All posts tagged growth

Altared Perceptions: Summer 2012- Cultivation

Published December 26, 2012 by Susan Woodward

Better late than never!!

What a great theme for our summer spiritual assignment!  The creative team worked July through September building a progressive decor as part of our cultivation.  The idea was to create a growing passion-flower, beginning small and climbing up the wall throughout the summer.  It also included the plant bearing fruit.

What a wonderful idea!  I love the choice of the passion flower for the summer assignment… what are we cultivating?  How can we not only make something grow, but how can we grow ourselves?

This was a great challenge for me.  Although I didn’t write about it, I did work on my challenge throughout the summer.

summer Altar 3

Summer Altar 1



My choice for growth came through the Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California, sponsored by the Pacifica Institute and the Joesph Campbell Foundation, as well as serving on the planning committee for the Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference held in New Paltz, New York.  My work with mythology is not only limited to what I do with students in the classroom, but in my personal journey.

In Santa Barbara, I had the opportunity to share the myth-centered work I do with my students.  My hope for the presentation was to bring ideas to other educators to use in their own classes, particularly the creative writing project that we do.  Since that time in September, this has grown into an online blog featuring pictures of my students’ work, and the possibility of working with the Joseph Campbell Foundation on a 9-12 curriculum that features mythology while meeting the Common Core Standards and the PARCC framework.   Myth is such a strong part of who we are and how we relate to one another.

summer altar 6

As the church decor “grew”, so did my hopes for expanding upon what I consider to be very important work.  As the fruit began to appear, I started to see some of my dreams regarding both the Symposium and the Conference begin to come to fruition.

The Celebrating the Mythic Life Conference in New Paltz brought me growth of a more personal nature.  Partaking in ritual, listening to fabulous speakers, and actually immersing myself in mythology helped me to learn more about the archetypes that reside within me.  After having withdrawn from the world for some time, it was a way for me to begin to ease myself back from the cave.   It is still taking my some time to figure out what it is I really want for myself at this point in my life, but I do know that the work of Joseph Campbell will play a huge role in whatever it is that I will do!

The final stages of the decor, with its upward-stretching branches, reminded me to continue nurturing the work that I have been doing.   As I watched the vines grow, so did my spirit and my resolve to keep myth alive.

summer altar 7




summer altar 5



A Garden of Memories: Freedom to Live

Published October 16, 2011 by Susan Woodward

Close your eyes and relax.  Now take three deep breaths: one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit.  Take one last very deep breath and hold it.  Just when you think you cannot hold the breath any longer, pull in just a bit more air.  Again, when you feel as if you cannot continue holding the breath, pull in just a little more.  When you finally do release your breath, do so very slowly in a long continuous exhale until you have released all that you were holding.  Breathe slowly and deeply as you continue to relax.  Relax all the muscles of your body: your legs, your arms, your shoulders, and your jaw.  Completely relax.

Imagine that you are sinking down into the furniture, and in turn sinking through the floor.  Allow yourself to continue sinking down and down, all the while feeling completely relaxed.  You pass deep down into the earth and suddenly find yourself in a cavern, nestled comfortably in the bottom of a shallow boat.  There are soft blankets around you, keeping you safe, warm, and relaxed.  The boat is caught by the current of a narrow river, and you find yourself floating along, emerging from the darkness of the cave, and fully surrounded by a protective white light.  The river flows through a lush green forest, and the sky above is a deep blue.  You are able to lie back, looking up at the trees as the boat continues to float through the forest.  As you float along, the tree branches overhead become more intertwined, and the boat enters what seems to be a tunnel through the trees.  Even though the sun is now only filtering through the trees, you still feel relaxed and centered as the boat continues on its course.  The sound of birdsong lulls you into a deeper state of relaxation, and you watch the gentle breeze rippling the leaves above you.

After a while, the boat gently comes to a stop at a sandy bank.  You are now deep in the forest, and the birdsong has begun to dissipate.  The only sound at the moment is the gentle rustling of the breeze.

Sit up and look around.  You have returned to the place where you first found the mirror and saw the face of your inner heroic archetype.  How does it feel to be back here?  Step out of the boat.  There is sand mixed with the soft grass on the bank, and it is pleasurable to stand there in your bare feet.  Explore the small glade in which you find yourself.  One thing you are particularly pleased to see is a very large, very old tree.  The last time you were here, the tree had been destroyed, but here it is, fully restored.   Look around.  Everything is in bloom, and the leaves and grasses are greener than you ever remember them.  How do you feel being here?

