Medicine Basket Red Thread Session

–A long story about the joy and pain of collaborating, and a very hot time…

 Where are my Beloveds?
While still away from home and staying with my mom in GA, it has been a little daunting thinking about where the Beloveds are going to come from to start filling workshops I could offer. I am committed to trying to stay on schedule with COW training, so I wanted to get a few people together for a practice session with Medicine Basket or House of the Heart. I looked at several local venues and inquired about renting or using a room for a workshop. I thought about the people I know here locally and am connected to on Facebook primarily. I wondered if someone would be willing to host something for me.

There was an art opening I wanted to go to to possibly connect with some art people to see more of what was happening, too. I asked a friend I thought might be interested to ride together. She said “yes.” I happened to meet her for the fist time only last fall at a church office. She was with a friend pricing items for a garage sale and I was inquiring about walking the labyrinth on their property. In conversation we connected over the desire for racial reconciliation and healing for this community. We corresponded a few times, and when I arrived in town after a severe tornado ripped through the neighborhood around her church, I went out there to consult on how they might repair and restore the labyrinth.

med-b-wrists-smSince then some things have happened in totally unexpected ways to connect me to new folks down here. None are previous friends from high school or college. I am developing a new circle of like-minded individuals who are interested in the arts and justice issues, and some are more interested than others in a spiritual path. The friend from the church labyrinth was the original connector to all the others since my arrival here late spring.

She introduced me to some folks at the art opening and on the way home made a call to connect me on the spot with another friend. Four of us went out for a delightful evening which started with dinner and ended back at my mom’s place with me sharing my Talisman painting and the I.C. training and my hopes. Their interest was really piqued.

One of the friends shares such a similar vision to mine to bring healing through creativity, as well as community development, and we started getting together regularly to see how we could collaborate. She set up individual lunches with several people to introduce the idea of some kind of artists teaching co-op. She wants to involve all the voices in the community. She has a couple of properties with potential for gatherings. One is a vacant house she owns that has a large sunroom with lots of lovely natural light and looks out onto grounds and a pool. It’s a beautiful location. The other is a somewhat dingy downtown storefront building with an upstairs apartment that was formerly used as an artist’s studio. It even has a painted graffiti mural still on one wall.

She is the one who eventually invited about 10 people to come to an art workshop/red thread session with me. We decided the house would be where we would hold it. We agreed on the price being $25/person for this introductory gathering. I originally wanted to have only 4 people since it was practice for me and then I could see what changes I wanted to make before offering to a larger group and setting a higher price. I compromised since she was hosting and doing the inviting personally to select the people she wanted to bring in.

However, making it happen wasn’t without effort! In order to get the room ready, my husband and I helped a few days before to mop the floor, scrub walls, and clean tables and chairs that had been stored, etc. I’m thankful he was here this past week! My friend and her helper worked additional days giving attention to the bathroom (even re-installing a sink), trimming shrubs and cleaning the pool. Our collaboration has brought new energy to her vision to use the property for teaching, art, groups and therapies. I love how the energy is going back and forth!

I created a quick flier to attach to email invitations.medicine-basket2
Workshop day
When the day of the workshop came, I got there a couple of hours early to set up all the supplies and create my altar with the Medicine Basket display. I got my music ready and speaker placed, thanks to my husband remembering a cord in the car which could work for a speaker cord. He also helped me get the tables set up, find some extra chairs and clean them, and cut some flowers from outside for me to put in a vase.

It was a very hot muggy day in south GA—the kind of weather which zaps my energy and distracts from anything but staying cool. I had prepared throughly and spent many days writing up notes, making lists, gathering what would be needed and trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know most of the people who would be participating. I like to set up early to have time for settling, focusing, and being totally ready to welcome people. After an hour of setup I was overheated, completely wet with sweat and irritated. I sent my husband on as he had done what he could. The cooling system was not getting this part of the house comfortable and I couldn’t imagine leading a workshop here in an hour. If you knew me, you would know this was very discouraging. Hospitality is important to me within the space I’m preparing for people to enter. It needs to be part of the invitation to engagement with what the day is about. Also, my host was delayed an hour meeting us for setup, but she did have time to run back to her house for a fan and some other supplies, which helped.

We set out the drinks and snacks in a side room for people to access at any time and just before 2 p.m. the first participant arrived. Then a group of people arrived at the same time. I noticed a man with them. I assumed he was just dropping off his wife, but it turned out he was going to stay to participate! We didn’t know the final count and had set up places for six with an extra table to pull in for the host to use after the Red Thread circle. Neither of us knew if we would have enough spots now if everyone else came. We invited them to all sit in the circle where we would begin. I started reviewing content in my mind to see if it was going to be appropriate for the mixed group we now had! Here I am now trusting my Source to lead the way. The total of those gathered was seven plus me.

