May 262017
 

JG-020-resizeI am a busy bee this week preparing to go on retreat. I have written and will be leading two ceremonies, making a drum in ceremony with Carolyn Hillyer, soaking in the deeply healing energy of my favourite Welsh Valley, and offering healing and intuitive readings to some of my doula sisters.

This is one of the highlights of my year, and every year I get better at balancing my profound need to retreat and my bone deep call to be of service to the birthworkers I call colleagues and friends. It was, in the past, all  too easy for me to spend my entire retreat time giving and thus, defeating part of the object of my attending, as I left little time for myself to rest, recharge and exhale.  This will be my fifth year at retreat, my fifth visit to the beautiful valley in Fachwen, and I’d like to think that this year I have strengthened my personal boundaries, reassessed how much of myself I give away – not to be selfish, but to ensure that I have more to give when I leave than when I arrived.

Offering a healing space is a part of my call to service.  I use my voice, my heart, my presence, my connection to All That Is, to create spaces that people can be brave in.  My ability to be still and deeply grounded, to manage my body and it’s biology, to ‘be’, is where that space begins.  I can then call on all of my experience and learning to support that person as they work through what they need to in order to heal.  I call my sessions Holistic Alchemy; the creation of a space that allows people to process and transmute their experiences through deep loving and careful holding.

Creating ceremony is also part of my call to service. Celebrating lives – elevating moments from mundane to sacred to mark the passage of our journeys this time around. I’ve spent more than 15 years standing in circle and every time I learn something new, because each circle is a world of its own. It has a spirit and a personality that is shaped by the people who come together that day. It’s my job to weave these souls together in sacred purpose, to protect them as they shift into that time out of time in circle space. It’s my joy to guide them through that liminal space, where the outside world slips away and magic and harmony manifest.

So, what do I get in return? Other than results being their own reward, I get so much from being in the landscape at Cae Mabon.  I will sing – especially this year, with the ceremonies, creating drums in circle with Carolyn and sitting in circles to lament and keen with Alexandra Wilson.  Singing fills me up.  I sing every day – with my coffee machine in the morning, with the extractor fan in the bathroom, I tone and sing and sway to my own rhythm.  I sing in my sound healing work, in a Symphony Chorus, and in circles of women who connect through song.  I am sinking ever deeper into my life’s purpose.  Creating sound with sacred intention is my place. It feels more like home than anywhere I have ever been.  I have sung all my life – literally.  I love the feeling I get in my body when I sing, and even more so when I sing in groups. The vibration and shared wonder in creating harmony together fills me so full I weep and spin and spirit overflows.  I will sit in circles with Birthworkers that I love and respect, whom I consider heart-kin, working together to change the world one birth at a time.  I love the very bones of them, and that is why I offer my service.

I go to retreat to fill my cup and also to fulfil my sacred duty to connect, reflect and serve – to nurture journeys and make everyday magic happen.

Mar 132017
 

wave-1521130_1920You may be wondering why I am going to be talking to a group of Vibrational Essence Practitioners about toning.  You may ask “What’s the point?”

There are lots of reasons, but I’m going to give you three of what I think are the most important ones.

  1. Toning is really good for you.

Aside from the intentional vibration that vocalising creates, the deep, diaphragmatic breathing it encourages is massively beneficial for your general health and well-being.  It lowers your blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and improves heart rate variability.

  1. Toning connects you with your body and heightens your intuition.

Whether you work from repertory, intuition, or some combination of the two, 20 minutes of toning before seeing clients or choosing essences for yourself will enhance your connection to your body and help you to listen more deeply to your intuition.  This ‘intuition’ is increasingly thought to be the work of the subtle information relayed to your brain via the Vagus nerve.  The deep, regular breathing helps us to focus in on these subtle sensations and cues.

