The Sacred Balance Workshop
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One of our greatest accomplishments at Yggdrasil so far has been a group effort to put together two extraordinary workshops. I call them extraordinary, because according to the feedback we have gotten, they are changing lives. In particular, the workshop we call Returning the Inner Masculine and Feminine to Sacred Balance offers individuals the opportunity to address how they have gotten out of balance because of their participation in a Wounded Masculine culture.
People bring all kinds of issues to this workshop – which we did for the first time last year. One woman was struggling to revive her own career ambitions, several years after a messy divorce resulted in the loss of her cherished home and the business she helped build. A man just about to have a heart operation felt a need to acknowledge his feelings and open himself to some deeper emotional truths. Another man, whose work in the world had become routine and automatic felt draw to pay more attention to the quality of everything he did. A young woman who was too intent lately on finding her path through life, rediscovered her playful side and realized that for her, Sacred Balance was a matter of having more fun. Although the concept of Sacred Balance provides a common context for our work together, the infinite variety of ways that we have of living in wounded imbalance makes the work endlessly interesting.
This is not by any means to say that workshop is about trying to figure anything out. Quite the contrary – Returning the Inner Masculine and Feminine to Sacred Balance is an experiential workshop to include ceremony, shamanic journeying, authentic movement, and solo time in nature, as well as deep sharing in same sex and mixed gender groups. The variety of experiences allows people with different learning styles and different sensibilities to have insights by different means – not all of them rational or cognitive.
One of the most cherished exercises in past workshops for most people has been the drawing of Inner Child Cards – “illuminating the mystical meaning of fairy tales and the hero’s journey of the soul,” but also often pointing in rather disarming ways to the very place where Sacred Balance is most needed. Our wounding often occurs in childhood, and many of these deceptively simple tales speak directly to these wounds. At our workshops, we generally draw one card to represent our archetypal Masculine and one to represent our archetypal Feminine.
Last year, one woman drew the Big Bad Wolf (from the Little Red Riding Hood story) to represent her inner Masculine. Meditating on this card prompted her to wonder:
"Does the Big Bad Wolf really deserve to be ostracized from my life? Doesn't he stand for the instinctive and wild one, the protector and marker of boundaries I've failed to bring out when I most needed to defend what I loved? Those who are meek and mild can only flee like deer when the wolf comes around."
This woman had recently fled from a disastrous relationship in which her partner played the part of the Big Bad Wolf. This card was suggesting that Sacred Balance for her might be a matter of reclaiming her own Big Bad Wolf – the part of her that was capable of daring to thrust herself into a dangerous world with bold audacity and stand her ground in that world.
Six months after this workshop, this woman finally found a job – after six years of fruitless searching – at a retreat center halfway around the world in the Himalayan foothills. This world is radically different from the one she left behind – more uncertain, fraught with unfamiliar dangers, wild in a way that the Big Bad Wolf would appreciate – but this woman has found the courage and the Sacred Balance within herself to say “yes” to the grand adventure. And her life is quite different now because of that. Moreover, she is making a contribution to the world that stems directly from the healing she was able to do in reclaiming the more daring (archetypal Masculine) side of her nature. You can read a more complete account of her experience at the workshop here.
Sometimes, change happens regardless of our resistance to it. One man, facing a heart operation, felt the very idea of considering a distinction between Masculine and Feminine to be beyond his conceptual capacity. Yet throughout the workshop, he found himself opening up to what he later identified as his Feminine side. He didn’t realize this until he got home and found himself engaged in a heart-to-heart conversation with his boss at work (a construction job) about personal issues – a conversation he did not think he would have had were it not for the workshop.
He recognized that he missed a great deal in life because he was not open to receiving – believing instead as men are sometimes prone to do that he had to do it all by himself.
As he became more accepting of himself throughout the weekend, he began to realize that it was the imperfections in people that made them special and endeared them to him, not the more obvious virtues that the archetypal Masculine side of his nature would previously have led him to celebrate.
Curiously, this man found a valuable source of self-acceptance in a mask-making exercise that got tabled simply because the group energy was moving elsewhere. While others spent the evening in more informal conversation, he went off by himself and created a simple mask that allowed him to see in a very tangible way that both his Masculine and Feminine sides were necessary to his wholeness.
At the end of the workshop, this man became the catalyst for a very moving closing circle. Though we had intended to allow maybe an hour for the six of us to share the highlights of our weekend, we spent three emotional hours in deep appreciation of each other. This man with the heart in need of repair led the way in modeling just how deeply our bonds of affection for each other could run.
In response to our evaluation form, his favorite part of the workshop was “the bonding that took place from the exercises and sharing and the safe crucible created for deep heartfelt sharing and healing!” Although I had known this man – a personal friend – for years to be a caring individual, I also experienced a newfound vulnerability within him as he opened to his Feminine side that made his caring more balanced and authentic.
What happens at any workshop is, of course, dependant on the depth of desire and the readiness of each individual to embrace the opportunity for growth that it presents. But as this man stated in summary, “a participant could heal parts of their lives simply by attending and participating. Just being there is beneficial. Carpe Diem.”
Sacred Balance occurs when we whole heartedly embrace each opportunity for healing as a step on the path toward self-actualization of a more authentic and more balanced self.
This is the last post in this series.
To read more blog posts, go here.