Author Archives: Heather Blakey

Working with the Everyday Goddess

Last week in the Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing session we invited a Goddess to step forward to support and guide us. We used a deck of cards that feature the exquisite work of Susan Seddon Boulet.

Since then I have been exploring further and I have been pulling out a selection of resources to help expand our work with the Goddess in our journals.

This week we will be working with the Katharina Rapp’s Everyday Goddess Cards a friend lent me. With a delicious and slightly wicked sense of humour Rapp’s paintings take a light-hearted, yet compassionate look at the lives of everyday women. While her cards are out of production you can visit Studio Rapp in Castlemaine and immerse yourself in the world of this talented artist.

Intensive Journal Writing Course Begins with an Invocation

Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Of what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and not at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?
-Disquieting Muses 1957 Sylvia Plath

Back in the day, when I first began running writing classes, I used to invoke the Muse by setting up an altar, burning sage and having everyone actually imagine they could hear the rustling of gowns as the muses came to join us. Ask anyone who participated at that time and they will leave you in no doubt that the Muses were responsive. These wild women were overjoyed to be invited, having felt that they had been all but forgotten for centuries.

At this same time, I was establishing the Soul Food Cafe and one of the early sections I built was The House of the Muse. As a part of this feature, I gathered a collection of hymns to the muse. Then, when my late husband and I travelled throughout Europe for six months the absolute highlight was finally reaching Delphi, Mount Olympus and other sanctuaries in Greece. At Delphi, I called upon the Delphic Oracle and all but plunged myself in the famed waters of Castalia. I bought back bottles filled with water from the Castalian Spring, decanted the magical water into smaller bottles and gave these to those willing to anoint themselves and experience a heightened sense of creativity.

Time has passed and I have never forgotten these big-hearted muses who were so responsive to my call for support. Perhaps it was these heavenly spirits who gently reminded me that there is a whole cast of female mystics who would willingly give their time to massage the creativity of those who feel that it has waned a bit.

Little wonder that, seemingly by chance, I came into possession of Mirabai Starr’s ‘Wild Mercy – Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Female Mystics’. It is the perfect text to introduce early in my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing Class.

Get a key to Trains of Thought!

To learn more about what we did in this class and to engage online you need to subscribe to Trains of Thought. To get the key to Trains of Thought choose the amount you are able to afford (no more than $40 in your currency), pay heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm via PayPal and contact her with details of your WordPress account. It is very easy to acquire an account with WordPress and you may choose to keep your intensive journal online in a private blog. Once you have subscribed, email me your WordPress account email and I will add you to the site. This is intended to become a collaborative blog and you will be able to post and comment.

Wild Food for the Creative Spirit

The bodhisattvas are beings who have realized enlightenment but who remain active in the world, appearing in many forms to help others and lead them to enlightenment. They are venerated and called upon for help in time of need. Creative people  are known to suffer from periods where they feel that the  spirit of creativity has gone walkabout and abandoned them. At such time Quan Yin may be just the deity to turn to.

One of the deities most frequently seen on altars in China’s temples is Quan Yin (also spelled Kwan Yin, Kuanyin; in pinyin, Guanyin). In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or “Born of the Lotus.” Quan Yin, alone among Buddhist gods, is loved rather than feared and is the model of Chinese beauty. Regarded by the Chinese as the goddess of mercy, she was originally male until the early part of the 12th century and has evolved since that time from her prototype, Avalokiteshvara, “the merciful lord of utter enlightenment,” an Indian bodhisattva who chose to remain on earth to bring relief to the suffering rather than enjoy for himself the ecstasies of Nirvana. One of the several stories surrounding Quan Yin is that she was a Buddhist who through great love and sacrifice during life, had earned the right to enter Nirvana after death. However, like Avlokiteshvara, while standing before the gates of Paradise she heard a cry of anguish from the earth below. Turning back to earth, she renounced her reward of bliss eternal but in its place found immortality in the hearts of the suffering. (Read More)

One of the challenges of keeping a journal is deciding what to write about. In my Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing course I provide stimuli which will induce a flow of words. I have a collection of oracle cards which I encourage participants to draw from. The Wild Kuan Yin Oracle set by Alana Fairchild is one pack that I have found feeds the creative spirit.

