I invited my two colleagues in the Art in Healing Program from Health South Rehabilitation Hospital to my home for a mini-retreat. We settled into my artspace and I led them through a Red Thread Ceremony of connection where we listened to Shiloh’s Poem, Medicine Woman, from “Tea with the Midnight Muse,” and each shared one of our gifts.
We talked about the Medicine Woman tradition among Native Americans and its connection to the healing work we do together. I invited them to explore their gifts by engaging a guided meditation where they would discover their medicine basket and its contents. After the meditation, I asked them to list and write something about the gift or symbol they received. We shared our gifts with one another.
Then I demonstrated and invited them to paint their baskets on watercolor paper. We turned our gifts into affirmation statements and decoupaged them to the basket. We followed this by adding an overarching affirmation of all our gifts as active in our lives. We talked about how difficult it sometimes is to remember our giftedness. We agreed the painting helps to see and remember.
Finally we painted a symbol of our giftedness on the painting and added embellishment and glitter. We broke for lunch and conversation. Finally, we closed our time together by sitting with our paintings and reading our gifts around the circle and affirmed that all the gifts are ours to use at all times.
We agreed that this was a wonderful, affirming day! Later one colleague said of her experience, ” I enjoyed this class immensely. Donna guided us in a process to explore our own unique Medicine Basket by identifying and honoring our special gifts. By engaging my creativity through painting and writing I was able to bring my gifts to life, even some I didn’t realize I had, then affirm and own them in a way that truly enlightened me. I am thankful for this as it enables me to share them with others.”
On May 18th I held my first Soulful Story Cards Red Thread Thread Circle event at Expressive Arts Florida in Sarasota. Three women attended. We introduced ourselves and I stated our theme for the evening to explore the negative stories that run our lives and to transform them by discovering positive stories to take their place and create a 16 card set of affirmation cards to remind us of the new way of living our lives as we move forward to living the life we were mean to live. I read a poem from Shiloh Sophia’s book, “Tea with the Midnight Muse,” and we passed the Red Thread around,each person naming a story that keeps them from moving ahead in some way. We laughed as we discovered common stories! Then, for the second round, as we cut the thread we shared a dream of the life we wanted to live that the story kept us from living.
We moved into the workspace. Each person has a 22×30 sheet of 140 lb. pressed watercolor paper, paint, brushes, 3×5 cards and black Sharpies. We proceed to identify our negative stories, decorate our W.C. paper, transform our stories into their positives, and make our cards.
Near the end of the session, we displayed our cards on the altar table, walked around the table silently witnessing our cards, then took turns reading the cards aloud. I said a few closing words of affirmation and we ended for the evening.
One person said,”We has a very enlightening evening with Donna as our guide, releasing and transforming old stories. I had many that no longer served me transformed inro positive affirmations for the future. My beautiful cards will continue to be a reminder of how my gifts will carry me forward in a positive and healthy way!”
My Second Red Thread Circle
Last night I presented at Expressive Arts Florida’s monthly networking event. I offered to teach a short session on drawing the 20 line face. I decided to open the session with a Red Thread Circle. We had 22 women present. After introductions were made and we shared upcoming events and recent accomplishments, it was my time to present.
I opened by reading one of Shiloh’s poems from “Tea with the Midnight Muse” then introduced the Red Thread Circle as a ritual of connection, connecting us as people who want to draw a face, as artist’s, Expressive artists and women. I told a couple stories of the Red Thread and that as we passed it around the circle we would respond to an inquiry. Since we were there to draw faces the inquiry was, “What have you faced today?” This was met with deep sighs. Since this was to be a brief version of the RT Circle I asked them to limit their responses to a word or short phrase. As the thread was passed each woman shared and even though it was only a word or phrase, it was profound. We were bonded in new ways by hearing each other’s pain, concern, and worry that we carried with us into the circle. We breathed into that in silence. Then I moved to cutting the thread. I said that each of is only responsible for our part of this thread, but when needed we can tug on the thread for strength and support from others. They affirmed this as we cut the threads in silence.
Then we moved into the 20 line face demo. After talking about Shiloh and IC and my training, I had them follow along with me and make full and 3/4 profile 20 line faces. We held them up and laughed and admired each person’s faces. Then I added some simple, playful color explaining how we would use acrylics in a 13 step class. We had oil pastels available for everyone to color. the room got quiet and they got intense. I hadnt planned on it, but since we had time, I invited them to listen to their face to see if she had a name and anything to share about herself and to write it down. It got very quiet. Then I invited anyone who wished to show their face drawing, give her name, and share her message. They were beautiful and profound.
I have done this kind of work for a very long time yet I was amazed by the depth of experience we had in this simple experience.
I led my first Red Thread Circle today with 19 women as part of our church’s Women’s Fellowship annual Day of Reflection. The theme was “Walking in Hope,” based on a resource by Jan Richardson. I set up an altar (see Photo below) that had a circle of friends candle, a liturgical stole linking Advent and Lent (the material was for a retreat to be held in Advent! So I had some theological ground to cover!), a ball of red thread and scissors and a Communion set. I connected us as women of faith and women of hope.And talked about the red thread stories connecting us as women across time and space. I had two inquiries: 1. What gives you hope? as we passed the red thread and. 2. What do you
hope for? When we cut the thread. As we ended I reminded them that even though we as women tend to want to take care of everything we are only responsible for our part of the thread. We need to only work toward those things we hope for, not the hopes of everyone. We then moved into a poem about hope and the rest of our day. The women loved the ritual and commented that they had never heard about the Red Thread before but loved it.
The altar for our retreat
Red Threads unite us