I am taking a Grief Release Workshop at the local yoga studio, which meets on Monday afternoons for four sessions. The instructor’s goal is to show us ways to honor and let go of grief and break the cycle of stuffing it down, talking about it over and over, getting stuck in a loop where we hold the grief in our bodies, minds, and spirits without ever letting it or our ourselves progress.
Yesterday, we explored a form of meditation that gives one something to do: we created colorful mandalas. Not being Tibetan monks with a lifetime of study and several pots of sand, we used markers, crayons, and pencils and pre-printed mandala outlines from the internet (click to enlarge):
Most of the mandalas were overtly feminine, with butterflies and flames and lotus flowers, arranged so you could just get away with pretending not to see the sacred feminine unfolding within. (In other words, most of them looked as much like vulvas as any flower ever painted by O’Keefe.)
It felt like cheating, to be sprawled on the floor with a group of women aged 30 to 70, saying things like “can you pass me the orange?” and “ooo that’s pretty” while biting my lower lip and aiming to balance speed and precision as I colored in my pattern.
Because that’s what it was. A pattern. With enough variety (choice of color, texture, firmness) and enough repetition (recurring shapes, mirroring shapes, spirals, sizes) to engage both the left-brain extrovert and the right-brain introvert sides of me. It did not take long to go from “omg I can’t believe I’m coloring” to “I bet this is how Pat’s horses feel when they play with him.”
Can you imagine being so fun for your horse that he feels like he is creating a vast mandala, every time he does the patterns?
As we colored, we also took turns having a one-on-one Desert Alchemy “flower essences” session with Julie, our instructor. She laid out a bunch of flower cards — like baseball cards only with flowers instead of baseball players — in a spiral. You hold an intention in your mind and glance over the cards and pick out three to five that resonate with you in some way, attractive or repellent, drive or draw.
Each one corresponds to certain negative qualities in your life that you want to balance, or harmonize, with the positive qualities of the flower essence. The front of the card has only the picture and name of the flower, so you don’t know what qualities it harmonizes until after you gather the cards and consult the book.
Mountain Mahogany helps you “surrender to universal timing while moving forward” which balances a tendency to push and try to make things happen, or to get complacent and stop progressing. Mexican Star eases “fear and terror about survival” through supporting the development of self confidence and integration of the self.
Fairy Duster helps you become “sensitive to what is happening around you and interacting with your environment while remaining balanced mentally and open in heart.” It balances over-reactivity (right-brain extrovert) and somnolence (left-brain introvert). Wolfberry helps with feelings of overwhelmedness, deep grief, and avoidance of deep pain — it helps you develop emotional and mental engagement with the moment. Wolfberry “helps us be at peace and allow the process without insisting upon defining it.”
The entire workshop felt like a continuation of the Reno Celebration, through a different lens: new-agey California airy-fairy stuff instead of horsemanship. Yet I was struck by the similarity of the principles.
First, a focus on foundation long before specialization. Patterns to foster mental engagement, to create a sense of playfulness and safety. Flower essences to balance the emotions. Not to take them away, hide them, set them aside, turn them robotic, but to balance the extremes and guide you to the center of the chart. An LBI is only somnolent when you don’t engage him; once engaged he’s a partner. A RBE won’t over-react when she feels safe and trusts her leader — which does not make her something other than who or what she is. (A conference-g0er said she learned from Pat that a calm RBE is not the same thing as a left-brained horse. Perceptive indeed!)
Julie put drops of each flower essence into a little vial, and we are to place one drop on our tongues two to four times a day for about a month.
For me, I believe this will work in a similar way to the acupressure: in addition to the properties particular to the healing modality, it requires me to pause, think, focus on my intention (“I want to want to heal”), and do a sort of integration of self right there on the spot.