Didgeridoo Dreaming for Women Retreat

Photo Credit: Tari Perdue

Last spring when I bid on a week in a house at Sea Ranch at the annual Chances for Change fundraiser for the Women’s Daytime Drop in Center (womensdropin.org), a center for homeless women and kids, I did not know that we would use this winning bid to hold the first annual Didgeridoo Dreaming for Women workshop. It couldn’t have worked out more beautifully! And we raised money for another non-profit organization in Australia called the Puuya (life force) Foundation, which assists Aboriginal Australians.

There were six of us altogether, led by myself and assisted by Pamela Clarke. We thought this would be a great chance to teach circular breathing intensively and to do ritual and sound healing and learn something about Aboriginal philosophy.

Photo Credit: Tari Perdue

What I hadn’t anticipated was the degree to which trying to learn circular breathing can bring up anxieties which must be worked through in order to begin to breathe from the diaphragm. We spent much of our time working on ways to let go of the blockages, through ritual and sound healing and much help from the trees, animals, plants, ocean and each other.

Photo Credit: Tari Perdue

How much does our society in general suffer from so many people breathing in shallow ways and how much power could we free up by breathing from the diaphragm? I have found that such breathing is an exercise in faith, letting go into a feeling of being held by larger forces and allowing them to breathe me.

Photo Credit: Tari Perdue

Perhaps we will have more of these workshops in the future. It was certainly rewarding for me to see people transforming before my eyes as we vibrated the blocks away and worked to create a safe place to let go.

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Four Seasons Arts

On Saturday night, I went to see a lovely concert of Euro-classical music at Holy Names University put on by Four Seasons Arts. The duo of pianists was called Tengstrand-Sun Piano Duo and they are a husband and wife team–he hails from Sweden and she from China. They were amazingly in sync playing Brahms, Rites of Spring by Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 “Midsummer Vigil” by Hugo Alfven.

Every concert I have attended put on  by this organization has been wonderful. One of their goals is to bring artists which draw on  the diversity present in this country. Check them out at www.fsarts.org.

Indigenous Presence

On Saturday I attended a gathering at the East Bay Meditation Center  in Oakland called Indigenous Presence: Decolonizing the Mind and Cultivating the Causes of Happiness. It was presented by Bonnie Duran, Karen Waconda, Lupe Avila, Peter Bratt and Vivian Chavez cosponsored by EBMC and the  Wicahpi Koyaka Tiospaye (WKT).

There was a special guest appearance by Richard Moosecamp, a renown medicine man, and his wife. He sang us songs of forgiveness, generosity, gratitude and one blessing us with a safe journey home.

I was moved to tears many times during the daylong, I think mainly from being in the presence of these centered and wise people who have been working all their lives for the earth and for all our relations. They have been informed that what has previously been held close to the vest must now be shared and this group was open to all. May we all understand how precious this knowledge is to our world.

They stated that Indigenous Presence is a way of coming into harmony with the present moment and our world; and provides space for acceptance, and the cultivation of clarity, confidence, resilience and strength.

Native ways were combined with Buddhist practice in a shining way that showed us that the two traditions have much in common. Natives have been practicing meditation though using different words for centuries. Just as Buddhists suggest that mindfulness be practiced throughout one’s day, the natives walk through life in ceremony; both are ways to remind ourselves of the sacredness of every moment, a walking meditation with our mother, Gaia.

I am so thankful to East Bay Meditation Center for the inclusive community they are building that on Saturday was made up of people from many backgrounds, ages and abilities. It was a slice of Oakland in its fullest diversity.  Please support their efforts in whatever ways you can—go to events, contribute as a volunteer or as a monthly supporter.

Keep Sending Love Out

Last week we had a 90th birthday party for my husband of 24 years, Adam David Miller. He didn’t want the theme to be him so he made it a quote from one of his poems, Keep Sending Love Out. His daughter Pemba and I were the main organizers of the event though we had help from all sorts of people. Please see Adam’s website.

