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have you set your goals for july?

july-goals-collage

It’s that time again – time to create your monthly vision board and goals.

This ritual has become a valued moment of self-reflection for me each month, and the collages, which I create directly in my planner, become touchstones for how I want to feel throughout the month. I check in with the image almost every day, and it helps me to stay focused on my most important goals, and to keep my mood positive and my actions aligned with my greater vision for my life. If you’d like to learn more about my process and how to make a goals collage yourself, read this post. If you’d like to see my monthly goals collages over the years, go here.

So welcome to July! How do you want to feel this month? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to learn?

As always, I am seeking balance. Life is a challenging dance. As we move and stretch we must find equilibrium in new ways, and strengthen new muscles. I recently returned to my Kundalini yoga practice  after nearly six months away. This practice is a place for me to face and overcome my fears, and also a place for me to find deep connection and joy. I am so grateful for it! Practicing again has reminded me of the importance of having regular meditation, study, and mindfulness practice. Why do I always forget this?? As I drifted off to sleep last night on the final night of June, I promised myself I would renew my commitment to mindfulness in July. Is there a commitment to self-care that you need to renew this month?

So balance is one of my themes for the month. Pleasure is the other. Summers on the island are so short – this year I want to remember to surrender to the sunshine and warm ocean more often, to allow myself to relax and enjoy without the constant internal pressure to do more, with which I seem to be afflicted. So, more afternoons on the beach. More walks in the forest, more paddling in the kayak. What pleasures can you give yourself this month?

Please feel free to share your month’s intentions in the comments! I always love to hear from you.

Wishing you a happy and blessed July!

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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a gift for you

9-keys-poster

Happy Monday! I have a little treat for you. It’s a free printable poster with my Nine Keys to an Artful Life, which I hand-lettered on a sweet pink watercolour background. I hope you enjoy it!

This freebie is a gift for anyone who subscribes to my monthly newsletter, Artful Living. Go here to sign up and download your poster!

{If you’re already a subscriber, you’ll be getting a link to download the poster soon, so check your in-box!} nine-keys-poster 1

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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new moon in cancer – outpourings

new moon in cancer

{Each month, nature in her wisdom and beauty offers us an opportunity, a clean slate, a shining outward and visible sign of the grace we are always given to move beyond our own shadow and start again. In the night sky, the dark Moon begins to clear the Earth’s shadow and reveals a tiny sliver of the freshest silver. The New Moon.}

This Friday’s New Moon in Cancer asks us “where is your flow blocked?” Look around. Do you see evidence of creative, romantic, or emotional blockage anywhere in your life? Any problems with flow, literally, emotionally, or symbolically? For me, the pressure switch on my well pump just gave out, which stopped the flow of water into the house. So no water. Because something’s wrong with the thingy that controls the flow from the deep well. Yeah. That gives me something to ponder. Where is your world speaking to you in the language of symbols?

We’re deep in the waters of the sacred feminine here, and if we use these energies wisely, there’s powerful potential for emotional renewal.

So respect your feelings, go with the flow, and take some time for stream-of-consciousness self-reflection. Take a swim, visit the spa, or soak in a sea salt bath. Nurture yourself deeply, and cry if you need to. Cocoon yourself at home. Enjoy intimate pleasures and surrender to love. Allow your emotions to flow freely.

If you’re up to taking action in the world, now is a great time to envision, promote, and invite. Is there a project that is dear to your heart and tied to your feelings? Now is the time to send it out into the world, like an offering cast upon the waters. And speaking of that, what a great time this moon would be for a ritual water offering!

Relax, breathe, and float through this moon’s energy.

New Moon Blessings and Love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

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Leslie G - Bronwyn, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for letting your full life spill over into the outer world. Thank you to Katarina for opening the door for me into this place of wisdom and joy. Peace and light to the women of the world.

Bronwyn - Thank you so much Leslie, it’s wonderful to see you here! xo

gathering around the flame, part two – how to start a women’s circle

 

we traveled thousands of miles to meet at the centre of the spiral

Yesterday I wrote about the power of women gathering together. Maybe you’ve decided you want more of this energy in your life, and you haven’t found the right gathering in your own community. Today I want to offer you some strategies for creating your own women’s circle. In this post, I suggest a series of steps to take you from your dream/vision to a successful real-life women’s circle.

Self-assessment

As with any new venture, the first step is to take an honest look at yourself and the skills and abilities you’ll bring. Are you a natural leader or a skilled organizer? If you are, fantastic, but if you’re not, you can still do this! Now is the time to think about what your primary offerings to the group will be, and what you’ll need help with. The best, healthiest groups come together as kindred spirits, bringing their authentic selves. Whether or not you choose to be the ‘leader,’ you will be the founder of the group, and in some sense its center. Your role is important, and your energy sets the tone for the group. Authenticity is more important than anything else for you to succeed in this role. Of course you’ll want to borrow ideas from events and circles you’ve participated in and loved, and from leaders who have inspired you. But remember that your personal power flows from authenticity and sovereignty. So don’t imitate. Love yourself enough to be comfortable shining your own light. This light will be what draws people to the circle, and what allows them to shine as well. A false light helps no-one.

