I recently returned from a trip to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala where I co-facilitated the Mystical Mama Prenatal YTT with Gabriella MarieLuo. What a gift to have the opportunity to travel to this sacred land, to swim in the waters of Mama Atitlan, to feel the quakes of the ancient volcanoes surrounding the oasis, and to hold space for the brilliant womyn who showed up for this deep training in awakening the divine feminine. The curriculum, developed and written by Mara Panacci and Gabriella, is a course in safely teaching yoga to mamas-to-be, but it's so much more than just that! In our flowy days we dove into sacred fertility and conscious conception, feminism and the patriarchy, holistic nutrition, herbal medicine, traditional midwifery, cleansing the womb-space...We practiced arriving with our sisters and holding space for womyn to be together, to be ourselves, and to be whole; becoming our own saviours, capable of healing ancient wounds and addressing current ailments of the body and spirit, for ourselves and the world as a whole.
Facilitating this training felt especially serendipitous as I was just arriving in my 17th week of pregnancy when I set foot on the boat which took me to the Mystical Yoga Farm, the location of the training. In my first days on Lake Atitlan I started to be able to feel my baby wiggling and whirling around in my belly, and this baby grew rapidly, nourished by the simple, whole-foods prepared by the kitchen staff at the Farm. What a treat to be with womyn from around the world, keen to awaken the goddess within themselves and take HER forth into their global communities.
Another long-held dream was realized while I was in Guatemala - we hosted four Mayan midwives at the Farm to share their practice with us, and learn the traditions of the land we were living and learning on. These three generations of midwives - grandmother, daughters, and granddaughter - were all called to the sacred practice of being with womyn in their dreams and by their communities. This mode of arriving into a vocation is familiar to me, I was deeply called to the work I do, over and over and over, in spite of many refusals on my part...but I hesitate to mention that part of my story to many people, since it's rarely seen as a "legitimate" path into work in this modern world. But by what more honest means could one arrive at their life's work?
Facilitated by a translator-extraordinaire who eloquently moved conversation from the midwives' indigenous Tz'utujil to English for me, we had the opportunity to connect after their session with our course participants. The midwives didn't waste a moment diving into questions they had about my practice, and I tossed as many inquiries back at them. The result was us giggling and revelling in a new-found sisterhood as our principles of practice and values revealed themselves as more and more similar the more we chatted. How incredible to be thousands of kilometres away from where my apprenticeships and trainings have taken place, with midwives I've dreamed of meeting, connecting on such a deep level of understanding, sharing a calling, seeing our parallel paths meeting for a brief time before spinning off into our own pockets of the world once again. Sisterhood is a community that knows no borders, no bounds, no language barriers. We are so similar, even in our unique complexities and variations of daily life. True intention is truth, no matter the tongue it is put forth in.
If you're interested in participating in a future Mystical Mama Yoga offering you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram.
Mad love and New Moon Blessings xo
As Fall really sets in I always feel a surge of creative energy and get-to-it-ness take hold. The drive to sit and write, the space to contemplate the bigger picture also steadfastly sinks back into me, as the summer months fade from my skin. These days I find myself thinking of how lucky I am. How much I love my community of sisterhood, how blessed I am in this life, what a privilege it is to work with those I work with, to create with those I create with, to speak and be heard, and to learn from thoughtful and truthful and grounded people.
