Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

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This morning, I am gazing at the skin on the inside of my left forearm and shoulder that are embellished with beautiful designs placed there lovingly by a new friend named Jennie Walsh. Jennie is a skilled artist using the substance called henna. The canvas is the human.  It is composed of plant matter that when left on the skin, turns orange and lasts for a few weeks. On this night, the ritual was part of a circle of women friends who assembled beneath a parachute that was dyed a vibrant rose quartz. A Red Tent Gathering , hosted by my friends Karen DeHaven and Rebekkah Grasso Barnes is a place where we are free to share our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and challenges in safety and ease. It is based on the book by that name written by Anita Diament and they occur all over the world. I am blessed to live all of 10 minutes away from Karen’s studio where it is held. The women who attend are of all ages; some still actively menstruating and others, like me, in menopause. We learn much from each other’s journey.

Before entering the house, we acknowledged the four directions, burned sage with which to be smudged and shared a blessing to begin the evening. We then honored our female lineage, introducing ourselves in this way, “I am Edie, daughter of Selma, grand-daughter of Rebecca and Henrietta, great grand-daughter of Molly and Goldie, mother of Adam.”

We were invited to breathe and receive as Jennie did her handiwork. She told us that when placed on the forearm, the focus was about receiving and on the outside about protection.  I selected an om for the inside and a lotus for the outside. The first is a visual representation of the sound of the universe when chanted as o0o0o0o0o0o0ommmm.  The second is a flower that grows in mud.  I have come to understand the idea of “no mud, no lotus” as taught by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The concept is that in order to thrive, the plant needs the messy, mucky stuff around it. Often, I have eschewed that belief, wanting everything in my life to be neat and orderly, predictable and controllable, despite not making it look that way. I am learning that people and relationships can be unwieldly and unpredictable. Pain and pleasure all rolled into one divinely messy life. Wanting to know how the story ends. Desiring  to hold the pen and script it all. It’s not always mine to do, especially when it comes to the roles of other characters in my life story.

One piece of growing edge work I am doing for myself is around determining and navigating boundaries with loved ones. Where they end and I begin. How much to ask for and expect. How much to surrender to what is, instead of what if? How much to let go and surrender. How much to let be.

Jennie shared that one of the reasons she has been attracted to henna is its impermanence. She told us that she didn’t know what her life would be like in five years so had she gotten a needle infused tattoo, she might not want it then. It carries with it a life lesson. We often want things to remain the same, for fear of change. What if nothing changed?  What if the seasons didn’t vary? What if we didn’t grow?  What if the people in our lives didn’t? Boredom would ensue. Can I be courageous enough to trust that relationships will flow as they do, like the water that combines with the soil that makes the mud that grows the lotus?
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