Commitment

Be clear with yourself about how much time and energy you can give to the circle. Will things be highly structured or more casual? Will you meet weekly, monthly, quarterly? How will you delegate responsibility? Do you have a like-minded friend you might wish to partner with to share the load? I don’t know about you, but I can get carried away with an exciting new idea and over-commit. If you know you have this tendency, then focus on aiming low at first! You can always increase your commitment as time goes by. It’s often wise to start small and grow.

Choosing a focus

The most powerful circles come together around shared activities, challenges, passions, or goals. The possibilities here really are endless. The best circles I have led have grown directly out of my passions of the moment, from dance to dream analysis, from dining to direct action. (Yes, I have formed women’s circles around all of those things, and so many more!) The more specific you can be in your focus, the more likely you will be to engage a group of truly like-minded women, and the easier it will be to organize. If you don’t already have a theme in mind, brainstorm and  A – Z  list in your journal, naming the activities you love. This is a great exercise and will open your mind to new possibilities… astrology, bellydancing, crafting, dining (a supper club), environmental action, financial planning, gardening, hiking, investing,  jogging, knitting… 

Coming together around an activity is just one way to approach creating a circle. You might want to come together around shared life challenges to offer mutual support and share resources. Certain life-challenges are isolating, and creating a circle for women in your community going through these challenges could be a real gift. Are you a survivor of cancer or depression?  A military spouse or  a parent to a newborn or to a child with challenges? Are you recently divorced or widowed, are you going through menopause, are you completely new to your community? You could call together a circle around your biggest life-challenge. Bear in mind, though, if you choose this, you are taking on a big (but worthwhile!) responsibility, one with which you might want some professional help, at least to begin.

Planning

You’ve decided on your commitment and chosen a focus, now it’s time to figure out your first meeting.  Do you need to rent or reserve a space? Do you want to invite an expert to attend to get things rolling, or hire an instructor or facilitator? Will you need any materials, equipment or supplies, food or decor? Do you want to let each circle unfold somewhat organically, with the focus being more social, or will each circle be structured around a theme, lesson, ritual, activity, reading, or speaker? How much leadership will you offer, will you share leadership with a partner, will leadership rotate, or will you work as a collective? How will the timing unfold?

Getting the word out

This might be as simple as sending a text or email to a small circle of friends, or as bold as having postcards and fliers printed to distribute in your community. I’d encourage you to invite both friends and strangers; challenge yourself to expand your circle. Spread the word in groups you are already a part of, both on-line and in-person. Be courageous and invite women in your community who you admire but may not know well. Let them know why their presence would be an asset to the group. Ask friends if they know other women who might be interested. When I organized my very first women’s circle, I was 21 years old. I created an ornate hand-lettered poster, had a few copies printed at Kinkos (yes, this was back in the mists of time, before personal computers) and posted them at my favourite cafe, women’s bookstore, and student union. I still have vivid memories of the group that gathered in my living room, to talk about using the Tarot as a tool for dream analysis (how’s that for a specific topic?) We met weekly for nearly a year, and though all the women were strangers to each other at the beginning, many enduring friendships were born from those meetings.

around this altar women are gathering on Summer Solstice to dance and sing

Creating sacred space

The thing that will most affect the success and positivity of your circle is an intangible – the energy. As facilitator and organizer, there is a great deal you can do to assure that things go smoothly and feel good for everyone.

Some of this is practical: set guidelines for participation such as confidentiality, respectful and positive communication, taking responsibility for one’s own emotions, etc. This doesn’t need to be a  big heavy thing – just  a brief mention at the beginning “to foster safety and respect, we all agree to etc etc…”

Some of this is less tangible but equally important, and has to do with how you handle your own energy and the energy of the space. Whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual person, you can make practical use of techniques like grounding and blessing. Before you open your circle, spend some time with yourself and your space, just making sure everything feels calm and positive. This is akin to taking some time to spray on perfume, light the candles, and put on soft music before guests arrive for a dinner party. It’s about creating an atmosphere and an attitude. Take good care of yourself the day of the circle, so you are calm, well-fed, well-rested, and beautifully adorned when you meet your circle. Take some time for deep breathing and grounding in yourself – feel your feet planted firmly on the ground, feel your own presence seated calmly in your heart and brow centers. Give yourself the task of doing all you can to make others feel comfortable in your calm presence – make this your focus, rather than focusing on worries about how others see you. As for your space, focus on filling it with your own calm, positive energy. Incense, candles, music, and flowers can all help with this. If live flames or fragrances are out of the question, you can create atmosphere with lighting and pretty objects – I recently attended a workshop where faerie lights and a few paper lanterns were strewn artfully along the floor – this simple lighting fix went a long way towards creating magic space from a big gymnasium!