Right now my creative juices are flowing around the beginning phases of planning for Womyn's Summit 2018. So much of what I feel deep gratitude for has stemmed from this magical gathering. Womyn's Summit is not only an opportunity for womyn to gather together outside the responsibilities of our daily lives, but also a chance to speak truths we hold back from proclaiming to the greater world out of fear and ingrained shame; a chance to take a deep breath, release, re-group, ground, and gain inspiration; a chance to heal, to remember, to acknowledge our deep selves in a safe and spacious atmosphere; a chance to gain the courage to go back to our communities, speak our truth, and hold space for those not being heard. Womyn's Summit isn't just an event, it's a practice; a practice in community building, in carrying on tradition, in creating space and time for inspiration to strike, for creativity to be nourished, for our minds, bodies, and souls to be fed. And so many of us are starving. At Womyn's Summit we remember that we are not alone. In this cultural paradigm we allow lies to seep into our bones: we are not enough, our intuition can't be trusted, we should have "it all", we need to be saved, if we just achieve x, y, and z then everything will be perfect... In the conversations and interactions at Womyn's Summit greater consciousness is born. As we reflect off the brilliant faces and hearts of the other womyn who took the time and gave themselves permission to attend this powerful weekend, we are awoken. And the truth is so clear: we are perfect and whole already. We are each perfectly ourselves, imperfect incarnations of every universal possibility, containing the wisdom of all who have come before us. We are brilliant, intuitive beings who do know. We are each our selves, we are each one another. Our experiences are vast, and we share a collective experience as well. Isolated from our sisters it's easy to forget, but when we gather it's as clear as can be.
In the new year we'll be calling for workshop proposals; calling for womyn to share their craft, their wisdom, their healing practice... We are all healers, we are all creators, we are all wise and knowing beings with something special to contribute to our communities. What inspires you? What makes you rage? What needs healing in the world? How do we move forward? How do we come together? How do we come to our selves? What will you bring to the table? Womyn's Summit is the direct result of the particular energy and gifts of those who attend.
Stay tuned to the Womyn's Summit website and Facebook page for updates, and for the opportunity to contribute to Womyn's Summit 2018.
So much love, y'all.
For the last three years (minus an extended break for travel this past year) I've hosted a once-a-month gathering called Birth Talk. This gathering was inspired by my first teacher in the art of traditional midwifery, Natalie Aresenault, who founded the Birth Talk movement and has hosted such gatherings for the last ten years in her home. These gatherings were an opportunity to hear empowered birth stories from the amazing women I have the privilege of working with. Close to my heart, Birth Talk provided a platform for stories of autonomous, physiological birth to be shared, to inspire others, to shed light on the spectrum of possibilities inherent in women's wise bodies and in the processes of pregnancy and birth. These stories are a dying breed. So few women experience unaltered physiological birth that I truly believe it is imperative, for the survival of tender-humanity, to keep these stories alive through sharing circles. Imperative to keep alive the fact that our bodies know what they are doing, to empower women to make decisions in their pregnancies, and about their births, based on love, rather than fear the current predominant emotion associated with pregnancy and birth in our culture.
But everything has its season and every creative project eventually reaches its peak. I feel lucky to have hosted these amazing sharing circles, and I feel inspired to expand my offering to encapsulate the wide breadth of passions that keep me juicy for life, and so I've birthed a new sharing circle: Moon Talk.
Moon Talk is an opportunity to gather, share, and learn; a time to expand our knowledge and gain wisdom from others' experiences. This is a safe space for radical discourse, truth telling, story telling, and wisdom sharing.
Our circle will always open with acknowledgement and discussion of the current phase of the moon and acknowledgement and sharing of our own current personal phase, followed by conversation focused on a set topic including, but not limited to: holistic health, ritual, wellness and mindfulness practices, feminism, plant knowledge, astrology, whole foods, crafting...
The aim is to empower ourselves by coming together and growing a community steeped in sisterhood, and to enrich our modern lives to include ancient wisdom for autonomous living.
These gatherings are for women and are child friendly. Men will occasionally be invited to join at gatherings, only when explicitly stated, and yes, there will still be Birth Talk nights, because I just can't help myself <3
Request to join the Facebook group to stay attuned to the schedule of gatherings and to share in discourse.
Today is the full moon, the strawberry moon, in Sagittarius, welcoming in endings, calling for a deepening of the sources we draw upon for creative output, beckoning us to seek truth, to engage in adventure, to draw on struggle to better ourselves, our contributions, and the world around us. I embrace it, and thank you all for your support of Birth Talk and for all of the love I've received in the announcement of Moon Talk.
Here's to the ever-unfolding process, to the lessons learned, to the open road ahead <3
The deepest love is a river.
Steady current, far below
The surface which we touch our tender soles to.