  1. Toning is fun!

There are no set rules, so there is nothing to get wrong.  You can do it anywhere.  It’s free. You don’t need any special equipment.  All you need is yourself and the intention to sit and do it.  You can tone alone, but I find it is especially fun and satisfying to tone with a group.  There is something special that happens when toning in a group.  You all start off toning very differently, then as your intention and will align, beautiful harmonies begin to develop.  The vibrations become deeply complementary, and as a group you create a deeply healing and often emotionally moving soundscape, that is of the moment, appreciated and then let go, set free to become a part of the vibrational fabric of the universe.

It’s beautiful and fleeting, but often absolutely perfect for the people involved.

 

At the 2017 BFVEA Gathering, I will be taking attendees through simple exercises to build their confidence in their ability to tone, and sharing my enthusiasm for the practice of daily sounding.  There will be a combination of meditation, toning and physical exercises that will help to strengthen and support fledgling and established practices.

Registration for this event is now closed but if you’d like to discover more about creating a personal sounding practice, or have any questions please do ask.

Jan 252017
 

The planet is in crisis.

That is the story told to us by the media every day.  This is what we see played out in our workplaces, our relationships.  We are in crisis.  Things are happening in our lives that are beyond our control.
We become agitated, angry, worried, depressed, anxious, withdrawn, self-abusive.

We panic.

This is a valid and human reaction to our situation and environment.  Then, maybe, we get angry.  We see the injustice and trauma and want to make a difference.  We become passionate about doing something that can make a change – however large or small.  We go all out – we rage, we plan, we become activists for change…

So how are you coping?  Are you coping?  How would it feel to do more than just cope?

I see this in my community every day – in the birth and parenting world and beyond.  I see deeply passionate people becoming increasingly burdened, traumatised and burned out by what they are witnessing.  It breaks my heart wide open.  It makes me want to share with them the strategies I have been using for the past 8 years that have radically boosted my resilience, my ability to process difficult situations and reflect in a compassionate and grounded way.

It makes me want to step up to make my difference.  

It makes me want to answer the call to service that drives me, that lights me up.

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How would it feel to make a difference and not be burned out by your passion?  How would it feel to be able to witness the trauma and injustice in your life and process it compassionately? How would it feel to move through your life of activism at ease within yourself?  How would that affect your ability to be effective?

I have a new offering for you all.
I’ve called it Compassionate Self-Management Skills.  I tried not to get into the marketing game of naming this workshop something sensationalising like “Self-Care Survival Skills for Birthworkers” because these techniques are so much more than that. But in these tumultuous times, that is really what these skills are. Being able to manage your needs, feel into your emotions and support your clients is getting harder and more pressurised by the day it can seem.  I want to help you by sharing what I have learned and am living through my work with the Spiritual Companions Trust.

I can help you.  You are not alone.

In this experiential and informative workshop you will learn simple and practical, powerful strategies that enable you to be more present to the care you give to yourself, the families you work with and your community at large. If you’d like to develop a personal daily practise of deep self-care that works in an integrated and holistic way, this workshop is for you.

Self-care has become a buzz-phrase of late. This workshop takes you beyond the surface and deeper into the practice of authentic self-care.

We will discuss –
PHYSICAL: The science of stress and how these strategies work to build resilience from a neuroendocrine perspective.
MENTAL: The benefits of a regular practise on your mental health.
EMOTIONAL: The way in which the strategies work together to enable you to self-manage your emotional balance – both in times of quiet reflection and high emotion.
SPIRITUAL: How these simple strategies can be the gateway to a deeper relationship with yourself, and your experience of the wonder of the universe around you.

We will explore the ways in which these techniques, when embodied and embedded into your daily life, will enhance your wellbeing and enable you care for the families and communities you work with in a more balanced, compassionate and present way.

The investment for this workshop is £90 for the day and includes a vegan soup at lunch time.

Places are limited and a £30 deposit will secure your spot.

Please contact me if you would like to know more.

COURSE DATES

15th March 2017 – Cambridge – https://www.facebook.com/events/729763983866471/

Oct 142016
 

20160529_140038You can wander with no destination, you are still on a journey.

