Thursday, December 03, 2015

About the Retreat

After months of planning, envisioning, imagining and collaborating, we held our inaugural Nurture Retreat. On the shores of Lake Simcoe, in a 130 year old house on spiritual grounds, 11 of us (plus a ghost or two) spent two nights and 3 days focused on creativity and self care.   

Loretto Maryholme is a special place. As soon as you drive on the property you feel a sense of deep peace. Time slows down and breathing becomes deeper, fuller and more free. The air is clear. The sounds are soft. The lake invites.  

Friday afternoon, our guests trickled in while we finished pressing pashminas, clipping thorns from roses, preparing self care kits and unloading restorative yoga supplies. The grounds were explored and some took advantage of the best weather of the weekend and took a dip in the lake. 

Showing guests to their rooms is a treat at Loretto Maryholme. Each room is decorated with soft colours, each bed has a different quilt, and rooms have access to a sun filled washroom with a clawfoot tub. The bath salts Tahlia included in the self care kit were perfect to use while letting go of any unwanted burdens we brought with us. I witnessed those burdens lifting out of people over the three days - the magic of being creative in community.

Friday supper was a hearty homemade vegetarian chilli served with fresh corn bread in cast iron skillets. We clinked glasses of red wine as we shared across the table with our new kindred friends. Dessert was pavlova with berries - the most deliciously sweet dessert balanced with tart fruit. 

After we allowed our supper to settle, we nestled into our restorative yoga nests created by Tahlia. Feeling full and sleepy, the poses really felt deeply meditative and relaxing. The smells of sage and sweetgrass floated in the air. The sounds of Krishna Das and sacred chanting mantras eased our thoughts. 

After a solid sleep, Saturday morning rolled in grey and cool. The day started with meditation and breakfast prep. We were drawn to the kitchen by the smells of scones baking and beeswax candlelight. We gathered to drink coffee and tea and rave over the selection of scones. The delicate fresh whipped cream mixed with homemade peach and red current preserves was a natural match made in taste bud heaven.

Jess set up her floral workshop while everyone had a bit of down time. When we met again, foraging baskets in hand, we set out into the grounds and looked for botanical gems. Some of us were drawn to the decay and others to the last bits of summer life in their glory. The dampness in the earth told a story of impending fall yet the gardens bursting with colour and life let us know summer's flame had not yet burned out. 

We gathered in a time of transition. 

After collecting our bounty and settling in to the workshop space, we recieved instruction and pearls of wisdom. 

Let the arranging be a meditation. 

Let the flowers speak. 

Let the imperfection be the beauty. 

And the arrangements! Oh my. The diversity in the shapes, fullness, colour and spark. Everyone showed their inner selves through their creations. And the pride I saw in each person to see the beauty they created and the joy it brought. 

And the hunger it builds in us...

Lunch was set buffet style in the kitchen. A fantastic spread of buns, grilled veggies, olives, pickles, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, tortilla chips, savoury garlic and onion jam and crackers.

We feasted. Again. We circled. We connected. 

Down time was essential and we parted ways while I set up my art journaling workshop table. The table where we circled for all of our gatherings. Full of good energy and a place of comfort and expression. Our home base. 

Vintage linens, sheets of floral wallpaper used as workspace placemats, stamps, paints, magazines, plates of odds and ends, words of empowerment, homemade paper packs, art journals to upcycle and women circling again to hear about how we can tell our stories visually. 

There is no such thing as making a perfect art journal. 

The music swayed and we cut and pasted. Hours passed. Art journals were created. Some with titles. All with the creative fever of needing to express. 

A home base for feelings and visions to manifest. 

Moving along was only necessary so we could, again, nurture our bodies with the energy of homemade food. This time, we all learned how to make pasta from scratch.

BUT FIRST...a dip in the lake. Because I promised everyone, including myself, I would jump in the lake and I could not break the promise. Tahlia and I ran to the dock and I was certain I wouldn't be brave enough to actually jump. The grass was wet with rain, the sun was setting and it was a chilly end of summer evening. When we arrived at the dock, I saw the most beautiful sight. To the left, a double rainbow. 