In particular, several plants or flowers catch your eye.  Many of those that stand out for you are those that you’d noted while on your journey.  What are they?  What significance might these particular plants hold for you?  Instead of merely writing down which plants you see today, gather a couple of each to take with you.  Near the tree you find a small trowel and some potting containers.  Carefully dig up each plant or flower, being mindful of the roots.  Place each one into its own container and add a bit of earth to protect the delicate roots.  Each of these will be replanted into your own little garden just outside the door of your special place as a reminder of your journey.  What will each plant or flower remind you of?  How does that demonstrate some particular significance from your journey?

Once you have potted all the plants and flowers that you intend to take with you, gently place them in the stern of the boat.  It begins to look like a floating garden, and the mixture of colors and scents is pleasing.  Put the trowel back next to the tree for the next time you visit.  While you are doing that, a slight breeze carries the sound of your name.  Smiling, you recognize the voice as that of your inner heroic archetype.  Stand up with your arms extended fully, and allow the breeze to blow over you.  Your name sounds like music in the air, allowing you to feel as if this is your personal spot in the forest that no one else can experience in the same way.  The zephyr is like an embrace.  How does that make you feel?  What thoughts do you have about being in this place?  You know now that you can return here any time you wish, for it has claimed a part of you.  Any time you wish to contemplate life’s journey, or work out a problem, or simply just to be still, you can get into your boat and come back.

Looking around one last time, turn and head for the boat.  It looks beautiful with all the flowers and plants in it.  Just as you begin to walk towards your boat, a glint of light off to the right of your peripheral vision catches your attention.  It is coming from the hole in the tree.  Again, you hear your name on the breeze.  Go to the tree to see what it is.  Reaching in, you find that something has been left for you.  When you pull it out, you discover that your special mirror has been restored.  Look into it.  Your inner archetype is smiling back at you.  He/she is thanking you for honoring him/her with your journey.  What else does he/she say to you?  What words of wisdom are you left with?  How do you feel as you look into his/her eyes once more?

As you continue to look at the reflection, the image begins to swirl and morph into the reflection that you know best.  The changes that took place on the journey have become a permanent part of you and are evident in your appearance.  Gaze at the image that you present to the world.  How does this make you feel?

The completion of this journey has left you with many possibilities for the future.  Where is it you wish to go next?  What are your plans for future excursions?  What do you intend to do with what you’ve learned from this journey just ended?  How can you encourage others to follow their own paths?  These are questions that will stay with you as you move on to the next stage of your life.  How do you feel about that?

Take the mirror with you as you enter the boat.  Anytime you wish to remember that part of yourself, you need turn no further than your own reflection.  Climb into your boat once more, and pull the warm blankets around you.  Take a long look at your garden that you intend to transplant near the door of your special place.  Its beauty makes you smile before lying down for the ride back.  Snuggle comfortably beneath the blankets and settle yourself.

This time the boat begins to float in the opposite direction, taking you back from whence you came.  Gaze up at the trees, watching the ripples of the breeze fluttering through the leaves.  Soon you hear the birdsong once more.  Emerging from the tunnel of trees into a place where the sky is clearly visible, you notice that it has become night, and the stars are twinkling brightly overhead.  While you are looking up, a shooting star streaks across the sky.  Make a wish.  What is it you wish for?  Keep looking toward the sky until it disappears from view as the boat slips into the cave once more.  Imagine how you plan to arrange your garden with your beautiful, fragrant treasures.  Take in a deep breath and drink in their fragrance once more as you begin to feel yourself rising from the soft blankets in the boat.  You know that you can go to your special room any time you wish as well.  Your journal and your book of symbolism will always be available for you to return to whenever you want to read through them.  You will be able to take your books to sit with them next to your blooming garden and remember the lessons of your journey.

As you continue to rise, you become more and more aware of your surroundings, and soon you are able to sense the furniture beneath you.  This is the room from which you began this journey not so very long ago.  As you become more and more aware of the room around you, you remember the face in the mirror, your beautiful flowers, and your special places in your imagination.  These images will stay with you as you awaken from your rest.

Taking three deep breaths, one for body, one for mind, and one for spirit, you open your eyes to find yourself in a familiar place.


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