We had a sign-up sheet for people to read poems or sing songs or tell stories about how we keep sending love out. Eighteen people shared with us and there were several music groups as well. Two of the groups sang renditions of his poems Keep Sending Love Out and Forever Afternoon.

About halfway through the program, he spoke a little and then the lively crowd surrounded him as I played the didgeridoo and Garner played drums and everyone vocalized to the drone, first sending love and appreciation to Adam for being himself and then to everyone in the room and the sending the love out to the community of humans, rocks, animals, trees and the land. People really sang out and the energy was palpable and full of love. There is something so powerful about focusing our energies that way, held by the drone and sent out by us all.

At one point in the day, Adam was presented with an award from the Bay Area Writing Project, an organization he has worked with and supported for many years.

A warm thank you to all those who contributed to making this afternoon so beautiful and as Adam says, “magical.”

Adam David Miller

Womansong

Last Friday evening, I was a guest musician at Betsy Rose’s Womansong (women’s sing along circle) at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley (see Betsyrosemusic.org).  We began the evening with a calling song on the didgeridoo. Then Betsy sang to us in her inimitable style, songs that she as well as others wrote. We joined her for many of the songs. Early on, I played a meditative drone that began with a metta piece during which we asked everyone to send love to herself: may I be happy, may I be safe; may I be healthy, may I be at ease. We were creating a healing field.

More beautiful singing, rounds included. Listening is such a big part of singing together. I played on some of the songs and others I sang with everyone else. As the evening neared its conclusion, I played a drone and asked that everyone tone along with it. This is one of my favorite things to do as people’s voices sound better with the didge—the drone provides a throne for the voice (says Silvia Nakach, Director of the Sound, Voice and Music program at CIIS), holds it and brings out harmonies through its overtones. We dedicated the healing energy we created (or more accurately, which flowed through us) to whomever needed it. I also asked that in honor of the Aboriginal people from whom the didgeridoo comes, that we sing to rocks and trees and the land itself, a custom that used to be routine when they lived on their lands.

The room quickly filled with sacred sounds coming from deep within each of the women there. The healing energy, lifted our spirits and, I believe, lifted the energies of the planet as our vibrations tumbled out from the room and into the earth’s atmosphere.

Much gratitude to Betsy and to all the women who were there that evening.

The Speed of Love

A week ago, I returned from a five-day silent retreat in the woods for women held at Gillespie Youth camp in Tilden Park (though it is usually held at Alice Eastwood group camp in Mt. Tamalpais State Park). Attending were about 30 women and a committee of about 6 who volunteer year after year to organize the event and really make it happen.

Friday night, after we set up our camps, we had dinner and talked freely with each other until, after an opening circle and meditation, we went into silence. There was a meditation area with a tarp on the ground, partially in shade and partially in sun. We meditated on a chair or on a zafu pillow or whatever worked.

The weather was perfect—not too cold or too hot and sunny most of the time or at night, the sky was full of stars and/or moon. Some ask me why I would want to go somewhere that I meditate seven times a day for 45 minutes each and do over an hour and a half of walking meditation.

Well, I only know that the meditation outside in nature slows me down to the speed of love. Mostly, I find I see love out of the corner of my eye as I speed by it. This extensive meditation gives me a chance to catch down to that speed where everywhere I look, I see love—in the redwood trees, the insects, the multi-colored and tasty food, tea provided by faithful tea fairies, varied ways that the light filters through to me, the energy of the other women, the stars, the ground itself covered with blessings from the trees, the birds and the calls of the coyotes. And not least of all, in myself.

I have missed this retreat for the last 3 years due to circumstances beyond my control so I was so happy to be reminded why I go there and how critical it is for me for the whole year to follow.

Next year the retreat will celebrate its 20th year. Some of the committee who puts this together have been doing it for that long! We lost one of them last year, Shanti, who was sorely missed but present in dreams and visions and knowledge of preparing food that she passed along.

Please contact me if you would like to be on the mailing list for this retreat. Treat yourself next year to a way to catch down to the speed of love.