Red Thread Ceremony
rthread-smAfter introductions I was glad I was starting with a centering exercise to become grounded, aware, and present. Everyone was quiet and collected. Then I picked up the Red Thread and began to talk about the meanings and legends. I noticed the woman sitting next to me was from India and I figured she knew a lot more about it from her culture than I did! I offered an inquiry to relate to the Medicine Basket and to share about what might be holding you back from using your gifts and offering all that you are and all that you bring. I started to set the example about using only a word or two. Before she shared her answer she shared how the red thread is used in her culture and spiritual tradition. I was thankful she did. Each person shared around the circle while wrapping their wrist with the Red Thread. The man was last and said he didn’t know what might be holding him back. He would think about it. I thanked him and took the ball of thread from him, thinking, “uh oh.” (However, he did his painting along with the group and entered in to the rest of the chances to share.) I shared about only being responsible for your piece of the Red Thread. We sent the scissors around and helped to tie the thread on each others’ wrists.

Medicine Basket
I led the visioning to find the Medicine Basket. Each person around the circle shared one thing they bring in their basket. One part I added to the original workshop guide was to share the objects I had placed in the basket on the altar and asked a question with each. For example: a hammer-do you build with what you have available?, a bunch of basil—do you add the needed flavor or healing?, gauze and tape—do you bind up the broken?, trowel—do you shovel through the b.s. around you?, etc.

up-front-smWe then moved chairs to the tables which were set with the 22×30 watercolor paper, water, a paper plate, a couple of brushes, pencils, and chocolate for each participant. Someone said they were excited. The host and I pulled in the extra table and set it. I would be up front with the easel. The group took a few minutes to write about the items they discovered from the visioning. Then we were off with the painting part. They chose a couple of colors to squeeze onto their plate/pallet. First I had them write their intention for the day on the paper and then they watched as I demoed spraying the paper with water and blessing with hands. I painted a simple basket shape. I emphasized they had the freedom to style theirs the way they wanted to. They did. It was fun to see the different colors and shapes.

IMG_5290Through the steps of journaling and turning their words or symbols into affirmations to collage, etc., I watched to see if most people were about done to move on to the next step. It flowed pretty smoothly, A few people asked for instructions to be repeated, but no one needed help in brainstorming the affirmations or over-arching statement.

A woman came in after we had done the Red Thread Circle and the visioning for the items in the basket and we were starting to paint. She didn’t join in the painting, but listened and sort of drew a bit on the plain paper. She ended up talking to the host over snacks in the other room, but left after a while. I think she felt too intrusive having come in so late. I wish she could have jumped in, but hope she at least is someone to connect with for the future. This is the kind of thing that can’t be predicted or controlled, but instead I need to trust it was okay for all.

med-b-art-smWe finished in time for a good round of sharing about the paintings and affirmations, taking photos, cleaning up the brushes and visiting a little. I was so happy the timing worked out for all I had planned for the 3 hours. My host reminded people to pay before they left.

We were hoping to have more of a casual time for everyone to visit a little more afterward, but people needed to get going. So the two of us sat down to chill, have a glass of wine and talk about it. We felt really good about the workshop and how much everyone enjoyed it. Each person signed up for info on future workshops.

“Thank you so much for the workshop you offered creating medicine baskets. Your ability to work with novice and accomplished artists simultaneously, creating a space for personal reflection, creativity and community was impressive. I enjoyed participating and especially liked the many layers that you incorporated into the workshop. Your presentation was well organized, and effectively led participants to experience self connection and to explore how one connects to the world bigger than one’s self. Thank you for sharing your gifts.” -B.G.

“I am pleased to let you know that I consider your workshop which I attended to be thoughtful and caring , and well designed.” -W.F.G.

IMG_5298Reflecting now a couple of days afterward I realize the content is more a part of me, whereas it felt before like it was more Shiloh’s content that I was assigned to practice, so I was a little nervous about the delivery and covering everything. I feel that way about more and more of the training material. It is settling into deeper places that I can share from.


One thought on “Medicine Basket Red Thread Session

  1. Jennifer, I think it’s actually quite marvelous that you have managed to pull this off, away from home, with having at first only one contact! It seems to have gone quite swimmingly once you got started, and I commend you for finishing on time. Getting the timing right is often very challenging for people. All of the “unexpected’s” are now “experience” that you can use in planning (as much as possible) in the future. Though there’s always something interesting that happens. . . .
    It’s great that you planned so well and so fully to have a welcoming space, so that the “unexpected’s” were able to be accommodated: centering, unknown number of participants, lack of adequate air-conditioning. (Spouses are also great helpers at times, too!)


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