To the right, the most glorious pink and purple sunset. 

  The water was warm and we jumped in. We shouted for the others to join and thankfully everyone came down to the dock to see the stunning view. Sonja and Jess joined us in the water and it felt as though we got to celebrate together in the best way - with some amateur synchronized swimming and handstands. 

Now back to the pasta... 

Once I was dry and warm, folding the fresh raw egg into the flour with my bare hands felt like a kindergarten play table. Taking the time, moving with intention (after Sonja reminded me to "be gentle" with my pasta) and forming the product with my hands made me feel much more connected to the meal ahead.

After letting the dough meditate under a blanket of damp paper towel, we cut it into slices and ran it through the pasta maker. Again, back at the kindergarten play table, I used a fancy machine to shape the dough - just like I used to do as a kid with play dough. We worked as a team, each stationed on one task. It was a brilliant production line, I must say. 

And, the sauce. Oh my. Sonja has a recipe for the tastiest tomato sauce I have ever eaten. It cooks for a long time with a half an onion in it. A must try.  

Seasonal peach crumble for dessert. Pre-yoga, if you can imagine. 

Restorative yoga turned into laughing aka giggling yoga. We needed to let some energy out and it felt pretty darn good. The red wine might have contributed. But again, the sleepy restorative yoga led by ever patient Tahlia was relaxing to the point that some of us even fell asleep.

Sunday morning began with a bit of extra sleep followed by a new moon meditation. Breakfast of shakshuka (eggs cooked on top of a tomato and red pepper sauce) wafted in the air and we happily yet reluctantly sat down for our last meal together.

The final workshop led by Tahlia was a herbal delight. We made a bath salt blend and a sugar scrub. Mixing the ingredients with our hands and melting the coconut oil with our body heat was relaxing and fun. The smells of dried wild roses, coconut oil and cane sugar will live in my scent memory forever. The process of creating the sugar scrub and washing our hands afterwards turned into spa level hand treatments. We were soft, exfoliated and smelling great.

To complete the jars, we created hand stamped labels. We named our blends, knowing we were taking them home with us. We wanted to remind ourselves of the things we had learned over the weekend.

With the programming coming to a close, we had one last sacred activity to close our circle. We walked the Labyrinth in silence. This is the one thing I'll keep mostly to myself. It was a profound spiritual experience. I was thankful to walk it with the group of 11 and to end with our own individual internal reflection. It was a beautiful send off. 

As we cleaned up, packed up and closed up, it was hard to say goodbye. It felt like we were there a week, but I also could have used one week more. 

Thank you to my Nurture crew - Sonja, Tahlia and Jess. 

Thank you to Alyssa and Evonne, our trusting photographers.

And a extra special thank you to our participants. I learned something from each one of you I will hold on to. Thank you for trusting us. 


The Spring Nurture Retreat is open for registration.


*All photos by Alyssa Wodabek and Evonne Bellefleur*     

Sunday, September 06, 2015

In The Fabric Of My Being

It's fascinating to look back on old blog posts and art journals and see my own words declaring my hope to become an art therapist one day. 

I knew I wanted this, but I forgot just how much. 

I'm pretty sure it is in my bones and in the fabric of my being.

I had so many hesitations - the money, the time, the fear of the unknown, the not feeling ready to dive back into school while working full time plus a part time side job (or two, or three, if you count canning preserves to sell locally with Tahlia and Nurture: A Retreat, which is one week away.) 

One thing I've noticed in the patterns of my life is that I settle into one of two speeds: slow and steady or full tilt. I studied my masters in 2008/2009. Since it was a full time program, adding it to my full time job was a bit ambitious. Luckily my work is only a couple blocks from school and my boss was accommodating. I kept telling myself, it's only one year. You can do anything for only one year. Not only did I do it - classes, three placement days per week and a major research paper - I also met the love of my life. I find the full tilt pace offers an energy of abundance. 