Whether you are going to spend your time knitting, running, discussing a book, tasting wine, or planning your investments, an opening ritual will set the tone for what follows. Sit or stand in a circle. If you like, you can pass a feather, rock, or flower (or corkscrew or ball of yarn) from hand to hand as each person speaks. Keep it brief – you might invite participants to share one thing they bring to the circle and one thing they wish to receive. Or three words about how they are feeling. Or three things they love about themselves. Or one hope and one fear about the upcoming activity. Or you can tailor the introduction to the theme of your circle. The strategy is to keep it brief: “one sentence” “two words”, and keep it specific! This keeps things focused, and makes people feel more comfortable about sharing. At the end of your circle, it helps to knit up the energy if you come back together as a group for another brief sharing “one thing you learned,” “your favourite moment” “three words about how you feel right now.”

Relax about the outcome

Well, if you have worked your way through all of these steps, you are ready to host your first women’s circle. The only thing left to do is to relax about the outcome. Allow for serendipity and organic unfolding. Allow joy.

If you like, you can share your ideas for your circle here in the comments.

Lots of love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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gathering around the flame, part one – why women’s circles matter

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.04.54 AM

in the darkness, women are gathered, ready to offer their dreams to be blessed by the fire {photo by Heather Plett}

One of the most beautiful things about midlife is the rich layering of memories created by the repeating themes of our lives. Where precious moments used to be bright and singular, they are now deeply stratified, resonant, thick with meaning, as the rhythms and patterns of life build and repeat in complexity and richness.

Last Saturday was my 50th Summer Solstice; I danced and sang my way through it in the company of women. Dancing hand in hand in a circle of women is a joyful place, a place I have spent many vivid and precious moments of my life. The sunny maritime meadows of my childhood, the beaches north of Malibu at midnight. Cavernous theatres under hot stage lights, around and over a bonfire deep in the Wisconsin forest. And many, many times in the same modest community hall gymnasium where I danced yesterday. My life’s work, and my life’s path, draw me again and again into the embrace of a circle of women.

Now, just to be clear, when I talk about women’s circles, I’m not just talking about the kind that happen frequently here on the West Coast, involving fires and altars and magic and dancing and fantastic gluten-free vegan feasts. Sure, I love that kind of women’s circle. I feel right at home in that milieu. But you don’t have to live on an island and wear flowers in your hair to appreciate the power of women gathered together.  It might be a book club or a professional organization, a fitness bootcamp, a religious organization, an art journaling or crafting group, or simply a weekly girl’s night out. When women come together for a common purpose, we generate a special kind of energy. But how, and why is it so special?

women

hands come together to receive warmth and nurture each other’s dreams {photo by Joanna Colbert}

The first reason is very simple – in women-only settings, we have a chance to speak fully and be heard. Many studies have shown that in our society, in mixed gender settings, men tend to dominate the conversation. You can look at one fascinating paper on the topic here, But I’m sure you don’t need to read studies to know about this phenomenon. You’ve been to dinner parties, you’ve been in meetings and classrooms. Even in the most benign situations, there’s a different effort involved in taking up space and being heard in a mixed group. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with men. I’m an assertive conversationalist, and I don’t feel oppressed. But I do notice a difference when I am in a circle of women. I feel more spaciousness when I speak. I feel the attentiveness of others as they listen. I feel I can take my time. Often, I feel much more deeply heard than I do in a mixed group.

And feeling deeply heard leads to a feeling of intimacy. The power of this intimacy continues to amaze me, even after 30 years of hanging out in circles of women. Time and again I have seen a room full of strangers come together for a few days or even just a few hours, and end their time together as a circle of intimately connected friends. Heck, I have even seen this happen in on-line circles! I think we crave this intimacy with those who share our life-experiences. When we are together with other women, and we look around the circle and see our selves and experiences mirrored back to us from many different faces, that mirroring affirms us, it moves us, it opens us.  That is the power of simple, deep attention. We spend so much of our lives attending to others that the experience of being attended to can crack us right open. We need it. And we are so capable of providing it for each other, it seems to happen with such ease.

A chance to express fully and freely, then the experience of being deeply heard and attended to can come together to create the magic of transformation. That is why women’s circles are not only pleasurable social experiences, but can also be crucibles for positive change. I know this word is over-used, but they can be empowering. We can walk back into our everyday lives with greater confidence in our own expression, a slightly stronger sense of self, the delicious feeling that we have helped and given to others, and often with new tools and inspiration for managing our lives.

So how can you invite more of this magic into your own life? Would you consider bringing together your own women’s circle? In Part Two of this article,  I invite you to do just that, and offer you a whole basket of ideas for creating your own women’s circle. Read it here.

Love,

About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.

 

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Rose Marsolais - Already have the pleasure of your influences on Facebook. Would prefer direct to my email.
Thanks Rose

Bronwyn - Thank you Rose! You can get the blog by email, just scroll down the sidebar to where it says “rss subscribe” and pop in your email.