The music analogy in that video with Alan Watts talking falls apart for me because I know how some composers actually write music.
Composers write in a form.  Rondo, binary, ternary, sonata – they all have a structure and are pre-planned.  Even modern composers and songwriters have some sort of loose structure or path or framework on which to display their creativity.

To me this is a very clear map, a very firm plan and ultimate destination, but it doesn’t stop the musician from playing it, learning something new about it and themselves each time they play.  The really excellent musicians can interpret music  we know very well in such a way that it takes us on a very different journey from the one the composer intended.  Their skill and heart, their breath and intention get us to somewhere new and exciting, but the piece still finishes.

My job is to nurture you whilst you explore on your own journey, to be there when you wobble, to give you the safety to wobble a little more – I companion you as you travel.

For most people life, the passage of time, is experienced as a one way event, a journey from life to death, and around again if you are so inclined.

But who says you cant pause and enjoy, connect for a few moments of that time and wonder?  Soak in the utter majesty of that breath, that hug, that birth, that posture – just be for a moment.

You make the rules.  You get to throw the rules out of the window of a speeding train and cackle as they flutter away like so many birds who pecked and corralled you for so long.  That’s on you.

You can journey to your edges and explore beyond them, stroke them, or back off them until you feel stronger.  That is your choice, every moment. Being present to those choices is a daily practice of awareness, but once you start, ahh, its so worth it. Sometimes things happen that out of our control – we didn’t choose them, but we can always choose how we react to them.  Sometimes that takes a little inner work, but again, it’s so worth it.  That work gives you freedom.

This is your show. This is your LIFE. This is your JOURNEY.  Your path is not fixed.

Let me say this again.  Journey ≠ Predetermined Path

You get to CHOOSE.

So step up to that power and claim it. Revel in it.  Roll in it. Dance with it. Play with it.

It’s all you. Your choice. Your journey. You make the map, but you can also choose to say “Fuck it”, chuck it in the bin and try something new.

Jun 142016
 

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Today I choose to honour my connection to all that is. My place in the Divine dance that is the sacred interconnectedness of all things.

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Today I choose to honour my body, to listen to its wisdom, be attentive and sensitive to what it needs.

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Today I choose to honour my Sisters and Brothers in service. Those who care for others in their times of pain and distress, those whose hands and hearts hold those making their first and their final transitions.

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Today I choose to honour my ancestors, those who came before me. Those who shaped me, who live in my bones and my blood, in my heart.

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Today I choose to love, to be kind, honest, respectful, and real. I choose to live wild and soak in the beauty and vastness of this awesome universe.

Today I have the freedom to choose and so today I am grateful.

Jun 072016
 

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Choosing a doula, a Reiki Sensei, a Healer, a Companion can be a slippery business.

It boils down to this:
Are they able to teach me what I need to learn, in the way I need to learn it and are they legally and ethically qualified to do so?

Do I like them? Do their core values align with mine? Are they someone I trust – not just intellectually but physically (aka Do they give me the ick? Does my body say yes or no?) Does their intention feel genuine?

The first, for some, is purely an intellectual exercise. An ‘on paper’ thing that can be settled relatively quickly. The second not so much. Perhaps that takes a face to face meeting, a couple of Skype calls, stalking their Facebook page (kidding 😉 ), an email or six. Maybe a good, old fashioned phone call or letter. However you choose to discern who you go into relationship with, make sure you’re happy with that investment on every level. Some people look awesome on paper but when you meet them something just feels off. Or maybe you meet someone who is super charismatic, comes over brilliantly with their elevator pitch but actually is just shining you on a bit until it’s too late to back out. Or perhaps you’re on the fence but they’ve given you a hard deadline and it’s that, more than feeling truly comfortable, that makes your choice for you. Perhaps they are just the most visible – their marketing is top notch and they are working all the angles to hook you in.  So, pause.  Ask your body is this a YES?  If you’re on the fence, I would urge you to do some more research.  Dig a little deeper to find out what’s available.  There are some truly gifted teachers out there, working so hard that they don’t have time to Facebook and blog and such. They might just be the one for you.

