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Bewitched

Many women have worked hard to attain academic, artistic, financial success, yet we often wonder: ‘Is this all there is?’

Despite all our worldly triumphs, there lingers a sense of disconnection, loss, dissatisfaction. We wonder how we ended up overscheduled, exhausted, suffering from stress-related conditions.

How did we get off track? What happened to our desire to write, to paint, to dance?

The sacrifice of body and soul is not what we bargained for when we set out to make a career.

Maureen Murdoch in the Heroine’s Journey (1990) writes: “In noticing the physical and emotional damage incurred by women on this heroic quest, I have concluded that the reason they are experiencing so much pain is that they chose to follow a model that denies who they are.”

“The hero’s journey is focused on adventures, seeking control and power over themselves and others, finding external boons. But for women, this doesn’t feed our nature. There’s a split when we women focus more on making it in the world, rather than on listening to our deep self.”

Maureen calls for a descent into womanhood, a return to wholeness. To set out on the Heroine’s Journey, embracing and feeding our feminine nature instead of allowing masculine values to determine what is success in this world.

“A woman who has felt cut off from her feminine nature may slowly begin to reclaim who she is as she feels her creativity start flowing. This renewal may occur in the garden, in the kitchen, in decorating the home, in relationship, in weaving, writing or dance. Her sense of aestethics and sensuality come alive as she is refreshed by colour, smell, taste, touch and sound.”

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So let’s gather in sister circles to celebrate the rise of feminine values such as nurturing, intuition, emotional expressiveness, creativity and spirituality.

Let’s find our own answers to what is success in a woman’s world.

Let’s celebrate our journeys as heroines, reclaiming what it means to be a woman. Each of us in our own uniquely enchanting way.

Let’s be refreshed by colour, smell, taste, touch, sound. Revel in nature, connection, beauty and sensuality.

Let’s feel our creativity flowing, powerfully connecting to our inner mystery.

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The circle offers a space where we can reconnect to the empowered feminine. Where we support and celebrate each other’s unique beauty and gifts. Hold the space for each other to delve deep into our inner mystery.

We show up truly and authentically and so empower our sisters to do the same.

We are equals in our own uniquely enchanting way.

We do not need to be fixed. We do not need to fit in.

** Write me at julie@maitreecoaching.com if you’re interested in joining our bewitching monthly online women’s circle where we gather under the waning moon to move, draw, meditate, laugh, share, honour and celebrate the fullness of our lives as women. **

Lungta: the wind horse of flow and ease

I’ve been privileged to spend the last weeks of October in an old Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. Spending a lot of time looking at prayer flags, I was delighted to discover the meaning behind the horse that features on them.

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The horse is called Lungta, or Wind Horse, and similar to Ganesh it symbolises the ability within you to turn stagnation into flow.

Windhorse is success. It is an aliveness, an alignment, a vibrancy. You have windhorse when things are flowing; when there is ease; when you feel “in the zone”.

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The opposite of windhorse is what the Buddhists call drip: when energy is clogged up. You know drip is in your life when there are a lot of obstacles, when things are not going your way.

So how do we cultivate wind horse and minimise drip? The teachings point to integrity, looking after yourself and your surroundings – looking within yourself for fulfilment and connection.

Spending time in the Himalayas around Diwali end of October, I loved seeing the villagers busy cleaning and painting their houses to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and abundance. 

In the picture are Lakshmi’s footsteps traced by the women of the family I was staying with. 

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Inspired by all this activity I put up the goddess feet mandala on our own door (see picture), and started cleaning and cooking myself.

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It’s a cleansing experience to declutter and create clarity. Especially with the intention of welcoming abundance and flow.

This was also inspired by Chameli Ardagh of Awakening Women’s Institute whose Parvati sadhana I was following at the time. Chameli writes:

“To clear out drip and welcome windhorse, choose to clear one drip-producing thing per day in your surroundings.

Declutter a drawer.

Fix something that is broken.

Do something you have postponed.

Apologize.

Throw out your secret stash of addiction-food.

Pay a bill, clean something or beautify your entrance.

Notice how these outer actions liberate energy.”

Decluttering our home is also a metaphor for sweeping up our emotional dust and blocks so flow has free passage through us. As we traverse life our experiences form and shape us, and some our so potent we carry them with us for a long time.