In a journal writing class, I remind you that within you beats a wild and compassionate heart, alive with fierce optimism. You have the courage to walk a path of transformation. You will not be tamed by convention. You are not afraid to be different, to take risks for what you love, and most of all, to keep hope in your heart. You are one of the wild ones.

Drawing a card from this deck can help when the Spirit of Creativity appears to be distracted and wandered off. This oracle deck channels the energy of the Divine Mother to bring you comfort. She’ll remind you of your fire, your boldness, your unique beauty, your passion, your courage. She’ll guide you through even the darkest trials into the blessing of new life. She’ll open your heart and mind to untold possibilities and assist you to live your highest destiny with fearlessness and joy.

Intensive Journal Writing – Give Voice to the Sacred Fool

It is time for play. The more bizarre, left field, unexpected and apparently ridiculous the better. This may not feel safe or appropriate at first. That is okay. That is good actually. It is a sign that you are breaking with your self-imposed conventions. It is time to move beyond them now because a bigger life adventure is calling you.
Sacred Rebels – Alana Fairchild

The Great Escape – An Intensive Journal Writing Course begins on Wednesday the 16th of October at the Castlemaine Community House.

This is a time when we can unleash and play with the Sacred Fool. The fool is a great rebel, able to thwart conventions and tell the truth without restraint.

Our journals provide a safe space to let the fool, who does not give a hoot about what the mind is saying, have free reign. In an intensive journal writing class, we do not have to worry about being socially acceptable or what others may think of us when we sit outside reading children’s books to the trees.

The day time class provides the opportunity for us to sling our creative medicine bags, filled with supplies, over our shoulders and wander around Castlemaine. For example, in order to position ourselves in the now, we may take time to visit the nearby collectible place and see what items demand to be given a voice within our journals. We may sit outside the nearby coffee house, visit the art gallery and step inside artwork, check out what is going on at the Railway Station or just wander down some streets and see what endless variety of nothing turns out to provide a rich vein of gold.

For details check out the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, if you are interested in joining a small evening group in a private home, contact me for details.

Offering Endless Variety of Nothing

It was Grand Final Day and crowds were packing the MCG. This is the day everything seems to stop in Melbourne and the city takes on the feeling of being a ghost town as people gather in venues to watch the match. It is the day of bar-b-ques and general partying.

Not being vaguely interested in football,  the big match or for that matter being in a crowd, I was feeling a little restless.

Sensing my need for broad open spaces on land where there is a whole lot of nothing, Akari (my beloved Mazda 3) rattled her wheels and said she was up for one of our mystery tours. So, without stopping to gather any supplies, the Lappies (my two Finnish Laphaunds) and I set off on one of our expeditions.

We headed west from Castlemaine, through Maldon, stopping briefly for a sniff run at Eddington and then on beyond Dunolly to Bealiba.

The area around Bealiba was originally known as Cochrane’s, after John and James Cochrane, who took up a pastoral run in 1853. When gold was discovered in 1855-56 the area was known as Cochrane’s Diggings, but the surveyor who laid out the township in 1862 adopted the name of the pastoral run, ‘Bealaba’, later Bealiba. It is thought that the name is derived from Aboriginal words meaning red gum creek.

Once a hub for those seeking gold today Bealiba is a quiet little town. With nothing open to visit, I was content to go to the historic cemetery where one is inevitably confronted with the grief that people who lived in this harsh place endured. As the headstone I photographed testifies, the mortality rate amongst infants was very high. The loss endured by John and Mary Jones is hard to imagine.

Glancing at the petrol gauge Akari and I agreed that it was best to head towards St Arnaud. The drive from Bealiba to this gracious old town seemed to take forever and Akari and I muttered to one another about the folly of deciding to wander about in a part of the world where there is hardly a car to be seen. But we pressed on, relieved to finally reach our destination and stop to refuel, for me to savour coffee and a packet of mixed sandwiches. As I looked at the beautifully manicured park across the road I did think that next time we spontaneously decided to head bush I might pack my picnic basket.

Logan, with its endless variety of absolutely nothing, represents outstanding paucity of value for the tourist dollar. Situated in an area that boasts some superb scenic, high speed, touring roads with extremely low traffic density this is a shabby scrap of dying history

So journey to Logan and relive the shocking hardship of those wretched souls who opened up this land for reasons that no historian has ever been able to fathom.

All roads lead to the Logan Pub.