I think what I’m trying to say is that, as for me, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I talk straight, have some pretty strong ethical boundaries and get passionate about injustice and dishonesty. I will share what I know in a way that you can understand, and I will keep working with you until we find the sweet-spot in your learning style. I will be gentle, supportive, honest and firm – I will witness you sift through your stuff, hold your hand whilst you pin down what it is that is bugging you, blocking you, dragging you down. I will hold back your hair whilst you puke and hold your bag whilst you dance with your shadows (unless you want to throw down and dance around the bag which I will gladly do too). I will honour your wins and milestones and I’ll do it all with pure love for you and the process of becoming.

If this sounds like I might be your cup of tea, give me shout. I’ll be right here waiting for you with the kettle on <3

May 012016
 

Since becoming a doula and Spiritual Companion I’ve talked about self care with someone almost every day.
I find myself saying the same thing in myriad ways, but it boils down to:

You can’t fill someone’s cup from an empty jug.

A good cup of coffee with some unexpected beauty.

A good cup of coffee with some unexpected beauty.

Lets start with this one because it’s the quickest, and many more people have explained it better than me all over the Internets.  It’s the aeroplane thing – put your own oxygen mask on your face first before trying to help someone else.  It’s the same with oxytocin and endorphins – you’ve got to sort your own out before you can share, otherwise it looks like you’re giving the good stuff on the surface, but actually, it’s not an embodied sensation for you and the receiver will feel the lack – even if they aren’t able to put words to what they’re feeling.  Doulas tend to be pretty good at switching on Oxytocin and Endorphins for their clients – but lets face it; we love them in the moment – that’s our calling – and because we love them, in that moment our endocrine system responds accordingly.

But what happens when we’re home? Alone, exhausted and worn thin with the cares of our lives, our client’s lives?  That’s when you need mad skills to help you shift your soup from cortisol and adrenaline, back to the good stuff so that you can have a good soak.

You are just as important (if not more – but I’ll get into that) as anyone else in your life and on your schedule.

Turn your bathroom into a sanctuary.

This one feeds into the first one.  If you don’t see yourself as important, then no one else will.  Doulas are givers.  We give and give and give – to our clients, our friends, our colleagues, our families, and somewhere, in the shadowy bottoms of that list is ourselves.  This is what I have to say to that, in the gentlest, most loving way: Fuck that noise.  Seriously folks, we are our work.  We are our best asset, and if we don’t care for it properly, eventually the wheels will fall off.  We need to put something back in, we need a service, an MOT, a full on valet.  And just like if you were taking in your car to the mechanics, you need to schedule that stuff and stick to it.

No excuses.  No backsies.  No.  YOU are important.  On your self care days YOU are the priority.  Unless aliens are invading, or the house is literally falling down you are out of service to everyone but yourself that day, that hour, that 15 minutes, that moment.  Self care doesn’t have to take up tons of time, but it does have to be yours, for you.

I don’t know how you will achieve that, or what it looks like for you.  Maybe its a bath with the door locked, maybe its a walk around the block with no one in tow, maybe its a glass of wine and your favourite playlist. Whatever it is – own it.  It’s yours and it matters.

The Guilts are sneaky little bastards.

Lavender smudge - smoke those varmints out if necessary.

Lavender smudge – smoke those varmints out if necessary.

They are.  They sneak up and whisper nasty shit in your ear when you least expect it.  The hardest thing about implementing something like this is The Guilts. The bastard little voices that tell you “You’re too busy for this”, “You don’t deserve it”, “Get off your lazy arse and do something productive”. You have to love yourself enough to say “Fuck you”, consistently. It’s hard. If you can’t keep them in line on your own (which is totally ok, they are a powerful bunch for some of us – me included) appoint a bouncer. A good friend who’ll kick ’em all out if they get rowdy.  Someone to come and roundhouse them right out the door.  A person who will remind you that you are worth it, you need it and it’s necessary.  Exorcise them, however you can – they are not on your side.