Sometimes we neglect parts of our being or they may even be frozen if we’ve experienced trauma. Cleaning up the dusty corners and slowly thawing the frozen ones helps us feel more complete, whole and flexible. We become freer in our responses to the world and experience more flow.

Chameli writes:

“What makes energy take form as drip versus windhorse is the attachment to the idea that who we are is a fixed, limited “me” who is fundamentally separate from our surroundings and other people.”

In the Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy November calls we’re exploring how to allow the flow of the windhorse circulate freely, and how decluttering your physical space is as important as keeping your emotional space dust free.

Get in touch if you’d like to join next month’s call!

Magical Movement & the Mystery of Creativity

Have you noticed how art and dance have an alchemic power to shift us, to transform us?

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Stepping into a dance space I may feel tired and disconnected, yet an hour later I’ll feel life pulsating in every cell of my body.

Sitting down with an empty canvas I may feel restless, yet the brushes direct my focus into colour, form and expression.

Pondering the first line of a journal entry I may feel confused, yet by the time I put the last word on paper my thoughts will be structured and my mind at peace.

Having just returned from the second part of my dance therapist training, the alchemy of creative dance and movement is most alive in me.

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Through an intense experiential group process I relived the experience of the 3 month old baby me who had to wear hip braces so that her thigh bones grow into her hip sockets.

I had a symbolic dream guiding me further on the path of love.

I gained new insight into how to bring more embodiment into coaching.

I connected beyond words with the tribe of my course mates.

And I’m feeling so light and present at the end of it all.

In fact we can scientifically trace that alchemic power of dance that shifts us profoundly.

Through movement we stimulate ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which are key to our emotional and physical well being. They boost our energy and motivation levels, and stabilise our mood, sleeping patterns and appetite.

Yet the alchemy also has to do with finding intuitive, authentic movements that have the power to express something deeper than words. Through dance I feel I can express nuances and complexities of emotions and states of being that I could not have begun to express verbally.

It is as if unconscious memories are floating up into consciousness.

And we dance these memories from chaos into order, processing and integrating the emotions that come up along the way. Like Shiva Nataraj dancing consciousness into the demon of ignorance, we dance clarity into the confusion of the little understood mysteries of our unconscious mind.

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Allowing the body to shake out first its tenseness, a state of relaxation occurs in which original movement expands easily and the body finds constantly new and original ways of moving. The greater the sense of relaxation, the greater the experience of pure life force.

Sometimes this experience even feels like a trance, a state of grace, ecstasy and union with the divine or all living things in the universe.

There is a strong connection with my own soul within as well as with the soul of all outside me, present in the same space or beyond. In fact, through that connection the distinction between in and outside disappears.

At the end of a dance, there is a feeling of full presence and integration of all ‘bodies’, the mental, physical, emotion and subtle.

Isn’t that magical?

We’ll be diving into creativity on the next Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy call. Contact me on julie@maitreecoaching.com if you want to know more and share your creative alchemic experiences!

The learning spiral – about fractals and freedom

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Have you noticed how time never passes ‘normally’? It’s always faster or slower than you think. Which makes me wonder how we intuitively know what is time’s normal pace. Otherwise how can we experience it passing by at a quicker or more lazy pace than it ‘should’?

Although our brains love to turn time, and most of our experience of life, into a linear pattern of moving from A to B, there may be different, more interesting shapes out there in the universe.

Like the spiral for example. It’s everywhere in nature…from our DNA to roses, snails, hurricanes and even galaxies like the Milky Way. In maths, the Fibonacci sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8 etc) describes these gracefully unfurling shapes.

If you add two Fibonacci sequences you approximate the Golden Ratio which defines the architecture of historic monuments such as the Giza pyramids and the Greek Parthenon.

Dogmatic creationism aside, there is poetry in the idea that “the spiral is the fingerprint of God which resides in all of creation.”

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From Fractals to Freedom

Even in our subtle emotional bodies we experience spirals of deeper and deeper learning.

Again they’re often misinterpreted by our brain as a two-dimensional line. We feel disillusioned when an issue we thought we had ‘dealt with’, comes back with a vengeance.

‘What? It’s still not over?! I’ve not made any progress and am back where I started?!’ – our saboteur brain starts chattering. We become convinced that we’ve taken quite a few steps back on our journey.

I see this often happening when coaching clients go through grief, process a break up or even let go of patterns that are no longer serving.

