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Photo of a ceremonial pot with smoke

We have a choice in living each day.  We can have the perspective and belief that nothing is a miracle or that everything is a miracle.

‘Having long chosen the latter, this perspective is part of who I am (though being human, I can get derailed sometimes). I believe I was born with a little pixie dust in my heart, because little things can get me quite excited.  I love to spread joy, because it roots that feeling deeper into my experience and lifts me up – a bit of a win-win for sure.

So where does “ceremony” come into this?  And what is the difference between “ceremony” and “celebration”?  Let’s look at the dictionary definitions first.

Ceremony: a formal act or set of formal acts established by custom or authority as proper to a special occasion such as wedding, religious rite, etc.

Celebration: to keep, observe, commemorate, or means to notice or to honour a day, an occasion, or deed.

These definitions are very closely related; so, I’d like to share how I experience the difference between these two wonderful acts in life.

With ceremony, I am bringing an “intention” first and foremost. “Intention” is the focus that I honour and uphold, as I proceed into the ceremony with my whole being.

This adds a different awareness and presence to the act or event and allows space for divine guidance to enter. There is a heightened sense of presence when I am more aware of both my inner guidance and how the environment shows up to support us. In essence, it creates space for magic and mystery to be present. For example, my girlfriend was sharing a story about her father who had passed; and just then, a blue jay landed on a tree branch right beside us and started squawking. Her father’s favourite bird was a blue jay.  What a special gift!

For me, ceremony carries a message of deep gratitude and honour. Over the past couple of years, slowing down has allowed me to become more present and intentional in how I live each day. One of the activities that has had a huge shift for me is walking in nature. I have always enjoyed doing this. However, unless I was away on holidays, the daily walks with my dog were sometimes just an item to check off my list of to-dos for the day.

In 2020, my daily walks morphed into a true act of ceremony. There were weeks that my girlfriend and I would stop in special places and hold space. We sometimes offered prayers to the land, our community, our families, or we sang and danced. Almost always we offered tobacco, dried flowers, crystals, or seeds to the land and our ancestors. During these times we were very present to the animals and birds showing up at specific moments of our conversation, and we knew they were bringing their message and medicine. The gratitude that this brought to our hearts was palpable, and we would be in awe with the miracles that presented themselves.

In early 2023, I completed my list of “Intention Words” which capture my vision and focus for the year ahead. This is another area where I bring ceremony into my life. I set aside sacred space for myself, light a candle, get my crystals, pour myself a cup of tea and then choose one or more of my oracle/tarot card decks to pull messages from.  Then I place them around me, settle into a meditation, and allow these meaningful words to bubble up to the surface. Once they are clear, I proceed to journal and record my thoughts which provide inspiration and a guiding light for the year ahead. It’s become a lovely ceremony to bring forth these annual “Intentions”.

I have added this ceremonial practice to many areas of my life: in my healing and coaching practice, as I prepare for clients, as I set up my space, as I sign the Reiki certificates for my students, or even when writing a special card.

This also shows up in a big way at our Women’s Wellness Circles. The time I spend setting up our space and welcoming everyone and right through to the closing of the Circle is special and held with intention. I am filled with huge gratitude for every unique, precious month’s gathering. It’s almost like adding another layer of love and gratitude into each action. There is a feeling of fulfilment that has accompanied these shifts.

Of course, I love to celebrate, too. To me, celebration means acknowledging the great things in life whether they be big or small – to express our joy around life milestones and just because.

It’s almost like the presence and intention of Ceremony has brought even more awareness to all that I have to celebrate. Just like life, everything is interwoven into the experience.

I encourage you to welcome more ceremony into your life, and just watch and enjoy as the miracles show up!

 

Circles of Ceremony & Celebration,

Karen Armstrong

WWC Host, Newmarket/EG
Reiki Master, Biophoton Light Therapist & Enneagram Coach
www.in-side-out.com

Jill in the water with a horse, face to face

“Never compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.” 

