My Mother the Alchemist
I recently ventured to Vermont for the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people at a place called Dreamland. Dreamland rests peacefully within the rolling hills of central Vermont and is home to the Green Mountain Druid Order, led by Ivan McBeth and Fearn Lickfield. I am a bard, meaning I am in my first year of training on my quest to become a Druid. A druid, quite simply, is a spiritual Caretaker of the Earth. On the journey to becoming a Caretaker of the Earth, one must first become a bard. Bards are the historians, the poets, the weavers of tales. A true bard gathers words, stirs them with her emotions, and with a bit of alchemy, she transforms the world of her audience. It is my desire to tell you about the greatest alchemist I have ever known… my mother.
Every year Fearn and Ivan host a five day camp for GMDO students, friends and family members, and any guests who are interested in learning what the training is all about. On the last day of camp, one of my fellow bards and his wife hosted a workshop called Somatic Manifesting. Mark Adams and his wife Niko Pruesse co-founded and direct Touchstone Healing Arts, a massage school in Burlington, Vermont. The purpose of the workshop was to teach the art of manifestation through physical movement and action.
In the beginning of the workshop, Mark and Niko led us through a series of movement exercises that helped us to understand how using the body creates feeling, momentum, and energy. We were housed in a tipi with a central fire pit and small alter, so to begin with, our group of approximately 15 began to walk around the inside of the tipi. We were asked to navigate around the space while walking as we normally do, weaving in and out of each other, changing direction, and relaxing into our bodies. Soon, we were asked to speed up, feeling how the energy in our bodies changed as we did. We repeated this same task while slowing down. We walked around feeling light by focusing our energy up into our head. We walked around feeling heavy and grounded by pretending we had dinosaur tails and bringing our energy down into those tails.
After playing with our energy in this way, we began to work with different partners in order to better feel the energy within ourselves as well as within others. It was during this partner work that my mother became paramount to the spiritual work I was intended to do on that day. Each partner group was asked to stand grounded with one another face to face. We were directed to look each other in the eye, place one hand on the other’s heart, and take turns asking, “What do you care about and why.” This is a deeply personal question when asked in such an intimate environment and it brings out what is truly pivotal to the core of life. I began to speak of my family… my daughter, my husband, and my stepdaughter.
As I was answering the question, my partner interrupted by telling me she felt my mother’s energy very strongly. She told me she was being asked to ask me why I cared so much about my mother.
I stopped speaking and began to cry. My partner immediately hugged me and supported me as I breathed my mother into the experience I was having. It was at that exact moment, that specific inhale, where I questioned with everything molecule of my spirit whether my mother still lived, or if, during that inhale, she was dying. I stood motionless, afraid to let my breath out for fear it meant my mother would never inhale again. As I stayed there with that thought, I was overwhelmed by love. So much love poured into me I could not contain it and was forced to begin allowing the air to sift out through my trembling lips. In the next breath I asked my partner, “Do you know if my mom is still alive or is she telling you this because she died?” The person I was working with could not answer my question. She looked at me and stumbled over the words, “I don’t know.” I could see how much she wanted to tell me my mother still lived, but she couldn’t. She didn’t know for certain and neither did I. So, I was left with the very real and raw feeling of my mother’s death as I continued to allow Mark and Niko to guide me through their workshop.
We switched partners and repeated the same exercise with a different question. I moved through this next exercise with a gentle, grounded partner. He worked with me in a way that allowed me to support him fully while still remaining vulnerable enough to let my mother’s presence weave her way from my lungs to my bones. As this transfer of energy happened, I began to think of all my mother was and all she will continue to be as long as I exist in this life.
My mother had a heart attack 11 years ago. I remember the phone call as if it happened 11 minutes ago. When the voice on the other end of the telephone relayed my mother’s condition, I fell to my knees and began to weep. I felt floored, heavy, devastated, and torn completely apart. I didn’t know how to pull myself up off the scratchy carpet so as to physically move myself from my living room to her hospital bed. I felt as though I was in a void of loss. Most of what happened between my collapsed set of bones on the floor and the moment my hand found my mom’s in the hospital is a jumbled blur of anxious motion. As I stood in the tipi reliving the immortality of my mother I realized the emotions pouring in and out of me were completely different this time around. I did not feel the same sense of loss that occurred when I was told of her heart attack. The word loss implies that something is no longer there. That is not the reality I felt while standing in the existence of my mother’s death. This time around I felt only an abundance of love flowing from her heart to mine.
I allowed myself to open up and continue exploring what my mother’s death means to me. I thought of my family history, moving back in time from daughter to mother to mother to mother. I traced the lineage from my child, through me, back to my mother and finally to my grandmother. I thought of the immense change my mother created in her lifetime so that my own mother/daughter experience would not mimic hers.
I realized that through my mom’s actual death ~ the shedding of her body, the healing, and the eventual rebirth she will experience ~ I will be given a tremendous gift. I will understand love in a way that is simply not possible while she still walks in this body.
As I sat in the tipi processing what was happening to me, I began to realize how the power of the past is pulled into to the present and passed on to the future through emotion. I also reached a new understanding of how change occurs. My mother was a phenomenal woman who was able to teach me how to empower myself even during her most horrific and painful moments. She, like my grandmother, spent most of her life feeling repressed, and she, like my grandmother, sacrificed herself for those she loved until she was completely and emotionally destitute. However, through all my mother’s suffering, she found the courage and the strength to change the future. My mother was able to pull out all the heavy, leaden emotions from the past, draw in the clean potential of the future, mix the two together in an enchanted, magical alchemy, and create a beautiful new existence which she bestowed upon me.
My mother may not have felt empowered for much of her life but she was powerful. She was the catalyst of change that created magic and love out of darkness and repression. My mother was and is the greatest alchemist I know. She has spent almost 40 years teaching me this art and I will honor her by spending the rest of my life teaching it to my daughter. My mother showed me that love is the most powerful gift we have and she taught me how to create it even in the most dark, broken, and desperate of times. I’m so grateful to my mother for birthing in me real, unconditional, unbiased, feel it with all your heart, LOVE.
Our last task in Mark and Niko’s workshop was to become a physical beacon of intent. We were shown how to use our bodies to manifest our intentions from the spiritual plane into the physical. I thought of my mother and the magic she spun from the past into the future. I thought of the brilliant beacon she has always been for me and drew her light into my heart. We moved from inside the tipi out into the sacred circle at the heart of Dreamland. Standing under an apple tree we reached up and, one by one, we spoke our intent with grounded bodies and clear, concise words. I took my time as I formed in my mind the exact words and emotions I wished to send out into the world.
I was the last in the circle to step into my power and lift my hands toward the sky. I found my footing, grounding the souls of my feet into Mother Earth. I raised my arms and found my breath. I felt the energy of my mother and my grandmother behind me as I inhaled. My exhale created within me a cauldron in which I gathered up the past. In the stillness between breaths I thought of my daughter and all I wished to pass from my heart to hers. I drew into my cauldron the potential of her future, mixing it with the wisdom of the past. In the next breath I began: inhale ~ I am the commitment of healing and empowerment from the past, through the present, ~exhale ~ and into the future ~ stillness. Release.
I am relieved to say I spoke with my mother later that evening on the phone and found that she is safe and sound upon this Earth. I am honored to write this for her and to be given the opportunity to acknowledge why I care so much about her.