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.

Possibilities
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!

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.

Responses:
“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.

House of the Heart

What are the stories we carry about home and belonging?

Working with the universal symbols of the heart and a simple house can uncover long-held beliefs and move them to consciousness. Giving attention to rewriting the old messages and creating a space for the new story to reside is a creative way to re-wire old thought patterns to see a shift in a short amount of time.
Working through this process reminded me how much I felt different from peers while growing up. As a teen I often felt that others knew something about the universe and the way life worked that I didn’t know. I felt ignorant, awkward, and disconnected. As an only child I didn’t really have anyone to sort through things with. I retreated to avoid conflict and embarrassment. It was helpful for me to call up this story and then to call in a new story of belonging that could be chosen and lived into. My affirmations are:

I always belong here. There is room to change and grow. There is space for me.

I’m looking forward to offering this session to a few different groups. One is an existing group of teens who are pretty much on the fringes but meet together each month and are a tight supportive group. Another is a single mom’s group, and the third is my Art Lab regulars. Since the need this topic addresses is a baseline one that affects our outlook, it could be really strengthening to shift some core insecurities that these groups of people face, or any group that is willing to do some self-inquiry.

My Medicine Basket

I love the idea of the medicine basket being the symbol of a container of healing that we bring to our beloveds and to the world. I think it would be an encouraging process for anyone who wants to explore or reaffirm their own gifts. It is simple enough to accomplish in a couple of hours or a little less, or even longer if more sharing or ritual is involved.
My overarching affirmation statement is:

I am a woman who brings beauty for healing and transformation.

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The gifts I decided upon for the basket are:

  • I create environments of beauty and welcome.
  • My creative mind envisions the unseen.
  • I create sacred space for contemplation and connection.
  • I am passionate about releasing self expression.
  • I bring healing art for your soul.
  • My heart is loyal to my friends.

The symbol that is represented in the space under the handle is a rose, which speaks of beauty and transformation.

I noticed that I had an uncomfortable feeling about the way my affirmation of my gifts in the basket sounded. Something like, “How dare I write such glowing affirmations?” Shame alert! This tells me that my beloveds might feel the same and be reluctant to be super positive and affirming about their own gifts. I want to note to give them permission to not edit and to be quite affirming about what they bring!

Soulful Story Cards

How do you transform existing beliefs that are limiting? One way is to use creativity as a vehicle to cause a shift in thinking. The Soulful Story process uses watercolor paper and paint to create cosmic flashcards with a theme like “release and claim.” And they are indeed flashy with color and glitter!

I found doing this process to be helpful in identifying negative beliefs about every area of my life. Coming up with believable soul-affirming antidotes to the negative beliefs pushed me (in a good way) to enlarge my thinking. I found new possibilities that could shift the stories I usually default to, to help me move away from judgement and discouragement. One of the over-arching themes I began to see related to the struggle to trust myself to make big decisions. I’m imagining how much courage I will gain as these beliefs shift!

soulfulcards1

Painting the page

 

I think the process would be good for a longer workshop. The physical hands-on part of ripping the cards took quite a bit of time and was hard on my wrist. I might try lighter weight paper next time. I wonder if there is a way to work in pairs that could make it easier?

soulfulcards2

Ripping the cards

Otherwise the inquiry and the painting were powerful ways of engaging with the theme and I can see that this could be done with a number of themes at different times.

 

 

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Title phrases

 

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Affirmations

 

 

 

 

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Cover and red thread tie

My First Red Thread Circle

I incorporated a Red Thread Circle into the flow of my final Art Lab class for the spring session. This is a group that has bonded, shared their hearts and their creative experiments over the last two seasons, and some of them for even longer. It seemed a good time to introduce the idea of the red thread. They already felt connected to each other and were very open to this ritual.

We began with a time of centering, focusing on the healing rhythm of ebb and flow of our breath, then moved into a meditation on the wisdom of the seasons and healing rhythm of blossoming, fullness, letting go, and rest.

I told about the meaning of the red thread, some of the various legends, and a couple of the ways it shows up through Scripture. There was a lot of openness and interest. I explained how we would pass the red thread around and each take enough to wind around our wrist as we shared from the inquiry. holding-threadI based the question on the meditation about the seasons in which I had led them to look for a place of winter in their life that still needed tending. So I shared first a place that needing tending in my life and passed the red thread. When the thread came back to me, we passed the scissors, cut it and helped each other tie it onto our wrists.

We moved into our exploration time of our topic where the class participants reflect on written questions before we begin our art time. The art comes out of a soul place of listening. The art portion is always an enjoyable time of working through the creative steps of the process for that week. One person hit a snag in their creative steps and I told them they could tug on the red thread for support, so they did and they received some encouragement. I think we’ll probably be able to refer back to that from now on.

wrists

We closed the Red Thread Circle with a share about a place in our life where we are open to new blossoming. I read a part of the poem “Remember You” from The Way of the Red Thread. We also had a final share of showing the art we had worked on for the night. The whole thing lasted a little over two hours.

doing-art

Making art while wearing the Red Thread on our wrists.

threadinart

One in our group put the Red Thread into her art.

final-art

Final share of art for the night.