Instead of perceiving progress as linear, let’s add a third dimension and experience it as a spiral. Then we’re not going back to where we came from, but are tracing a circle, adding depth with each step taken, like the rose, snail and planets do.

In the reiki healing tradition, the sacred symbol of the spiral adds power and protection, indicating to “place the power of the universe here’.

Every time we reach the same side of the circle at a deeper level, we have the opportunity to understand the issue more deeply so that healing and integration can occur at a more profound level.

We continue to go deeper down into our learning spirals until we reach the deepest core of the issue, the end point of the spiral.

Then we may become aware of an even bigger spiral repeating the shape of the first smaller spiral. Like in a fractal image of expanding symmetry, one spiral is the building block for an even larger spiral.

In yoga philosophy, the serpent lies coiled like a spiral at the base of our spine until the kundalini energy, or the intelligence of complete maturation, is awakened.

Perhaps our fractal learning experience continues until our karma expires. Until we reach enlightenment and we’re free of patterns, be they lines or spirals.

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What spiral are you on?

I’d love to hear from you about your current learning spiral!

On the Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy’s September calls, we are sharing and learning about spirals of self love, following the heart, being soft and firm, letting go.

I’m on the ‘surrender’ spiral. Every time I’ve surrendered more deeply, I’m presented with an even harder thing to surrender. It’s almost as if the universe is trying to tell me:

“Do you think you’ve mastered surrender by letting go of your high performing corporate career, and receiving a beautifully balanced and free life doing what I love most?

Then try this: surrendering your relationship.

Now do you think you’ve mastered the trick by breaking up and being gifted a fully unexpected reunion with your partner when he asks you to marry him?

Then try this: give up your home and sense of belonging in Auroville.”

That’s where I am at in my surrender spiral.

Deep down with no end in sight and a smile on my face thanks to the gift of 20 all Indian sisters in the dance and movement therapy course I just started in Bangalore. But I’m sure despite these gifts I’ll find something else to cling to!

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Spirals and movement

The dance and movement therapy course has much inspired me in many ways, integrating movement into my coaching practice and finding innovative ways of exploring authentic intuitive movement with clients.

In the sangha calls, we have been exploring the fun yet sacred element of moving spirals. Once we identified our learning spirals, we found movement to express them – from whirling dervish to rolling child and surfing on the waves of life.

The spiral movements we discovered were both liberating and transformative. They helped us shake off old patterns, for exampling shifting into an anti-clock wise upward spiral when in a clock wise downward spiral. And shifted us into new ways of being, for example from strongly spiralling our arms to protect ourselves, to a gentle swaying of the hips as a soft and peaceful pillar of strength.

Some say that spiral movements are among the oldest on the planet, as eye-less creatures grazed the ocean floor following their mouths with their digestive tubes.

There is a mysterious power in recreating ancient, primitive movement patterns – at once healing and joyful. While it’s fun to move in spirals, the movement awakens a deep vibration within us that seems to allow us to shift quickly from one state to another.

If you’re interested in exploring the mystery further, join me end January in Auroville for the ‘Swing Your Hips’ 3-day women’s intuitive dance retreat.

I’m also starting to offer authentic movement spaces in Auroville and Pondicherry, organically for women only for now, yet I’m planning mixed dance spaces later in the season.

For more info, keep an eye out on the website or get in touch via julie@maitreecoaching.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Restoring the Lotus

I’ve been much resonating with this passage from Anodea Judith on ‘Restoring the Lotus. Healing the Fifth Chakra’:

“If we express ourselves before our truth is fully ripened, then our actions are out of sync with our potential fullness. This is commonly experienced as ‘poor timing’.

Years ago, I habitually pushed myself in my work rather than waiting for my organic fullness to motivate me. When I rushed myself ahead of my own natural rhythm, I felt unprepared, stressed, anxious, and even a bit breathless. We push our timing out of sync because of financial pressure, emotional insecurity, fear, hunger for power, and the excessive rule of our mind as it orders our bodies with its barrage of “shoulds.”

Instead, when mind and body are balanced, we can dance to the rhythm of our own personal vibration as it resonates with the environment and the people around us.”

From her beautifully complete and masterful work on the psychology of the chakra system, ‘Eastern Body, Western Mind.’ Highly recommended!