Sourced from Logan Pub Website – a delightful must read.

As we left St Arnaud I contemplated how far it was to get back to Castlemaine. It was a pleasant surprise to stumble upon the Logan Pub in The Scrub a hotel which promotes itself as offering old fashioned hospitality. The hotel’s quirky website informs us that Logan, a rustic and historically significant hamlet in North Central Victoria, offers the genuine tourist a wealth of valuable experiences.

The perfect place to wait and meet Godot I wondered?

Over a lemon-lime and bitters and a bag of potato crisps, I stopped to chat with the bartender (look carefully you will find him in the photo I took) and took in my surroundings. I mentally noted the assorted items that were hanging from the roof and adorning the shelves. Nearby the huge screen revealed that the big match had started and an array of country folk began to materialize to watch it. I was happy to slip quietly away and head home via Tarnagulla.

A day spent in a land where there is supposedly nothing revealed that there is always something. There never was nothing in the beginning and it turns out that there is something very special in a part of the world that proclaims to be a place where there is a whole lot of nothing.

Footnote: This post is taken from a journal entry. I am offering an intensive journal writing course at the Castlemaine Community House beginning on October 16th. An online version is available at Trains of Thought but only subscribers can view this. Feel free to contact me for more details.

Trains of Thought

Source: chevalfineart.com

Trains of Thought is the private blog that subscribers who want to engage in The Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing course can join. This site will house resources and prompts. This is one sample post. Members of Bancroft Manor are eligible to participate. You do not have to join the Manor House. To engage simply choose what you can afford to pay ($20, $30 or $40) using your own currency. Payment can be made via Paypal using the address heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm (obviously you need to insert a dot to use this address)

“As the oak tree lies hidden in the depths of the acorn, so the wholeness of the human personality with its fullness of spiritual and creative capacities lies hidden in the depths of the human being silently waiting for its opportunity to emerge.” — Ira Progoff, Depth Psychology and Modern Man

What Progoff created in the Intensive Journal is a process of writing that enables a person’s deep inner wisdom to become conscious and a source of guidance in their journal writing and in the conduct of our lives. He wanted to give people a tool that was practical and of use in whatever setting a person might be.

I have had my copy of At A Journal Workshop for over twenty years and regularly turned to it when I am working with people who have signed up for the writing courses I regularly offer. Although I have a well-marked copy of this classic book about journal writing I have never undertaken the course. However, I am tempted to go to Eremos in Sydney in November to complete a two-day course.

After writing about the atmosphere of a journal workshop Progoff introduces what he calls the Period Log as a way to begin the work of drawing our life into focus. He talks about beginning with the Now but explains that the Now is not limited to an immediate instant.

When I consider the Now I am reminded of a session with my ‘therapist’ (journal) where we discussed my perception of how much the landscape of the internet has changed since I ran the Soul Food Cafe. I went on to explore, in stream-of-consciousness, how I am no longer sure where or whether I fit in. My period log provides the space where I can record these insights in a succinct, objective entry. I also included a sketch of myself looking from the outside, in wonder at the overcrowded urban cities that have sprung up in cyber-space. I also note aspects of a recurring dream where I cannot find my way in an urban environment.

After completing an exercise like this in a class setting I often ask participants to identify a character and, using material from their entry, write a scene in the first person. After completing an exercise which involved going inside a sea shell Jannali used her observations to complete a piece.

When searching the internet I found  Ed Levin sharing entries from his period log. It is worth exploring Levin’s blog to see how he has been working in an online setting.

A book I strongly recommend that participants examine is ‘A Life Of One’s Own’ by Joanna Field (Marion Milner). In my mind, this is like the Period Log Progoff speaks of. Check out the review at Brain Pickings to learn more about this amazing existential experiment, much beloved by W.H. Auden. After writing this Milner went on to fill her ninety-eight years with a life of uncommon contentment, informed by her learnings from this intensive seven-year self-examination.

Remember that the Present Period will vary with each individual. It may:

  • reach back three years since a car accident
  • go back even further to the time when you walked away from life as you knew it
  • simply be a few weeks after meeting a new friend
  • the period after moving house
  • be about the period after beginning a new job
  • be after an epiphany

Before beginning to undertake an entry in your journal learn about Entrance Meditations.

