A Retreat Reflection: Mothering
When I picked my card at Teresa’s Goddess Gathering Saturday night, I was disappointed.
“Why did I pick the Goddess of Mothering?” I whined when it was my turn to share how my card spoke to me.
I hoped for a Goddess like Honey’s Pele, Goddess of Awakening. Or Caroline’s Oshun, Goddess of Sensuality. Or Sam’s Uzume, Goddess of Laughter. These Goddesses felt wild. Sexy. Free.
As I studied the card depicting a young woman serenely nursing her infant next to a lake, I saw a woman tethered to the shore. Tethered to her child. Tethered to her domestic life. I felt a heaviness in my body.
Isn’t this Write to Glow retreat weekend built around about being away from family? From our domestic routines and responsibilities? Isn’t this retreat about idleness? Savoring the pleasures of summer? Playing in nature? Forest bathing? Writing and sharing? Dancing? Telling stories around a fire?
I love being a mother. My kids are blowing my mind in the best possible ways as they approach 17. I’m blessed beyond words.
But in the middle of facilitating my first weekend retreat, motherhood was not on my mind.
I shared right after Kerry shared her card: Artemis, Goddess of Selfhood. She passed her card around and I marveled at Artemis’s chiseled arms, the fierce confidence in her face as she draws back the bow, the deer by her side.
As Kerry shared how resonant she felt with her card and with her desire to call in the qualities of strength and focus at this time in her life, someone said, “Hey Artemis, there’s your deer!”
We all turned toward the field, where a deer, followed by her two babies, walked out of the forest.
On cue, the deer returned to the forest when I began to share about Isis and how her mothering energy is speaking to me at this time in my life. I said I imagined the message would come to me in the coming days.
The next morning, we sat in the closing circle, surrounded by a horseshoe of enormous Douglas Firs. Sam read her “In this moment…”
In this moment-sweet, thick warmth. I feel the mamas: Grandmothers, new mothers, step mothers, dog mothers, lost mothers, motherless mothers, childless mothers.
Opening and lightening.
I am healing my own mother-ness, and my mother's, and her's and her's and her's into the unseen infinity of the female ancestral web.
Resistance gives way to acceptance...to joy...to allowing.
“I think I better understand my card now,” I said, after she read.
Sam’s words brought to mind Honey’s comment in the Goddess Gathering that mothering is also about mothering ourselves.
So how am I mothering myself, these days??
When I got home from the retreat, I called my dear friend, and Jungian-informed therapist, Lauren Schmidt. I told him about my reaction to the card. He said that I wasn’t taking in the whole archetype of mother, which includes a protected, safe place to play in addition to all the responsibility.
“Wherever there is a mother archetype, there is a child. Our inner child. It is up to all of us, men and women, to learn to mother ourselves – to allow ourselves to play and grow and get our needs met.”
THAT’S what I envisioned for the weekend. Playing, growing, and inviting women to listen to what they really want to do with their time, versus what they think they should do. The schedule was planned with a careful mix of offerings and free-time to help us s-a-v-o-u-r summertime, time with ourselves, time with nature, and time with each other -- where laughter, vulnerability, and delicious realness flowed freely.
And maybe… I can easily and effortlessly create this experience for others, but when it comes to allowing myself to play, to deeply relax, to be idle in my day-to-day life, I struggle.
Responsibility comes easy for me. I do it well.
Play, not so much. I work at it.
But I do know that I crave it. And perhaps that’s why I created this retreat at this time. And why I knew Ruthanne Adam’s food and Heaven & Earth Retreat was going to nurture us, as would Honey’s tree bathing, Teresa’s Untame movement, and my free-flow writing – which at the core, is a practice to befriend ourselves, accept ourselves, mother ourselves.
And I remind myself and WTG participants all the time – it’s a practice – a life’s work, to love and accept and nurture ourselves, more deeply and more sweetly.
At the end of the retreat, I asked the women to reflect on their experience. The first question reads: Describe the overall tone of the retreat for you.
“Warm, accepting, non-judgemental. It felt like there was always an invitation to connect and also to listen to and follow your own intuition about what was needed. Nurturing, safe, relaxed, peaceful.” ~Alyssa
“Feminine, safety, nature.” ~Melissa
“Warm, open, relaxing, inviting.” ~Kerry
“Healing, opening, welcoming, safe.” ~Lisa
I’m honored that women experienced the retreat this way. These qualities are critical Write-to-Glow values. They’re critical to how I mother Connor and Maddie. And, I see now, they are critical to how I mother myself, with an increasing understanding that my inner child craves play and slowness and easy connection with other women in relaxed settings that bring out my silly and quirky sides along with my depth and layers.
Thank you, Mother Goddess. I’m SO glad I didn’t pull out my laptop at the retreat and work on the September circles during free-time like I thought I might. Oy!
I took a nap under the Douglas Firs, instead.
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