I don’t know where I first heard this quote, but it was long before social media began and long after I had become the steward of my soul’s journey.

The first time I read it, it literally stopped me in my tracks.  Since then, I return to it often, especially when I find myself caught in a place of personal judgment or comparison thinking.

Isn’t it interesting how easy it can be to be influenced by external appearances and to not realize there is more going on than meets the eye?

I am powerfully reminded of this every time a public figure commits suicide, such as Robin Williams, Naomi Judd, and Stephen Twitch Boss, just to name a few. It’s so shocking when we realize that amidst their fame and success, they had struggles, too.

We can never assume that someone’s outside reality reflects what is truly going on inside of them. However, as humans we rely heavily on our visual senses. In the busyness of life, we forget to look closer and go deeper. Thus, we get caught up in, and sometimes lost in, images and facades.

As well, in order to fit in, most humans become highly adept at pretending, conforming, and hiding flaws. Unfortunately, by hiding our full selves, it minimizes our gifts and talents and keeps us distracted from living our most authentic path.

Life is a paradigm of duality:

  • Inside and outside
  • Yin and yang
  • Light and darkness

We can’t have one without the other; each exists by the very nature of the other. And interestingly, one’s level of joy is typically equal and opposite to the level of one’s suffering.  This goes hand in hand with the fact that we can’t experience ‘wins’ without having any ‘losses’ along the way.

Ask a top athlete, Nobel prize winner, or millionaire if they had any challenges, setbacks, or self doubt along the way. They will say they had plenty!

What if instead of deflecting and projecting onto others, we spent more time reflecting on and introspecting our own internal lives?

My years of working closely with horses has taught me that they are masters at ignoring what humans are showing on the outside and simply responding to what’s going on inside. To find a true connection with a horse, your outward actions and image need to match your inside reality. Congruency is equal to authenticity, and they can sense it.

This horse wisdom has encouraged me to keep developing the freedom, confidence, and transparency to reflect on the outside the truth of who I am inwardly at any given moment.

The better I become at doing that, the healthier I feel, the easier my life gets, and the deeper my connections with other humans and horses grow.

If I have learned anything over my half century plus years on Earth, it is that we all need connection: a safe, reliable, and congruent place where we can sit with our own thoughts and listen to the stories and wisdom of those who have walked a similar path and come out the other side.

Sometimes it takes a while for people to ‘warm up’ and to expose what’s really going on for them. Once we feel safe, and find the courage to share our own struggles, we’ll be amazed by the impact our story can have on someone else. Even a brief, off-the-cuff remark can make a profound difference.

Whether that circle of trust is with our family of origin or a chosen family that we have sought out, among a herd of horses, or in a room full of strangers coming together for a common interest, we all need to find belonging.  This was a motivating factor behind my hosting a Women’s Wellness Circle on my horse farm in the London, Ontario, area.

I was motivated to write about this topic thanks to a young woman who started attending our Circle this past summer.  She always showed up with a smile on her face, eager to participate, and so grateful for each event.  Then I came to learn that she struggles with paralyzing anxiety and lacks any support or resources.  This makes her life very challenging.  I had no clue.  She hid it well.

Finally, she came to a point where she could reach out to me and speak her truth.  I am so grateful. I was able to connect her with resources to ease her burden a bit and hopefully impact a positive shift in her life’s trajectory.

It’s okay if you are struggling.  It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to hold it all inside until you find your safe place to share.  Just keep showing up, trying, reaching out, even if you never say a word.  No matter what’s going on in your life, I see you.  And when you’re ready, bring your inside, out.

 

Circles of Authenticity,

Tricia Rudy

 

Women’s Wellness Circle Host, London ON area

Certified FEEL Facilitator

www.harmonywithhorses.ca

Statue of Gandhi

Years ago, when I was living and travelling throughout India for six months, I ate incredible food, saw amazing sites, and met wonderful locals and fellow travellers.