The Great Escape – Intensive Journal Writing

“I looked at other journals, notably those of Dostoevsky and Anaïs Nin, and I could see that, for them, the journal was a vehicle that led to greater creativity. But I found that a good many other journals were just diaries: without a project to be done, people’s diaries just went around in circles.”
Ira Progoff

“Sometimes I fantasise about throwing my suitcase into the car, taking off down the highway, sucking up that white line like spaghetti and running away from it all road-movie-style. Sometimes I am on my own escaping my current life and indulging the exquisite loneliness of solitary travel” writes Elly Varrenti. Personally, I am happy to pack my bags and go within Bancroft Manor via my journal. When I am in the room of my own at Bancroft I am more likely to grapple with projects that I am working on.

Everyone has a life and that life must be his or her great work of art. There’s an underground stream of images and recollections within each of us. The stream is nothing more or less than our interior life. When we enter it, we ride it to a place where it wants to go. It is within this interior world that we can come to identify who we really are and what our big project is to be.

Cast aside any preconceived ideas you may have about journal writing. Take the quantum leap! Select a journal, pack a creative medicine bag and prepare to go deep within.

Intensive journal writing is quite different from diary writing. There are many good reasons to make the commitment to find sanctuary and to work within a  journal. Keeping a journal provides you with the opportunity to

  • make it a habit to work with your personal creative partner
  • establish a playground for your right brain
  • exercise all your senses and draw from the well of unconsciousness
  • resolve writer’s block
  • position yourself in the now
  • appreciate how creative you actually are
  • identify where you fit into the wheel of life.

This journalling course will help almost anyone who wishes to go deep within and explore his or her life as a work of art. Everyone ends up with a journal full of stories and recollections and often surprising new insights about the most fascinating mystery of all: themselves and their relation to the world around them. To engage you don’t need to be a mystic or perceive yourself to be incredibly creative. All you need is a life!

Check some samples of Intensive Journal Writing activities.

If you are interested in engaging in this course you can make enquiries at the Castlemaine Community House. Alternatively, you can contact heatherblakey@fastmail dot fm to subscribe and join Trains of Thought, a site containing resources and prompts. Contact Heather Blakey for details.

Down Memory Lane

ah, the tambourine
rattle snake enchantment,
rhythm beat of blood and soul
and call to dance –
tiny footsteps
all in flirtation yet more
as life and pledge and doing
weave in the fire’s blending
of all
and nothing
evermore.

swirl skirt and jangle coins,
tempt me with dreams enchanting –
and then be close at dawning
when the dew
must be taught
to sing.
from the Lemurian Gypsy Camp

Bancroft Manor is a Virtual Residence for Creatives

After enjoying a cup of Red Bush tea with Mma ‘Precious’ Ramotswe of No 1 Ladies Detective Series fame I decided to camp under a tree in the grounds of Bancroft Manor. It bought back memories of joining a Gypsy Caravan Camp back in the days when Soul Food Cafe travellers gathered and travelled Lemurian roads together.

As I lay sipping more red tea I realised that I had found another project to undertake while I am in residence at Bancroft and ‘Waiting for Godot’.

The Soul Food Cafe, which I built and ran between 2000-2010 still can now be found in the archives of the Wayback Machine. A series of life’s challenges took me away from the Cafe and I stopped growing it in 2010. However, it is still all there and I have decided to wander back through the labyrinthine corridors and create a Bumper Catalogue of Creativity to honour a site which impacted on the lives of so many early internet explorers.

A Room of My Own at Bancroft Manor

A room of my own at the virtual Bancroft Manor

Since settling in at Bancroft Manor, despite having heard movement through the corridors of this palatial home, a property that rivals the famed Romanov Gatchina Palace, I have mainly been happy with my own company. Mostly I am comfortable to enjoy this room of my own. When I am not on tour, Dansing with Macabre, I enjoy exploring the grounds and gardens with my dogs, going for walks around the estate.

Our host, Georgina McClure, has made sure that we have all that we are well connected to the outside world and I have loved this time of quiet solitude, enjoyed rummaging through Borrow Box. I have been happy to lay on the couch or in the bath listening to a vast range of audiobooks including my childhood favourite, The Magic Faraway Tree.