The last full moon highlighted for me a blockage in my throat chakra and in the process of working with that I rediscovered Anodea’s work.

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I realised I was very much fighting to acknowledge and express two realisations brought up by my return to Auroville which coincided with this strong Aquarius full moon. I’ve noticed a funny pattern over the past half year – all my travels have been aligned to the full or new moon.

In Auroville I feel the presence of the moon stronger. Being in the forest the night sky is more visible, and the absence of city vibrations leaves more space to notice the moon’s impact.

This month’s full moon was in the sign of the future. Aquarius, the harbinger of things to come. A curveball moon, full of unexpected turns.

These turns were twofold for me – in love and work. And they shook me, making me feel quite wretched until I let go of attachment to what I thought was meant to be. As soon as I found back my flexibility, I could see new perspectives open up.

In Anodea’s words, as soon as I lost my rigidity of fear, paralysis of uncertainty, I could resonate at a new vibration, and create opportunities. Another approach to going at the pace of what is real.

I acknowledged two core inner truths about my love and work, and now feel fully aligned again.

In love, I renewed my vows to my life partner and committed even more deeply to a love and union of evolution.

In work, I moved on to work with those people whose values I share. Again, it comes down to the frequency – we resonate more fully when we work with people and organisations that we are aligned to. Then creativity can flourish.

Let’s see what the next full moon has in store!

At the pace of what is real

I’ve been travelling a lot over the past month – South of France, French Alps, London, Amsterdam, and now back in India…with a full heart, relieved to be home again, and grateful for all the soulful joyful reunions with friends and family in Europe. Also with a tired body, taking time to rest and get comfortable with the monsoon weather and crazy beloved India.

The need for rest has been appearing synchronistically in conversations with friends and coachees for the last few weeks. For example my GP and health coach cousin who works with women in their 30s that have developed a range of psychosomatic conditions, often because of a diary full of everything, but rest. A coachee saw her emotional eating habits transformed once she allowed herself proper rest. And my partner Shivi needs complete rest to recover from a viral fever – no phone, no movie, not even a book…

This – naturally! – comes at a time when I’m learning how to rest properly, for example deactivating after lunch and dinner, taking a break after every hour spent behind the computer, no phone 1hr after waking up and 1hr before sleeping…and the health effects are so clear. More peace of mind, clarity, ease, stability. Less stress, cravings and fewer outside events triggering annoyance or frustration.

Mark Nepo calls this state ‘At the pace of what is real’ in one of his poems in ‘The Book of Awakening‘. I love sharing it with my Joyful Living Retreat participants on Day 4 when we look at how to flow through life..

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In my search for rest, I’m facing a big saboteur – the one saying ‘you’re not working hard enough, you’re not productive enough, you don’t deserve rest, you’re not doing anything with your life.’ Or even ‘You’re already meditating and doing yoga every day, what more rest do you need?!’

Luckily my inner leader is telling me that I’m more productive when fully rested because the right things happen at the right moment, effortlessly. And that in rest and quiet we create the space to listen to our soul and where it’s guiding us. As Rumi puts it so beautifully:

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I’m curious to hear your thoughts and experiences with busy-ness, rest, going at the pace of what is real and listening to your soul. Respond to this post, email me or join us for the next Maitree Community – the Sangha of Joy’s monthly call where we’ll be exploring what INTUITION and GOING AT THE PACE OF WHAT IS REAL means to us..

The August Sangha calls are taking place on Sunday 14th August at 11am Central European Time/2.30pm Indian Standard Time and Thursday 18th August at 4.30pm Central European Time/8pm Indian Standard Time. Get in touch with me if you’re keen to join (julie@maitreecoaching.com)!

Dance Your Yoga!

(This article was first published by Sivana Spirit Blog)

13442384_10154036524167702_3904981438406740640_nImagine peeking into a barn in the middle of a forest in South India on a full moon night.

About a dozen women from across the world are silently swaying their hips to slow music, smiles playing on their lips.

Occasionally a giggle, a ripple of delight, a delicious yawn weaves itself into the music. Some women lead the dance, some are caressing their sisters’ bodies, tracing their movement.

They sit down in triads, one by one sharing their intimate gifts, wordlessly witnessed by the others until sil
ence descends when they massage the shared abundance back into the body.

The women gather by an open fire in the moonlight, one by one offering to the flames whatever quality they are willing to leave behind in their lives.

