches cake they make for us each year, believe us when we tell you, they are the living breathing embodiment of Demeter, divine feminine juicy manifestation energy … amazing artisans and great cooks as well!
Our women’s retreat has connected with a group of Mayan women who have created a beading cooperative on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the Yucatan cost in Mexico. For many years, we have been bringing donations of high quality seed beads down to the cooperative when we journey to Isla Mujeres for our women’s retreat, Portals to the Self: A Women’s Circle by the Sea. We learned that the women support themselves and their children from the beading cooperative sales. They sell their crafts in a storefront up island where you will find them each day creating new pieces of handcrafted beaded jewelry.
We are now selling their beautiful jewelry to family and friends. The purchase of one necklace, handcrafted with traditional Mayan designs, provides the equivalent of four day’s wages for these women and their families. Most of the women are indigenous and speak Mayan and Spanish. Their children and grandchildren help them with written Spanish. With this income, the women purchase food, pay for housing and cover the school tuition for their children. The women are also a social support for each other in their daily lives and have created a safe, caring community.
The Isla women are enormously appreciative of our efforts to help them be self-sufficient economically. We feel like our circle of women now extends to include these women as well. All profits (100%) go to the Isla women and they give 10% of their earned income to the cooperative to purchase more supplies. When we started this collaboration ten years ago, there were 8 women in the beading coop. There are now over 57 women who are actively beading and selling their jewelry!
They have started to teach beading classes at one of the hotels on the island and have a full class of 10 students each Sunday. Also, they have been hired to make sterling silver beaded jewelry for a Mexico City designer and they are being paid a living wage. Some of their husbands have been able to leave their low paying jobs to start home businesses with the income from their wives.
As each woman from our retreat returns to her community, a web of wisdom and activism begins to change our world. When women clarify what they stand for and whom they are willing to stand up for, everything and anything becomes possible. Our two circles are interwoven – right mindedness in action. We are all enriched, on this Island of Women.
Thank you to all the amazing women who have circled with us throughout the years that have supported our collaboration with the Isla Women’s Bead Cooperative!
Abrazos, Ceci & Karen