Goddess Empowerment and Healing Retreat
May 5-10, 2021 • Sedona, AZ
with Jaya Lakshmi
Immerse yourself in the Meditation, Yoga, and Study of six great Hindu Goddesses that represent archetypes of the Divine Feminine. This is a women's retreat where we will explore how we perceive and embody different aspects of the Goddesses.
Each morning a puja (offering ceremony) and a 2 hour Sattva Yoga Journey is offered that includes asana, pranayama, mantra and kriya for the Goddess of the day. In the afternoon we'll get to connect with nature in Sedona by going on hikes amongst the stunning red rocks and swimming in the sweet pools of Oak Creek. Journaling and napping are always an option.
Late afternoons and evenings will be filled with learning more about the particular Goddess - Herstory, how She appears throughout time, Her divine qualities and attributes, Her mantras and Hymns, and the ways to worship Her, externally and internally. We'll sing kirtan and devotional songs and all are welcome to make an offering of their own.
My Personal Story of Goddess Inspiration
I have had the vision of a Goddess Retreat for many years. Finally the time has come where everything feels aligned to do this kind of work. I have learned patience to a deeper degree, as so many of us have, over this time of Covid and the great slowdown. It has truly been a period of deep introspection and ‘reformatting’ oneself, of transformation and acceptance of truth, causing a great wave of growth, especially for those of us on the spiritual path who are here to grow!
My 10 year relationship with my partner has recently ended/transformed. I am now in the process of re-claiming my self, rediscovering my self, re-establishing my sovereignty, and exploring what that means, at the age of 55. My two daughters are grown up and thriving for the most part so I am blessed with this fully open time in my life.
I often feel that the ‘Goddess’ whoever She may be, in whatever forms she comes, has called me to journey deeper within myself, to heal myself, to more intimately align myself with the energies and forces of the Divine Feminine surging through me. And on this journey the Divine Masculine is also revealed and coming back into balance. It’s really what it’s all about, this spiritual work, to come into Divine Union within ourselves, integrating the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine.
Yet because I agreed somewhere in my soul contract to incarnate in a women’s body this lifetime, I get the opportunity to fully live and embody the divine feminine. As we women understand, being a woman in this world has an extra set of challenges, that also comes with great reward. Just the fact that we bear children and go through the whole process of motherhood, that physically we are not as strong as men (in general) and we are extra sensitive emotionally sets us up for a lot of intense growth in one lifetime on this planet.
I have had quite a strong relationship with ‘the Goddess’ since I was a teenager. At a young age I understood there was a Goddess who lived within me, and She had her own connection to my ancient lineage, to streams of wisdom flowing through my body, and visions and memories of lives lived in the past and in other realms. I felt drawn to become more than I was expected to be in the flat 3D world where I grew up in suburban New Jersey. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic childhood with loving parents, filled with magic and mystery. I even had a horse for all my teen years before I left for college and would go riding on trails behind my house, fostering fantasies and daydreams of other times and lives. My beloved, kind father was a great provider and a faithful, loving husband. My mother grew a huge garden and fed us well. She was also an accomplished pianist and helped set my foundation and connection with music for life - for this and more I am ever grateful. But I really had no spiritual mentors, nor was my mother any source of Goddess wisdom for me other than fulfilling her role as a traditional good mother. Which is precious, I know how fortunate I am in this sense. But you know what I’m saying…her daughter turned out to be a wild spirit, a shamaness being summoned to other realms, a healer and a devotee of the spirit, a dancer, a yogini, a weaver and singer, a rebel at heart that couldn’t be contained. What’s a traditional mother to do? She didn’t know what to make of me and struggled at even liking me sometimes, as I pushed the edge even though I didn’t want to - I wrestled with a force within me that was wanting to be expressed.
In my early 20’s in the midst of a number of psychedelic experiences with psilocybin, LSD, and ecstasy much was revealed to me. I was majoring in cultural anthropology in college at UNH, focusing largely on women’s global and tribal studies. I was particularly fascinated with the rise of the feminine power in the world. I read the classics of the movement such as ‘When God was a Woman’ (1976), ‘Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood’ (1979) by Merlin Stone, ‘The Spiral Dance’ by Starhawk (1979), ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ by Margaret Adler (1979), ‘The White Goddess’ by Robert Graves (1948) and later on, 'The Great Cosmic Mother' (1987) by Monica Shoo & Barbara More, 'The Language of the Goddess' by Marija Gimbutas (1989). I completely and totally related to all of it. My anthropology teacher always kept me in check though as she reminded me that many of the claims of long standing matriarchies had insufficient archaeological evidence to prove they actually existed as described. Yet it was acknowledged that so much of our past remains a mystery and much of it perhaps only existing within the memory of our DNA.