This is the spirituality of embodiment, honoring the feminine aspect of creation. Shakti.

Now imagine a silent meditation retreat at the rise of dawn in Himalayan mountains.

Meditators sit straight-backed and motionless, covered in blankets as the first sun rays pierce through the peaceful morning cold.

For hours on end, they aim to observe their bodies and minds without responding to impulses to adjust their position, always returning to their object of meditation.

They cultivate equanimity, the ability to move through life without attachment, maintaining at all times an attitude of loving-kindness, no matter what trigger or provocation they’re presented with.

In the same way, yogis will breathe through difficult asanas, learning to feel free from discomfort, trusting that all things will pass.

This is the spirituality of consciousness, honoring the masculine aspect of creation. Shiva.

Both Shiva and Shakti are essential for creation to unfold. Without consciousness, our bodies would be inert mass. Without mass, consciousness would have no means to manifest.

Yet shakti, or the feminine element of spirituality, is often overlooked as Ashtanga yoga and Vipasana meditation appeal most to the masculine, competitive spirit of our times.

Especially for women it can be harmful and ungrounding to focus only on raising consciousness, overlooking how our body is actually the birthing ground of life.

This is not to say that women should only dance and men should only meditate. Shiva and Shakti are present in all of creation in different measures, so it’s important to discover for yourself what is your mix.

Some men are excellent dancers and some women are profound meditators. Ideally, we’re both honoring our Shiva/Shakti nature.

What are the benefits of embracing the Shakti element of spirituality? For men and especially for women there are 5 key reasons to include free dance and other forms of embodiment in your practice.

Reason 1: Melting Ice Cubes

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Embodying life through movement and dance is a powerful antidote to the ice cubing that can happen when we become too attached to raising consciousness, to cultivating equanimity.

When a strong emotion overcomes us, a meditator may be tempted to shortcut their return to a peaceful state of non-attachment.

Instead of giving space to their emotions with loving kindness until they observe a gentle shift and the emotion becomes less powerful, they may be tempted to force their attention back to their breath, perhaps annoyed that they have let themselves be disturbed in their equanimity.

The subtle violence of repressing emotions is what Chameli Ardagh of Awakening Women’s Institute refers to as ice cubing.

We ice cube our strong feelings because we prefer to be in a state of bliss and positivity, ignoring the fact that these strong feelings find a home in our bodies to manifest later in life as much more complex forms of emotional and physical distress.

Instead of ice cubing through meditation or even yoga, free dance offers a powerful way of expressing, processing and integrating our full range of emotions.

Reason 2: Celebrating our Shadow Side

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On the dance floor we can shake off our attachment to positivity.

We move through anger, anxiety, fear, sadness as well as ecstasy, joy, even sometimes bliss when we a feel at one with the universe. Fully embodying our emotions, every move, becomes a simple intuitive expression of what is present in the moment.

Towards the end of our dance, we experience a deep sense of release and lightness. We’re full of energy, eager to celebrate life.

Embodiment & Life Coaching
In my life coaching practice, this release of energy is what I am looking for when working with clients to process their emotions.

In what is sometimes called ‘process coaching’, I create a safe space for clients to go into the experience of a deep emotion that they may have put the lid on in fear of it taking over.

I help them to breathe into and embody their emotions and simply be present to what is there.

We go deeper and deeper into the experience, and every time the client starts talking about the feeling, I gently bring them back from their mind to their body.

Then suddenly there will be a point when there is a release and the client bounces up full of energy. This happens typically at the moment when the fear around being present to a strong emotion has subsided.

There is now space for relief of having experienced the emotion without life falling apart.

Now the emotion can be integrated instead of being stuck in the body – the probability of emotional blockages and illness manifesting later on, is greatly reduced.

Dancing does exactly that. It is like a washing machine for conscious and subconscious emotions. It offers a safe space for coming clean with the ebb and flow of life.

Reason 3: Being in Flow

IMG_0327Sometimes when dancing in a trance-like state, we can get close to perceiving the Shakti beat of creation and pure life force pulsing through our every move and feel fully alive.

Taking our practice from the dance floor into everyday life, we get more in tune with our experience of life. It gets easier to express simply what we feel and then flow with whatever life’s response turns out to be.

I remember the moment when after a good few years of spiritual practice, I asked myself, ‘What are you experiencing in your body?’ when a particularly strong wave of emotion hit me.