There is a special Boss Level Guilt that catches us Doulas out all the time – the Client Guilts.  This is a whole other level of stuff that I’m not going to go into in this post.  We need to put a damn electric fence around our time when it comes to these.  Good boundaries are essential and you need to sink your fence poles early.

I can’t tell you what to do for your self care – it only works if it means something to you.

This is the tricky one – it’s the one where I punt the question right back over the net.  Every day I see posts a bit like this on the forums, groups and face-to-face meetings I’m at:

Self care: What do you do?
I have neglected myself the past few months.
I’m feeling so burnt out.
I have just finished up for a break from births for a few months whilst I do some postnatal and workshops. Last time I opted for a reflexology session but feel I need to do more to rest and re-cooperate than treat myself.
I’m thinking of stopping Doulaing for a while to recharge.

I start by suggesting the usual stuff:

Have a think about committing to something that’s just about you for a week. It could be a mindful walk in the morning, 20 minutes of guided relaxation where you’re a no go zone, it depends on what you like. Then treat yourself at the end of that week. You will be more relaxed and able to sink into whatever it is. Hot stones are quite good for sinking and soaking because they are heavy and help you to release your tension. I’m full of ideas, but it’s hard to suggest when I don’t know what you do already and what you like.

One of my deep soak places is sound healing.

One of my deep soak places is sound healing.

Here’s the tricky bit.  Getting ideas from other people is a great start, but when you’re finally committing to a deep self care practice, that shiz is for life.  It’s not a one time deal.  It’s not a burn – bust – recharge deal either.  That’s not a sustainable option.  Self care has to be conscious, mindful, deliberate, purposeful, intentional and it has to be a PERSONAL, meaningful practice.  A daily commitment to honour the place in you from which your love and energy flows.  A daily desire to shift from an Adrenaline/Cortisol state into Oxytocin/Endorphin one.  You have to do it regularly so your body gets to know what it feels like to be in that groove of care that is focused inward and solely on you.

As a Doula, you will have doubtless heard the phrase “mothering the mother”.  I get that.  Now, here’s one for you: Be a good parent to yourself.  Show your body, mind and spirit what it feels like to have that unconditional love, non-judgemental support, and unwavering focused holding given to it.  Can you do that?  Do you know what it looks like? Do you know what it feels like?

As an SC I’m super proud to be part of the Spiritual Companions Trust and I’d like to share their new project Everyone Cares with you.  There are some simple, free videos on there with techniques you can use to care for yourself.  If you’d like to work on them some more, or reach out for support, that’s what Spiritual Companions do.  They can help you to personalise the practices and encourage you to do them daily in a way that works for you. Give me a shout  if that sounds like something you’d like to explore a bit more with me as I run a one day workshop and 1:1 sessions that can help you get curious and catch hold of what self care and daily connection look like for you.

Apr 192016
 
TheLover

Sketch inspired by illustrations in Caitlin Matthews Celtic Wisdom Tarot

I’m a Healer.  That’s what it says on my business cards.  That’s what everyone calls me.  It’s a catch all for the different modalities I’ve been drawn to over the last 20-some years. But…

I wrestle with that moniker every single day.  See, the thing is, I’m not a Healer.  I don’t heal you, you do.

Your choice to come and see me is where it starts. YOU make the decision to take responsibility for your own wellbeing.  That changes your vibration. That is the beginning of your healing.

Then, together, we decide which healing technique you’d like to engage with – Sound, Reiki, Reiki Drum, Shamanic, Intuitive – and my signature Holistic Alchemy session, where we come up with a special blend of all of them just for you.  The big thing that no-one tells you is that it’s YOU doing the healing, not me. I foster the conditions, the environment, the supportive vibration, the energy – whatever you want to call it, but you do the healing. You do the work, you transmute, you change – I just create the space for you to do it in.