Something in me has always ‘known’ that many things have been hidden from us and ‘history’ as we know it is just that: ‘HIS’ story and is a very minimal telling of the complex and rich tapestry of human experience over thousands of years. This is why I loved ‘The Mists of Avalon’ series and ‘The Firebrand’ (the re-telling of the Helen of Troy story) by Marion Zimmer Bradley, who dared to imagine a different version of these great stories from the feminine perspective. Isn’t this something we should do for all the great stories and historical accounts of humanity? Consider that there are huge pieces missing - very valuable perspectives that were not valued, reported or captured at the time. Perspectives of grandmothers, mothers, daughters, business women, educated women, etc have largely gone unrecognized and unpreserved by the dominant popular (patriarchal) cultures of the times, in most of the world.
This brings me to the revelation of the Goddess in India. When I was 23 (1988), I found myself in a tiny little cabin loft, adorned with crystals and crescent moon windows, in the misty mountains of Coastal Oregon - the quintessential Oregon hippy dream I’d been dreaming for years. My partner at the time and I had collected a lot of books on Indian spirituality, including ‘Be Here Now’ and ‘Miracle of Love’ by Ram Das, 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna', 'The Ramayana', the Mata AmritAnandamayi Ma (Amma) biography, ‘Awaken Children’ and other gems of popular spiritual literature streaming over into the west from the Motherland. I found a marvelous book in a shop in Santa Cruz titled ‘In Praise of Tara, Songs to the Saviouress', by Martin Willson (1986) that changed my life. It became one of the bibles of my life. I still have it today and refer to it often as I seek to commune with the Goddess Tara. Many people don’t realize but Tara was originally an ancient goddess of the northern region of modern India. She had quite a following, that is known as the ‘Cult of Tara’. Only later did she migrate up to Tibet and become integrated into Tibetan Buddhism.
I read and absorbed. I also fell in love with the story of Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi. She was the embodiment of the Divine Feminine to him and he basically worshipped her. It was a divine love story, without the taint of the mundane. I was intrigued by the concept of ‘Kali’ and ‘Durga’ and the ancient pantheon of Hindu deities. I had always been drawn to India since I was a girl, by the sound of Indian music and the exotic tastes of Indian food, by the mystical temples and rich timelessness of the culture, where so many still actively worshiped the deities and many in the form of the divine feminine. Where else in the world does one find so many temples to the Goddess? To Lakshmi, Kali, Durga. Shrines to Radha. Saraswati murtis in the house of every musician. Daily ceremonies (pujas) and prayers are an integral part of life in India and in many communities and villages the Goddess reigns supreme. This doesn’t necessarily translate to equality among the sexes and the positive treatment of women, or a harmonious egalitarian society but it does say something that people see The Divine as feminine with feminine qualities, as Mother Creatress or Mother of the Universe (Jagad Ambe) - these concepts are deeply embedded into their consciousness and influence their perception of reality. So many other aspects of the Divine Feminine are at the forefront of the ‘Hindu’ culture and are revered and respected throughout India.
'The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot’ is certainly true in India as it is in many of the pagan movements around the world experiencing a resurgence of the ancient spiritual practices of their ancestors before Christianity took over. In India, the concept of the Divine feminine is woven into the fabric of society and has been for thousands of years. This is why I am inspired to explore these living Goddess traditions of India as a way to experience the Divine Feminine archetypes. There is a wealth of literature and ancient texts to dive into to learn how human consciousness has been and is still is relating to the Goddess in her many aspects.
In this retreat we will get acquainted with six of the most popular goddesses of India. It is a basic approach but one I feel that nurtures the cultivation of intimacy with each. Truly we could spend many years just on one Goddess as many devotees do, even a lifetime or lifetimes of developing one’s relationship with Her ever unfolding aspects as She reveals Herself. But this is a good place to start! Especially with the yoga journeys, we get to experience these embodiment practices of kriya, pranayama, mantra and asana. The Goddess is living in these living yoga traditions and we have this incredible opportunity to align ourselves with such refined frequencies, body, mind and soul. Through the practice of these powerful yoga techniques and coming together to reflect the Divine Feminine for each other in her infinite unique forms we expand more into our beautiful and unlimited potential. I feel this is what pleases Her the most, to see Her creation growing and blossoming, Her beauty expanding, Her experience of ecstasy ever deepening through us.
Om Devi Ma Namoh Nama.