Instead of following my default strategy of trying to understand my feelings, I closed my eyes to be present to the currents of desire, separation, and exclusion stirring in my stomach.

I slowly moved to these currents, expressing them simply as they were.

A strong impulse came up to go out of the house which I followed even though I had nowhere particular to go. Relying on my intuition to guide me, I ran into the person to whom I needed to express those feelings. Simple as that.

In fact, dance helps to keep our body and mind fluid, welcoming change.

Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and learn, benefits from the movement because the brain associates it with learning, as animals typically move out into new territory looking for food or being chased by a predator.

So by moving and dancing regularly, we avoid getting stuck in repetitive patterns and instead approach life with a fresh outlook.

Reason 4: Honouring our Roots

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Dance is often a key part of indigenous people’s daily rituals and more elaborate ceremonies such as rites of passage.

We have mostly lost these practices in modern life, yet they offer great opportunities for transforming consciousness, the aim of many spiritual seekers.
Embodied ceremonies which often include dance and movement can bring us into liminal space, a transitional state we experience when we leave behind what is familiar and known to us and move towards the unknown.

We start to undergo transformation, and our psyches are open and malleable. The limits we’ve created for ourselves soften.

Especially when our dance becomes a trance, we charter new territory, and our consciousness shifts gear from separation into oneness. In ecstasy, our movements become an expression of Shakti’s power of expression; we become nature’s heartbeat.

Women and men’s circles were also a regular feature of life in many indigenous cultures.

In this American Indian tribe, women have a close group of friends with whom they regularly go away, even when they have families. Sisterhood often revolved around the menstrual cycle which synchronizes when women live in the close community.

Red tent groups and women’s circles are becoming increasingly popular around the world, filling in the void of a true female space in our lives.

Honoring both unity and diversity, it is liberating to share in equality with women of all ages and backgrounds.

The Awakening Women’s Institute has created some powerful guidelines for women’s circles, highlighting our commitment not to fall back into that competitive, back-biting and gossiping streak that can sometimes mar female get-togethers.

Reason 5: True Female Leadership

The more women experience the enchanting joy of real sisterhood and support, the more they may start to lead from that place.

Instead of beating men at their game, we learn to rediscover our own.

Instead of being rivals for a man’s favor, and in spite of the strong objectification of women’s bodies to sell anything from socks to perfume, we swing our hips to the beat of our intuitive power.

And when we step out of our women’s circle, what we bring to the world is true listening without judgment, empathy and a deep sense of connection. We reclaim an enchanted universe where we are in touch with the depths of our souls and our sisters’ souls.

We reclaim wonder and meaning in the face of a mechanistic soulless society bereft of meaning and purpose.

We dance consciousness into this world, and it is about time.

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This article was published by Sivana Spirit Blog. The first and second images are by Bibbie Friman. The fifth by Christian Schloe and the sixth by Caroline Manière.

Ikigai or the reason you wake up in the morning

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IKIGAI

iki (生き) / Life
kai (甲斐) / The realisation of what one expects and hopes for

As a life and executive coach I’m intrigued and inspired by this Japanese idea that is said to contribute to the many healthy centenarians living on the islands of Okinawa in Southern Japan, where the word originates.

Having ikigai means that you feel fulfilled and have a reason to get up in the morning. Even if it’s a dark morning, you’ll feel purposeful and balanced. Like this 100+ karate teacher.

Karate Master Uehara Seikichi - A 26-yr old student spars 96-yr old Karate Master Uehara Seikichi

Ikigai is a key component of a long and healthy life in addition to a plant-based diet, daily exercise and a strong sense of community. Okinawa’s population counts 50 centenarians per 100,000, compared to 5-10 in the US. They are healthy, independent and happy.

In fact, people do not retire in Okinawa. Instead, they belief that one should make life worth living no matter how old you are. You help others and continue to express your ikigai.

“Our ikigai evolves and transforms with us, just as much as the knowledge and identification of our ikigai transforms us.” Goju Karate

Everyone has an ikigai. So how do you find yours?

According to the Japanese, finding your ikigai requires a profound search of self, a natural and spontaneous process of self awareness.

