Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ceremony as a Way of Life

I am recalling our unique goddess-blessing ceremony Sunday evening: imagine us in a retreat setting. Imagine we had prepared by exploring the grounds of this imaginary retreat center and found things in nature to ornament ourselves and each other with. What if we had rolled-up antique paper scrolls to write our goddess’s advice on, before making our proclamations? What if the mother and daughter pair being anointed were sitting on a throne as we anointed them? What if the retreat was staffed by mothers and daughters who had been there before, who knew how to hold space during ceremony, who provided us with examples of full presence? And imagine that, after our lovely rose water blessing, our chef had dinner ready, then after dinner in this scenario which, as long as we are using our imaginations, we can place in Northern California, we mothers got into a hot tub and the girls hopped into a pool, and we soaked up the warmth of the water and the remaining sun. Sigh.

That is my dream and my vision: taking Sunday night’s mini-ceremony to a higher level of pomp and circumstance, making it desirable for daughters everywhere (yet maybe even a bit too edgy for the average mom). A weekend retreat like the one I envision will add a sense of ritual, a coming of age ceremony, a pageantry, that secular America lacks. What if all girls’ spirits were honored? What if girls were told and shown how their unique spirit comes from their goddess lineage? Look out into the world: we see adolescents making up their own “coming of age” activities…not involving their moms. Let’s preempt that with something spectacular. When girls believe they are more than what our culture teaches, when girls are tuned into their inner voice, when their mother-daughter connection is experienced as sacred...it will change the way girls interact with each other and the world.

I’m writing a manual to go with my book, so that any mom who wants to can create a MoonBeams mother-daughter circle to unplug and honor each other’s humanness and inner goddess. Hold the vision for me! See all girls everywhere honored simply for being who they are! See a world in which girls can grow into their adolescence consciously, and moms can, just as consciously, honor their daughters’ impending independence. A mere 90 minutes a month in a MoonBeams circle can pave the way for enlightened mother-daughter relationships! And at the end of each MoonBeams year, mothers and daughters would come together en masse for a weekend of seeing and honoring each other in unforgettable ways.

Our daughters are our MIRRORS and our LENSES!


For more information on setting up your own MoonBeams mother-daughter experience, please contact me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The First MoonBeams Mother-Daughter Group

HOW TO START A MOONBEAMS GROUP

CIRCLE UP for Community Support: Book Clip from Chapter 7

My vision was to lead a ritual and celebration when Lily started her monthly cycle.  But when she was about nine, I began to realize that I couldn’t just spring it on her; she and her friends needed to be eased into this celebration with a monthly group, a group of mothers and daughters who would enjoy coming together and creating sacred space and being--simply being--together.  That idea tapped me on the shoulder, but I wasn’t convinced it was time to begin, and in fact I wasn’t even sure just what it was we’d be doing, since my intention was to just be!  Of course I wanted to have a clear idea of what it looked like before inviting people to a monthly circle.  I put that idea on my back burner, and the shoulder-tapping became downright pressure. More than once, I wondered, “What if another mother had this idea and invited me to her group?” but I knew I wanted to be the one to do the inviting and plan the evening.  It was welling up in me. Overriding my uncertainties, I sent out an email to my list of yoga students and friends, inviting mothers with ten-year-old daughters to join me in a circle to honor our daughters.  I had cast the net, and ten mothers immediately responded, so I set a date and opened up to whatever the curriculum was going to be.  I trusted it would emerge, just like the curriculum for my yoga workshops always had.

Lily was slightly uncomfortable with this prospect--the prospect of her mom potentially looking foolish in front of all her friends and their moms.  I agreed: how horrifying if Lily were to be embarrassed by my antics—though I am one of the most composed, low-key, unembarrassing people I know.  Nevertheless that was Lily’s number one fear, and I had sympathy. So we made a deal:  I committed to run the mother-daughter evenings by her in advance, and she would have the right to reject anything that seemed dumb, embarrassing, or not fun.