A force to tear through stone,
Dissolving the blemished, lending buoyancy to the weight.
And this flow tames flames,
As a womb,
And sings to us.
This river indeed flows within each of us.
Born with new life. Obscured by living.
Would you look her in the face?
Would you know your own divinity?
Thick of skin, silken of heart.
The harmony of a soul, in tune with the songs of all [who we call] others.
For separation is experiential, never philosophical.
A river song.
It’s clear the words have been buried.
Ice against your bones. Frigid, as we would be called.
But no longer can you deny the truth
Carved into the lines beside your eyes.
Stored in your hips.
No longer can we wait.
Those words are Her remedy,
Would you be too cowardly to heal?
It’s clear the soreness which you wear is a symptom of the soreness in your heart.
A symptom of withholding a tongue lashing to set the pendulum in Her direction,
Swinging us back whence We came.
Away from him.
Your silence would be her slayer.
Meant to learn and teach,
Not to be hidden.
Through your silence he would imagine that no harm has been wrought.
His false righteousness a weight, sunk into your bones,
The gateway to Her Being.
We are his only avenue to Her power.
What would not be revealed can not be revered.
And his shadow has always been opportunistic.
While he rests in blindness,
Our silence comes from the pain
That he would be so satisfied to have won.
The concession of it rubs.
Even after all these years of marching,
How easily he believes himself.
But we are, and always will be, enough.
And he doesn’t really know the root.
Because he doesn’t really know Our truth.
So speak it again.
It crept up to the surface when I was broken open.
But abated by light,
which had been taking refuge deep in my bones.
And a soul is no black hole
So the light lived on.
It shone brighter in the aftermath
of the quake that shook me.
Shake these sacred bones from their living grave.
It crept up when I sat in silence,
begging for the scattered pieces to come back
Before I knew
There is room for more.
It crept up to the surface when again I was held,
Again was adored,
And again the love ran out.
Again, those most comforting receptions,
It crept up to the surface on foreign streets,
And in the back seats of speeding cars,
Never moving fast enough to be without what is within.
Mountain peaks, river beds,
Monsoon rains, fresh snow blankets,
Couldn’t wash me clean.
It lives inside of me.
It crept up to the surface in deep woods,
In days spent in solitude, on new and full moon nights.
It creeps up now too, on home ground.
In all the familiar places,
Reflected off all the familiar faces.
Can words be my medicine?
Will I ever be enough?
And now, amidst the creeping, my mending will be
the most substantial alms.
I'll offer my breath.
And maybe it’s just the waning sun, this time of year,
That makes it feel
Feel the ground between your toes.
As below you are held, above you are expanded.
No matter your stumble, your bumble, play to find balance,
And flex with that breeze which finds its way to you.
For as sure as the moon waxes and wanes,
The tides within you will turn.
Release your pain, your sorrow.
Send out your joy. Arrive at Now.
Let all you feel be part of the greatest collective.
Consciousness declares: You are not alone!
You are one among many.
We are many, equalling One.
Sun on your skin, let the rays heal you and stoke an abyssal flame.
Fire and water existing alongside each other,
There is a perpetual fountain within each of us,
Quell fear and doubt to crack open, to let it flow.
Each posture, each breath, just as each moment,
Is an opportunity to die, an opportunity to be born.
Sunrise on a new day
Last year I went through a breakup.
Last year I was broken-up-with.
Last year I got dumped.
As a result the last year has been full of new opportunities, adventures, deeper self-love practices, lots of tears, lots of joy, new lovers, new friends, and of course re-building a self identity that felt shattered at the loss of a deep love and, what I thought to be, a deeply meaningful partnership. Which it was! But not how I originally thought it would be. The end of that relationship was painful. I mean, horrible. I was full of self-doubt and a lack of worthiness, and questioned my intuition, and felt lost. I woke up feeling sick to my stomach and with tears already in my eyes. I couldn't eat. I could't sleep. I had to practice the basics, like breathing. It was raw, and hard, and also one of the most precious times in my life, when life felt so very real and I felt so in it.
