one spirit

Last night, I sat in an expanded circle of women. Twenty of us came together from the two 4-16-13 partial circlecore spring groups of Women Writing for (a) Change – Vermont to share what we have been writing for the past several months about, around and through the paradoxes of our lives. Another thirty-five or more women gathered in growing circles to receive and complete the evening’s exchange. Seated in the gracious and accessible gallery of the South End Arts and Business Association we were embraced with the inviting warmth of Carol Norton’s current exhibit – appropriately enough titled “Winds of Change.” By candle- and gentle track-light, we gave voice to the soft and hard edges of life, the arid and the flowing, the hidden and discovered. We heard it all.

hemock saplingOn my morning walk I noticed a squat stump, shards really of its former self, low-slung in the dank of early spring. Rising proud from its ragged edges, a hemlock sapling barely a foot tall  braved its determined way toward the light flickering far overhead.

What the trees know is what we come to learn through our own rooting in the rubble and stretching toward the sun. We heard it last night in major and minor variations of rage, desperation, longing; in the keys of adapted, broken open, released. We have heard it over and over in the wake of the unimagined attacks on innocent hard work and joyful celebration that are the hallmark of Boston’s annual marathon. Light trumps darkness. Regeneration emerges from destruction. We begin anew each day. Some with hurdles we might never have imagined; all with the same spirit, the same desire for life.


Boston (Photo credit: Bahman Farzad)

reminder or promise?

soul card from deck 2, Deborah Koff-Chapin

courtesy Deborah Koff-Chapin

Age becomes her, its many stages
circling like a softly worn robe
love, hunger, wisdom
coloring its many folds as she
passes the fire blossom
to she-who-is-still-becoming
emerging from darkness
seal-sleek and strong
to receive with care-filled arms
the lesson from her crone –
innocence and experience
at the threshold of knowing
a lifetime’s presence.


seeing the world as we are

labyrinthWhen I say ‘we see the world not as it is but as we are,’ I’m offering a timeless leadership lesson consistent with groundbreaking work in the biology of cognition. We all tend to think of ourselves as objective observers, but none of us is. If I want to see things change ‘out there,’ first I need to see change ‘in here.’ PRESENCE: HUMAN PURPOSE AND THE FIELD OF THE FUTURE, Peter Senge, et. al.

Something I’ve learned, many times, as a trying-to-become-conscious leader is that, when we stop paying attention, stop opening space for processing relationship, groups entrusted to our guidance can flip into ‘negative mother’ projection. Their language starts filling with expressions of resistance to ‘control’; they rebel as if something unpleasant were being imposed upon them. In the absence of conscious structure and the ‘good enough’ mother, things fall apart. Enter the Shadow, defined by Marion Woodman as ‘unacknowledged resentment, competition, bids for power, jealousy.’

If we are to be leaders who do no harm, it then becomes critical to ‘do our own internal work’ so as to avoid projecting our shadow onto others. Over the 21+ years of Women Writing for (a) Change’s life as an actively evolving community of becoming-conscious women, we have all been faced with challenges to our leadership at one time or another. Continue reading

heart suspended


Touch drawing image

courtesy Deborah Koff-Chapin

I peer into the depths to see myself
slowly waken, pulse slowed by cold
as my hands hold my heart suspended

for the moments of winter to pass into warmth
and light, to bring me fully out of the womb-cave of darkness, reflecting

back to me the lessons learned
from winter visions that long to merge
with the light springing into life


bounded and blooming

About a year ago,I rooted a small hibiscus twig harvested during routine trimming of my Mini hibiscus in bloomlong-time tree. Later I potted it, curious to see if hibiscus would grow in miniature. I did not follow bonsai protocol. Just let it push against the edges of its small container. And today it bloomed. A perfect blossom! On a mini-tree barely 8 inches tall.

It strikes me, at this mid-point in my core writing classes at Women Writing for (a) Change – Vermont, that there is something similar going on with the women in the circle. As Parker Palmer writes in The Courage to Teach, learning space must be both bounded (reminding us that our journey has a destination) and open (there are many ways to reach that end). This is one of his six paradoxes to induce creative tension, which sets the stage for greater awareness and effective learning.

At this mid-point in the semester, one of two things tends to happen. Women appreciate the safety created by a carefully crafted container held with attentive intention to its integrity, are settling into it, finding their rhythm and resulting process; OR they quit, complaining of constraint to their creativity.

The reality is: by carefully defining and holding boundaries, we know exactly what to expect. Which frees us to explore, to take risks, to dive deep and know that we will surface still in the safe and structured container we have woven together. Those who resist this structure as stifling tend to be ones who would benefit from an authentic dive into self.

On the WWfaC-VT facebook page, I have posted some of the incredible writings ‘my women’ shared this past week as part of our routine mid-semester reflection. Like the hibiscus blooming in its tight pot, their spirits have taken root and their words are abloom with creativity and growth.