I’ve had some really great results lately – people forgetting to take their regular pain killers because they just don’t hurt all that much any more. People who have chronic pain saying they’ve been able to cope better. Ancestral baggage evaporating in the drying silent tears of sweet agony and loss – transformed by love and a willingness to do the work it takes to heal the big stuff.

This is my work. I want to get down on my hands and knees and be with you whilst you heal the stuff that is weighing you down.  I’m not afraid of the dark.  I’m not precious about getting my hands dirty.  I make space for the light, the love and the truly benevolent energy of the cosmos to fill you up and start to nourish the places in you that are starved for love, blood, endorphins and oxytocin.

And when you leave the sanctuary of the healing space, you leave a little different. Still healing, still doing the work.  YOU. In all of your awesome potential, and in that moment I love you – your courage, your determination.  It’s beautiful and a privilege.

So, I am no healer.  I put my feet on the ground, touch the earth, create sacred space, offer you sanctuary.  And then, in the stillness of my own sanctuary, I go back to trying to find a different word to communicate what it is that I’m doing whilst you’re healing yourself.

Jun 092015
 

kotodamaI had the most beautiful day on Sunday.  In a village hall in Hertfordshire, beautiful energy workers met and spent the day toning and chanting the Reiki Kotodama and other sacred chants.  The space for this gorgeous day was created by Sarah Gregg of Reiki Drum.  I recently took the next step on my Reiki journey with Sarah, becoming a Reiki Master Teacher/Shinpiden. The Kotodama were part of that course and it was an instant kind of love.  I have already incorporated toning into my daily practice, and the kotodama are a powerful addition to that, but they also have begun to play a part in my self healing and are slowly being integrated into my healing work with clients.

Kotodama (spirit of the words) are the sacred sounds used with the traditional Usui Reiki energies.  They are a full body energy experience, you not only bring in the energy as a channel as you would normally during a Reiki session, but you feel the vibration of the word spirit in your body, in your chest, in your throat and head.  When you are fully embodied in your practice, you somehow become more than just a channel for the energy, you become the amplifier, the speaker – an integrated transmission system – and it’s truly awesome.

We spent the day working and playing with the energies, getting to know them, using the sounds in different ways to facilitate huge shifts in ourselves and in each other.  The more I use them, the more I know that I am on the right path with the vocal and sonic element of the healing work that I’m doing.

I have so much love and gratitude in my heart for the teachers who have helped me to put my feet back on this road.  I lost my way there for a while, silenced my voice, and made myself small.  No sound, no waves, no impact.  I get that now.  Thank you, to the wonderful women who are supporting me – my Vixen sisters, My heart-sister and Holistic Goddess, Sarah and Kay, and my doula family.  Thank you to my family, those of blood and of my heart, who continue to love and hold me as this evolution and re-wilding unfolds.

 

Jun 012015
 

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 I just had the pleasure and privilege of spending a long weekend with some amazing women in one of the most beautiful places I have ever known.  Just coming down the steep sloping path, through the arch guarded by a Green Man – my soul exhales a breath I didn’t know it was holding.  The mundane slips away and I am, once again, in the arms of the Mother.  The powerful and benevolent Spirit of Cae Mabon.

I love my yearly retreat.  I cherish the time I spend with my tribe – women who don’t bat an eye when my heart cracks open and  17 years of pain and shame dissolves in the lake of love that these women pour forth.  They just make the space that allows me to soften and lean into the hurt places so that I can cradle and integrate them into my story.  I healed a deep wound this weekend.  I repaired a relationship with myself that I hadn’t realised was damaged.

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I had the chance to be creative, to let my spirit dance a little, sing a little, laugh and cry and be nourished.  I have such gratitude to the guardian of that sacred place – She holds so much so gracefully, allowing us to soften and become, to sink into the embrace of the valley and be in a time out of time.

I come home to that place, and now, in my home, on my sofa, I give thanks that I am here.  I have coffee and my cat, a body adorned with henna and my heart so full of love and joy that I almost don’t feel the aches and niggles born of a 6 hour drive.

Today is a day of rest and reflection.  I am beyond grateful.