For our first evening, we packed roses, a cloth for our altar, water and cups, cd’s (!), tissues.  Lily helped me set up the room. Her friends giddily showed up, sat beside their moms, and looked at me expectantly.  I felt their trust. Taking in the gazes of the daughters, I felt alive with a heightened sense of adventure, tuned in and open to whatever might happen.  

First we played what eventually we called the blindfold game, which wasn’t a game at all—more than just an icebreaker, a chance for girls to tune into each other with their hands, as an extension of their hearts, and then we talked about it.  Moms were supportive and offered comments that helped the girls open up to share. I assured the moms that girls’ inevitable giggles were ok with me. We placed meaningful items on our “sacred space,” or altar, as symbols for each of us, individuals creating beauty when arranged together in a sacred space.

The following two evenings, over the next two months, went equally and fulfillingly well.  On the fourth evening, I began to run the agenda past Lily.  “Mom?” she interrupted, “Can you not tell me what we’re going to do?  I want to be surprised, like the other girls.”  Here was my green light; I had won over my daughter.  She trusted that this wouldn’t be a group about me embarrassing her.  Each month we went a bit deeper, from honoring our daughters externally with rose petals to allowing a special word, describing a quality that they wished to embody, to be revealed to them—from their own hearts.  The girls learned that they deserved to be honored—in fact they loved it, they soaked it up!  And they learned how to grow, how to create themselves, consciously, from the inside, out.

A couple days before each circle, that circle would be revealed to me.  The lack of effort was amazing and humbling…I felt that I was “doing” practically nothing; the level of reward for simply opening up to these ideas was disconcerting…but I got used to it.  There were plenty of wonderful ideas in the world for rituals and exercises that the girls and mothers could do, that would allow them to see each other, and honor what they saw.

Four months after we began, we decided that everyone who was going to join had joined.  So we formally, and symbolically, closed the circle by taking a ball of yarn, passing it around, wrapping our own wrist three times and handing it to the person on our left until we were all tied together in a circle.  Then we each cut the strings that bound us together and declared that symbolically, we were still connected, then passed the scissors to our left. We tied each other’s loose ends, and were each left with a yarn bracelet to remind us of our connection to ourselves and to our supportive group.  It was beautiful and deeply felt.  I was doing what I most wanted to do.  I was manifesting my dream:  our mother-daughter circle was real, and had a life of its own.

MOONBEAMS

MoonBeams groups create new and fertile terrain and provide an opportunity to check in on a deep level.  They give each girl a chance to practice being seen by her mom and her friends at the same time, which challenges her to be true to herself. They give us a chance to practice noticing if we feel judged, as mothers, and to let that go. If you are motivated, rally your friends from high school and college, the soccer moms, your facebook friends, and ask for a commitment.  Our original group has lasted six years and is still intact. Ask your daughter whom she’d most want to invite, and whom she’d least like to invite, and see if some of the girls she is not friends with have mothers who are open to the possibility of creating one magical evening a month that will transcend cliques and old rifts.

The most difficult aspect of starting a group is agreeing on a time to meet.  Our first group met one Wednesday evening a month for three years, then one Tuesday evening a month for a year.  When the girls reached high school, we switched to Friday nights, when there was less homework pressure and the girls could stay up later. But Friday night brought new conflicts: dances and dates.  Although everyone was fully committed to our MoonBeams group, sometimes there was a conflict that took precedence.  An occasional play rehearsal, a religious holiday, a school performance…but we stayed flexible. We were fully committed to showing up and being, once a month, and we are still thrilled when we can make it happen.

Reserving a couple hours once a month, in a supportive group, to tap in on a deep level is a great vaccination against depression, alienation, and acting out.  It is also a good vaccination against eating disorders and self-medication, against losing ourselves in someone else, against tuning out who we truly are.  Hearing and honoring the inner voice: THAT for girls is what defines an individual—not piercings or eyeliner or a boy’s attention.  When we insist on not hearing our inner voice, it sometimes needs to roar to get our attention—a monthly check-in helps prevent that roar.  Let’s allow that voice to exist as it is meant to be, as the “still, small voice,” rather than it having to morph into something much less pleasant, like anger or pain.