The highlight of it all was the memorable experiences of being invited to take part in various special events, including local festivals, a traditional Hindu wedding, a lecture with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya, and a series of Spiritual Teachings offered through the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, South India.

If you have been to India before or have celebrated a holiday or special event with eastern Indians, you know this is a culture that takes festivity to a whole new level! Their lively music, bedazzled garments, tasty and spicy foods, and intricate, finely planned rituals are truly something to experience.

As I travelled from north to south, and east to west, I continued to grow fonder of this country which many refer to as the ‘Heart Chakra of Mother Earth’. I enjoyed the warmth and colour of their inspired architecture, the beautiful landscape, the spiritual energy, and its kind and curious people.

An extra special memory of my travels includes visiting Kanyakumari at the most southern tip of India. This is where the three bodies of water merge: the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. According to many, it is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights and an ideal place to observe the breathtaking array of colours with sunrise and sunset.

Kanyakumari is also home to one of Mahatma Gandhi’s most important memorials. After he was assassinated in 1948 in New Delhi, his remains were cremated and sent to different regions of India. Before being placed in the sea, a portion of his ashes were put on display in Kanyakumari.

Gandhi Ji is referred to as Mahatma which means “Highly Respected Person” or “Great Soul.” The spirit of Gandhi Ji is truly woven throughout the fabric of India.

GANDHIAN SOCIETY

I was especially honoured to have the unique and special opportunity to attend a gathering hosted by the Gandhian Society in Madurai. The organization was honouring one of their esteemed members who had recently passed away and who happened to be a fellow Canadian.

During the ceremony, I was invited to share a prayer that I had learned years prior. It is officially called Gandhi’s Prayer for Peace.  However, for many years I have referred to it as The Gandhi Prayer.

I’d like to share it with you, along with the hand gestures that I learned as well.

GANDHI’S PRAYER FOR PEACE

I offer you peace  (hands in prayer position)
I offer you love  (hands over heart)
I offer you friendship  (hands held out, palms up)
I see your beauty  (one hand held above eye brows looking outward)
I hear your needs  (hand cupped behind ear, listening)
I feel your feelings  (both hands in front of body with fists clenched)
My wisdom flows from the highest Source  (raise arms upwards over head)
I salute that Source in you  (hands in prayer position with forward bow)
Let us work together  (one hand shakes the other)
For unity and peace  (hands in prayer position)

Instructions:

  • Start by noticing how you are feeling towards yourself and others.
  • Incorporating hand gestures is optional. If you do want to incorporate them, you’ll notice that one gesture flows into the next. You can use the ones I shared or make up your own.
  • You can recite this prayer on your own and simply imagine the person or people to whom you are saying it.
  • Sit or stand with another person or group, face to face, and look into each other’s eyes as you each recite the prayer to each other, with or without hand gestures. If you say the poem slowly and intentionally, you will find that others typically catch on easily. You can repeat it several times so everyone gets to look at one another, and the prayer becomes more familiar.
  • We are often in conflict within ourselves. One part of us may be at odds with another part of ourselves. Read the prayer allowing the parts of you in conflict to speak to each other.
  • Once you have gone through the process, notice how you are feeling and take note of what has changed.

Many people report feeling better afterwards, but there is no specific outcome that is meant to be achieved. Each time your experience may be different; that is okay. With practise, however, you will become more familiar with the prayer; and the words will take on more meaning. If you do incorporate hand gestures, those will become second nature; and the whole experience will continue to feel more natural and embodied.

While there is tremendous power in incorporating daily prayers and rituals into our own lives, there is also great benefit in sharing in these heartfelt practises and good intentions with others.

By reciting poems such as this, that engage others, and by joining in our Women’s Wellness Circles, you are investing in your growth and evolution and that of the collective consciousness as well.