My major research paper for my MSW was about art and healing. I knew it was my place. Three years later when I was researching Art Therapy schools, I came across the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute (VATI) and it gave me chills. Could I have studied locally? Absolutely. But, I somehow knew I needed to go to Vancouver. I applied, knowing the cost was a barrier. I asked the universe to please make the money fall from the sky. When it didn't, I was devastated. As a person of my word, it felt so weird to turn around and say, I'm not going to art therapy school. I turned away from blogging, went inward and let go of the dream. I figured it wasn't meant to be and might not ever be. Even after deferring my spot one year, I still could not manage the finances. 

Three years after my initial application, the school contacted me asking if I might want to join for the 2015 cohort. I couldn't believe they were still willing to give me a shot. I knew I had to go. I just had to. I'm pretty sure in this situation, it was a matter of how badly do you want this and are you willing to ask for help. Even up until the last day, the day I told myself I would send the down payment, the day of the Aries new moon, I didn't have the money. The bank said no, my mom was hesitant and stressed. I didn't have anyone else to ask but my dad. I didn't want to ask him (he has the biggest heart and will give me anything he can, so I am careful about what I ask for) but I didn't know what else to do. As soon as I talked to him, he went into problem solving mode. Within hours, he called me back to say both my parents would lend me money I needed to go to school. It all came together at the final moment. My mom also kindly gave me some of her air miles to buy my ticket to Vancouver. 

Even walking up to the VATI door on Granville Island in July, I still felt like it wasn't real. I was living in a dream the entire three weeks. I was there to meet my classmates and teachers and learn the studio portion of my schooling, along with ethics and family/group art therapy. 

I made it to the ocean, saw the mountains, painted in the studio with my 8 classmates, met a diverse group of art therapists and kind of met myself again. 

I realized how much this work in ingrained in my being. It feels natural and important and special and yet I am in awe of it. It took a long time to get here, but I'm here and I'm strangely glad it all happened the way it did. The longing, the waiting, the asking, the conquering. It all made this process so much more meaningful. 

As I enter into September, classes will commence, work gears up, placement hours will accumulate and art will be made. I've never felt so sure about something. It's taken 15 years, 3 university degrees, and a whole lot of asking and answering questions for me to get to where I am right now as a student studying art therapy. 

I don't ever want to forget how amazing this is and how lucky I am.

Thank you, Vancouver.
Thank you, mom and dad. 
Thank you, art therapy.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Dreamy Trip West

Falling in love with BC...

I'd say it's impossible not to. 

I'm living in a dream. From the moment I received the email asking if I wanted to join, to actually saying yes on the Aries new moon, to flying over Canada in tears.

Here in this beautiful place, learning my heart's work with people who are sensitive and passionate. 

Art therapy opens the door to a whole new chapter of my life. 

The pull was always there, but the fear slowed my pace. 

Make space for the pull. 

Imagine the impossible. 

Ask for help.


One week left to soak it all up. 

The rain is falling outside my window. I'm two tea cups deep. My beach plans might be thwarted. 

I'm ridiculously grateful.  

These trees are considered small.

Overlooking English Bay
Walking to Sally Ann and enjoying the scenery.

Community garden over the rail tracks.

Vanier Park overlooking English Bay
Trees and trees and more trees.

At the top of the Rose Garden UBC.

The Rose Garden at UBC.
Jericho Beach during the folk festival.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Art Therapy School

The experiences meant for us come back around. They pull to us like magnets and the Universe makes it relatively easy for us to say yes. To begin. To go with the flow.

There are so many experiences I've tried to force. I decided the time was right and assumed I was in charge. The more I pushed, the more I felt at odds with everything. Instead of feeling in the flow of things, I felt I was putting a lot of energy trying to move an unmovable object.

I'm learning every day to trust more. To let go more. To accept what is.

VATI 2015. Art Therapy school is happening. 

It's real and it's happening.

On the Aries new moon I said yes.

My silk cocoon is unraveling.

Can you feel it?

Yours might be, too.




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Live In The Changing Light Of A Room

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"The most valuable thing we can do for

the psyche, occasionally,

is to let it



*live in the changing light of a room,*

not try to be

or do anything whatever."

~May Sarton

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