Although it is easier to schedule on the same evening every month, it is an unusual and exciting option to schedule monthly around the moon—I prefer the new moon, because that’s when the farmers sow seeds, as opposed to the full moon, when we are “out there,” and less internal; the full moon is when farmers harvest.   

So make a monthly appointment with your daughter and her friends to do…nothing.  Together. To get absolutely nothing done.  Together. To let your spirits play.  Together. That’s what today’s girls are calling out for—they want to be with their moms, unplugged.


When we create a place where our daughters can be seen and celebrated for the voice of their heart, that is the place from which they will conduct their lives.  When they are able to hear and follow their inner voice, they will live in happiness, health, and harmony. When we take time out to honor them, they will learn to surround themselves with others who honor them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

MoonBeams Book Clip from Chapter Six: Beliefs about Food

BELIEFS ABOUT FOOD, AND THEIR EVOLUTION

My mother is a really great cook!  She uses fresh ingredients and makes things from scratch. Rarely did she open a can or a box during my childhood.

Her parents would kill a chicken, when it was time to eat chicken.  And that was just…normal to her, because she grew up with it.  When I was little and she’d describe it, I couldn’t even imagine eating a chicken that had previously been running around my yard.  As a child I was relieved my parents didn’t do that wringing of the neck thing my mom had so nostalgically described.

In my own childhood chicken memories my mom sliced her own chickens, bought whole from the butcher. I remember too well, the sound of the chicken’s back breaking—apparently a necessary step in the slicing of a chicken.  Frankly it was a tad horrifying but…I sure did enjoy my mom’s chicken stew, her chicken soup.  She never made anything that was not delicious and that back-cracking sound was not an impediment to my enjoyment.

As an adult, when I saw already-cut-up chickens at the grocery store, it made so much sense to take one further ancestral step away from chicken preparation. I made it well into adulthood never having cracked even one chicken’s back.

Later I stopped buying chicken altogether, for a yoga-teacher reason:  I just didn’t feel great about having a dead chicken in the house. Therefore, my daughter had never seen one, though she had eaten chicken soup regularly in restaurants and with friends.  When she was five, Lily asked me how to make chicken soup.  I told her:  first you put a chicken in a pot, cover it mostly up with water, add and onion, carrots, and celery, some spices, and simmer it.

“What do you mean, a chicken?” she asked.

“I mean, a chicken,” I replied.  
“A real chicken? Is it a dead chicken?” she asked.  I nodded. She was fairly shocked. I found it slightly amusing, but also a reality-check, when she asked, “Where do you get a dead chicken?”

She was surprised to learn that you get them at the grocery store, and asked to see them.  She was and still is a tad horrified.  Eventually she re-integrated it, because her mother told her it was ok, that people do kill animals and eat them.

Is it ok?—there are various points of view.  I was willing to say it’s ok. And she was willing to believe me. If I had told her it was wrong and horrifying, she’d have believed that.  That’s how kids get their beliefs. She would in turn validate my belief that it was wrong and horrifying, by believing me.  If I told her people who kill chickens are wrong, she’d believe that.  Yet my parents grew up with parents who killed chickens for meals.  My mother didn’t even consider it a belief; it just was. In this enlightened age I get to choose what beliefs I pass on, about bodies and food—about everything.  And my daughter gets to choose which ones to embrace. Beliefs can change and evolve. This can be disconcerting to parents.


After years of enjoying chicken soup, one day out of the blue, as a teenager, Lily decided she was no longer a meat-eater. It just didn’t feel right to her anymore. Though this made my role as cook a bit harder, I was happy to find protein alternatives to support her decision. It’s up to Lily what she wants to teach—and feed--her daughter.