Circles of Connection,

Jill

Founder & Mentor Women’s Wellness Circles
www.womenswellnesscircles.com

Begin Again- moutains and blue sky

I am sitting in a new spot, in a windowsill that looks out towards the street. Across from me is a parking lot with a little green sign with vine-like leaves growing on it, as if to symbolically represent new growth. The sign reads “Ancient Oak Yoga and Ayurveda”. My dream of starting my own business in the health and wellness field is beginning to manifest.

This has me reflecting on the concept of “beginning again”, which inspires me. In every moment, at every turn, and at every age, we have an opportunity to start something new and to change or release the mould we may feel stuck in.

Isn’t it interesting? On one particular day our goals may seem out of reach. We feel frustrated and ready to give up.  Then the next day we find ourselves playing out different scenarios in our mind and formulating ideas and strategies on how we could make it happen.

As long as we are willing to be curious and to “begin again”, then we can move in the direction of our dreams. For me, this involves regularly returning to the question, “How can I spend my days in the service of healing?”. When I feel unsure, or don’t have the answers, I remind myself to begin again by reframing my thoughts, by being open to new approaches, and by having patience.

This past year was full of many new beginnings as I moved from Ontario to the East Coast and started to recreate my life in Hampton, New Brunswick. While the picture was not initially clear as to how I could fulfill my purpose of being in service, I kept believing that someday it would be.

After a year of settling into this wonderful new community, I embarked on the travel experience of a lifetime and recently returned from an amazing trip and Ayurveda retreat in Ecuador. It was a great opportunity to experience a new environment, culture, landscapes, sunsets, and night skies. The learnings that I acquired are allowing me to see my life more openly from a fresh perspective – more new beginnings!

One of the Ayurveda sessions was called, “In My Own Room”, which asked participants to go within to find tools to support themselves. There were four quadrants that we discussed: Body, Mind, Space and Purpose. Purpose spoke to me the most, and I had to re-examine mine.

Having time to sit and to dig into these questions was so valuable. I was seeing again with fresh eyes what I know is true for me – my greatest desire is to help and to engage others in reconnecting with their purpose. This is one of the reasons I was drawn to hosting a monthly Women’s Wellness Circle: to provide a space similar to this retreat, where we can ask questions, learn from one another, and listen to our inner voice.

A special highlight from my trip in Ecuador was climbing Mount Chimborazo, which is one of the highest mountains in the county. Although we didn’t reach the summit, I was able to climb to the first Refugio, which is approximately 16,000 feet above sea level. It was the most exhilarating experience I have ever had – hands down!

Each step in this high altitude was a “begin again” moment for me, as I saw the world from a new vantage point. We were encouraged to listen to our bodies, to walk slowly and steadily, and to stop and take deep breaths. Being so present in such a unique and spectacular environment was an experience like I have never had before – and a big accomplishment. As I was walking down the mountain, I kept thinking to myself – “I can’t believe I am doing this!”.

I also had the honour of taking part in an Andean spiritual healing ceremony. The idea behind this particular ceremony is to cleanse the spirit with chanting, herbs, and ritual. Afterwards, each participant is invited to sit facing the circle and while making eye contact with the others to be seen as a “new” person. The ceremony gives us the opportunity to “begin again”, cleansed and free.

Upon my return, I brought this new energy with me. I started the process of yet another new beginning: to find the space where I will offer my Ayurveda therapies, and host a Hampton, New Brunswick, Women’s Wellness Circle.

This was my intention a year ago, and now the time is right. Life is cyclical with constant new beginnings, middles, and ends. This is what moves us forward to new creation. Similarly, in Circle we are given the space to honour our past, present, and future self, so that we, too, can become all of which we are capable.

What is that idea you have been sitting on; what change do you want to make; what part of the cycle are you in? Perhaps now is the time that you, too, are being called to “begin again”.