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The diagram shows how ikigai combines four key elements in life:

  • Passion
  • Mission
  • Profession
  • Vocation

Those four key elements in turn consist of the overlaps between:

  • That which you love
  • That which the world needs
  • That which you can be paid for
  • That which you are good at

Together these make up your ikigai, which evolves and transforms over time. All ikigai are equally important and powerful because by definition they are the reason of living for someone.

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It is vital to our health and wellbeing that we find our ikigai. Yet it can be a challenging process to identify, refine your awareness, and clearly communicate your ikigai to yourself and others.

Life coaching can help with just this. I’m offering ikigai sessions in which we explore your life purpose through guided visualisation and creative conversation.

Email me at julie@maitreecoaching.com if you’re interested in discovering your ikigai!

Heart Space: the magic of synchronicity

“Is it always like this or are we special?” asked one of the participants of the my latest retreat in Crete. I replied: “Both. It is always like this and it is always magical.” In the months leading up to the retreat I was observing the group coming together – some signed up months in advance, others cancelled last minute. Coincidence? Or is it a complex cosmic law that our limited understanding is (yet) unable to grasp?

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It has been two weeks since the end of the Joyful Living retreat in the remote village of Sfakia in the South of Crete. I’m still in awe of the perfect synchronicity – perhaps the best term for that complex cosmic law – that brought this group together. So are the participants who are already booking their flights for the reunion in October. One of them, a theatre producer from Zurich, writes: “I’m astonished at how open and warm we were in the group and this very quickly.” “It was a real joy to see how the group evolved into a small family in just the space of a few days!” shares Mouna, an interpreter from Paris.

The swift intimacy created after sometimes only a couple of hours is a marvel to most people attending my workshops and retreats. In my experience, connection and transformation happen when synchronicity enters the scene. Then meaningful coincidences start occurring, such as people find themselves working on a similar life purpose, or bringing an identical inspiring object to the workshop. Or I will intuitively share an experience which is deeply meaningful to one or more participants.

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To trust in synchronicity is one of the cornerstones of being a transformational facilitator and coach. My coaching school CTI calls this skill ‘dancing in the moment.’ To surrender control initially feels counterintuitive because as a faclitator you are ‘doing nothing’ but following the flow of a session. Slowly you build trust that whatever is unfolding, is exactly what participants need in that very moment. When I feel I am working hard, I now know something is wrong!

In fact the only thing to ‘do’ as a facilitator is to role model how to interact with an open heart, a sensitive spirit, a curious mind and a flexible body. Thus you give the group permission to enter into a safe space. They respond by sharing the full spectrum of their humanity. It is as if in this ‘heart space’ we can uncover the strength of our vulnerability. We recognise each other’s stories of feeling intensely alive or of sabotaging our wildest dreams. By “taking the lid off ourselves” (‘The Heart of the Buddha‘ by Chogyam Trungpa, p6) we give each other permission to relax, be present, connect with our inner self and leave our unique footprint.

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Occassionally I come across a group where the heart space is unstable. This usually indicates that one or more participants has become sceptical and closed their hearts. The crucial thing to do as a facilitator is to stay curious and avoid closing our heart in retaliation. Fear can easily make us defensive or judgemental. Yet when we stay open hearted we invite a participant to express their doubt and neutralise the impact. Mostly this is enough for the air to clear and for synchronicty to work its magic once again. I remain in awe.

Watch this space for my next piece on how flow and synchronicity are related to gut feeling.

Unwind

What will be your summer holiday reading?

I’m looking forward to relaxing soon at this beautiful spot below in YogaOnCrete. It’s so important to properly unwind and allow yourself time to recover.

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It’s actually in relaxation that we find most alertness so we can face any situation in life skillfully and with awareness.

The fifth and last theme of the Joyful Living Crete Retreat (21st-26th June, http://www.yogaoncrete.gr/en/joyful-living-retreat) is ‘Unwind – how to close your day and prepare for sleep’.

Closing your day is as important as starting it. Some people list the things they’re grateful for. I always make sure to check out the night sky — watching the moon and stars connects me to the bigger picture of life.

At least 30 minutes before going to sleep, set your devices on airplane mode. Keep your bed for sleeping and only go there once you’re ready to sleep. Set your alarm for the 7-9 hours of sleep you need plus a little extra to account for falling asleep. The more regular your sleeping, the easier your body will unwind and rejuvenate.

My body’s natural rhythm is to sleep early and wake up with the birds when a fresh new day is about to start!