In the midst of my pain, I dragged myself out to lots of events: distractions. One such outing was to Red Clay for the White Rabbit Arts Festival. One of the performance pieces was a choreographed dance, on a platform, in a tree (I know, awesome, right?!), and part of this moving piece was a handout asking, "when things fall apart how do you/we cope?".
And lately, for whatever reason, I find myself longing for that rawness in life. I find myself longing for that time when I felt so cracked open, so willing to take care of myself, so close to the reality of my life, and so in any given moment. And while digging through stored-stuff post summer travels, I found this piece of paper where I had written a commitment to myself, a reminder to myself of how to cope with my life that felt 'fallen apart'.
But life doesn't have to be fallen apart or falling apart in order to remember a self-love manifesto.
So, here it is, that list which I wrote for myself, to myself, out of pain and loss, but really, for any day and every day.
So there's this awesome thing that I started. I mean, I didn't start this whole thing, but I went full-tilt with it here in Halifax. It became a passion of mine, and I started to become a bit of a local expert in this field, and I felt confident and inspired and I felt like I was making a statement for change. This project got lots of attention, and folks got excited, and we got hands-on help from friends and acquaintances who also felt inspired, and we got news coverage, and keeners started emailing to ask "how can I?" and "how did you?" and "thank you" and "build one for me!", and at first I responded whole-heartedly to these emails with in-depth responses and excitement for the prospect of future collaborations, and mostly, excitement for this quiet revolution of healthier living for our planet and our families and our communities. And it felt so good.
And then it just all stopped.
I mean, the project continued. But I was no longer a part of it. And I still got (and still get) enthusiastic inquiries and friends on the street still sometimes asked about this project, or future projects, and I just deflected all these questions and ignored all these emails, and dissociated myself from this passion because I was no longer a part of the original project that got the ball rolling. And it was a sore spot.
You see, I started said project with my [now, ex] partner, and in the turmoil of our separation the lines of unity and division, and the desperate attempts to salvage a partnership became the priority - not the giant passion project in the backyard. And as emotional pain and difficult conversations gave way to arguments and irreparable damage there was less space available to even discuss the project as ours. It became a matter of ownership and property-rights, and it became his.
And that's OK. Now. I guess. You know...
But that blog post is still on this website, and I don't want to take it down, because it was a really meaningful thing to work on and be a part of, and I fucking loved that project! So, now, a little over a year later, I'm addressing the elephant on my blog, AND want to thank everyone who was interested and supportive. And I guess I want to give it a resting place in my life: consider this its living-funeral - I hope it's well. I don't know what the hempcrete house looks like now or how the finishing went, but I did learn a lot while I was a part of the designing and building. I learned a lot from the process of finding materials and getting permits to build with a "new" material. I learned a lot from working with my partner every day, and having to just keep at it every single day, and having tiny, awkward angles to tamp hempcrete into, and having a sore body, and having a giant, often stressful project in my life that was too cool to complain about. Thank you, hempcrete house for being the platform for those lessons, and for (hopefully) continuing to be a living, breathing structure where someone gets to live in a little more harmony with the Earth.
And if you're interested, you can read / watch about this project here and here.
Rest in Peace, Halifax Hemp-house. May your life be long and full of living, without me.
Open, sweet child, let yourself be whole.
As you came into this world, again come home, into your Self.
Without your weights.
Within your divine being.
Whole and constant. Of essence.
Deep as an ocean. Steady as the drum.
Fill your lungs with clarity and abundance.
Accept the warmest embrace.
See the loves that are meant to last,
And know the truths, those parts of you which can never be broken, stripped, or lost.
Momentarily forgotten, never gone.
Now and forever within.
Teach and be taught.
Crack open the fear of not knowing.
For none of us knows.
And it can’t be known.
And we all are seeking.
And we all are found.
And remember, your feet are on the ground.
This poem was written in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalaya, on the banks of Ma Ganga.
Kate Varsava is a Halifax, NS based lover of wit, whimsy, and word-play. Late-nights, mid-morning coffee, quiet meditations, and the elements of nature inspire her sentiments and observations.