 

To New Beginnings,

Jennifer Bruder

 

Ayurvedic Practitioner & Women’s Wellness Circle Host
Hampton, New Brunswick

Connection - image of coloured ropes woven and connected in a circle

Over the years I have heard from many women in my life that real connections are hard to find, be it with friends, family, a life partner, our career, purpose, or ourselves.

In our linearly driven world, in which people are doing their best to move from point A to point B, we are subtly encouraged to put our head down, power through our daily life tasks and hope to arrive at the finish line. Whether that be the end of the day, the end of a task, or the end of a project, “done” is often the goal and, of course, the faster the better!

This powering through may get it “done”.  However, it can leave us feeling unsatisfied, unnourished, and saddened to realize that we are more disconnected to ourselves, our families, and the world around us than ever before.

For years, this ‘linear-finish-line’ driven reality was my experience, too.  It led me to wonder – if I am disconnected from myself and my family, then what am I connected to? Surely, I must be connected to something… It was an important and unsettling question to ask.

Eventually, I had the awareness and readiness to take inventory, and here is what I found: Consistent Connection isn’t hard to find. As it turned out, I was consistently connected to many things.  But I needed to ask myself, “Is what I am connected to serving me anymore?”

Outdated connections are no longer fulfilling, and they are why we so often feel ‘disconnected’ in our lives.

For me that looked like issues such as:

  • Ingesting distractions like unhealthy food and marijuana
  • Getting caught in drama and other people’s stories
  • Overly focusing on the needs of others (my boss, my family, etc.)
  • Not honoring my boundaries and trying to people please
  • Repeating stuck emotions like guilt and shame

As humans we are wired for Connection. We are so intelligent, and our survival is so dependent on it, that our minds will lead us to take actions based on the fastest route to find connections. Yet, that does not guarantee a healthy and meaningful rapport with others, and it can often lead us to co-dependency.

As well, when we are tired, lonely, and running out of steam because we’ve been operating at our maximum capacity for too long, is it any wonder that we consume whatever is placed in front of us, hoping that it might give us some temporary relief, some form of sustenance? Of course not! It’s how many of us have survived.

However, if you are reading this, I’d venture to say that you are starting to become aware of your old patterns and that you are realizing they aren’t serving you anymore. This is great news! This is when you can start to make an empowering shift and to prioritize connections that make you thrive.

This is the path many of us are on now, and we are in good company. It’s time to release the old and to align to meaningful thoughts, actions, and connections that support our wellbeing.

For the past six years now, I have had the honor of being a Women’s Wellness Circle host. As I often say, Circle is the gift that keeps on giving as it is a space where true connections are felt.  Its positive effects carry forward with us and ripple out into our everyday lives.

Month after month of hosting and attending Circle, I saw that whether I was connecting with others, connecting with a piece of music, connecting to the knowledge being presented, or connecting with a type of dance being modeled and offered… all of it was offering a connection back to me.

It was then that I realized that I am never truly alone! Life is my reflection and my place of true Connection. All other avenues ultimately bring back to a connection with myself which, without realizing it, was what I was truly looking for anyway!

Perhaps that is what you seek, too? If so, my sisters, you can count on the fact that Women’s Circles are based on an ancient tradition of being and connecting with others in community.

There is a reason Women’s Circles continue over the course of time. We sit in a circle where there is no end and there is no beginning… where I can see my reflection in you, and you can see your reflection in me. We show up as we are, and we are met with acceptance and love. It provides a genuine space of co-created connection.

Each circle offers something different, yet consistent. We begin and end in the same way, and in between we learn something new and are invited to explore. A different group may be there each time, but we have a consistent thread that weaves us all together.

Consistent Connection is the essence of Circle.

We are right here waiting for you.

Amanda Perrone

 

Moon Mother and Oshawa Women’s Wellness Circle Host

Offering Moon Teachings and Ceremonies, Circles, and Drum Journeys

www.risewithamanda.com