Imagine my delight when I rediscovered Alexander Mcall Smiths No 1 Ladies Detective Series and was reunited with Mma ‘Precious’ Ramotswe and her brainy assistant, Mma Makutsi. Read brilliantly by Adjoa Andoh I have been happy, not only to wander around Botswana and the enjoyable world of the Kalahari’s own Miss Marple, but to sit talking with Mma Ramotswe and drinking  Rooibos Tea (a redbush tea from the Cedarberg region of South Africa, Mma Ramotswe’s favourite, which I was able to buy locally).

While we are together I will share a reading from my Celtic Tree Oracle with this wonderfully practical woman whose primary professional wisdom has been sourced from Clovis Andersen, the author of The Principles of Private Detection.

 

Lived Experience Narrative

During these sessions, we will work collaboratively in a safe, supportive environment. We will pursue the idea that everyone has an important story to tell. We will spend time yarning with one another, extend our reach and interview people from diverse walks of life. We will also build up personal dossiers of our lived experiences and explore how to share our stories safely, for the benefit of ourselves and others.

A minimum deposit of 25% must be paid before 18th July to secure a place in this course.

Date: Thursdays, 25th July – 12th September (8 weeks)
Time: 6.00pm – 8.00pm
Where: Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton Street.
Cost: $200 (Full) or $180 (Conc. or Early Bird Discount. EDB available until 4th July)

Tutor: Heather Blakey

A Not So Silent Partner

This is the image that is on the front of a card I am using to promote my Creative Health workshops. In sessions I have run I have asked participants to spend some meditative time gazing at this masterpiece. I remind them to focus simultaneously on breathing and to simply notice the colours, faces, forms and shapes: to let everything go in and out of their mind like clouds passing through the sky.

It is only after doing this that we spend time interpreting and I explain the link between the image and my perception that I am not only working with each of them but with their silent and not so silent internal partners.

Quite a crowd of not so silent partners work with me. In the heydays of the Soul Food Cafe, it was the Enchantress, Sibyl Riversleigh, Ebony Wilder and the Lemurian Abbess who impacted on my creative work. Now it is Georgina McClure, the matron who presides over Bancroft Manor and the Bancroft Estate.

If you are interested in protecting your creative spirit you may be interested in joining the creative collective that is slowly growing in numbers.

The Uninvited Guests

I am currently working with children from the Castlemaine area at the Castlemaine Community House. The course is called ‘Stories by Me’ and runs for eight weeks. I posted the activity to the Bancroft Manor Collective, suggesting that they might like to work alongside the children. I will be sharing this response to the activity they also did tomorrow night.

At The Crossroads

The Beach was gone, the sky was gone, the guy with the Frisbee and no one to toss it to was gone and the bad tempered lady who had snapped at my dog when he ran up to her wagging his tail  was gone too.

I hope a shark got her.

Right now, at this very second it was just me and my dog and we were standing in the hallway of a dusty  house  and I hoped an empty house. I was hoping it was empty because it looked exactly like my Grandmother’s house.

Nobody went into Grand’s house without an invitation, not even her family

My Grandmother’s house was not a normal house, which made sense because my Grandmother was not normal. Her house was haunted and cursed and she was the reason for all of those things.

My Grandmother is a Witch, you see. And she’s not…

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Writing for Wellness

Are you interested in writing for self-exploration? Would you like to enhance your own personal or professional development through creative writing?

This 8-week course, led by Heather Blakey, guides students in creating a mindful writing practice, exploring therapeutic and reflective writing, through a variety of techniques.

A minimum deposit of 25% must be paid before Thursday April 18th to secure a place in this course.

Date: Wednesdays, April 24th – June 12th (8 weeks)
Time:
6.30pm-8.30pm
Where:
Castlemaine Community House, 30 Templeton Street.
Cost:
$200 (full) or $180 (Early Bird Discount, available until March 27th)

 

After a highly successful inaugural class, I am also offering Drilling Down: Writing For Wellness 2. Experienced writers seeking to ignite the creative flame, or those who engaged in my Travels with A Donkey Course may also enjoy this group.

The other class I am offering is Stories by Me, a course specifically designed with children in mind. But it would be fun to have some adults and children engaging simultaneously.

Shedding Light on Aspects of the Lives of Ancestors

According to ‘Wisdom of the Australian Animals’ when a saltwater crocodile silently watches you he is not only thinking of tonight’s dinner but this powerful creature is also asking you to look at family secrets and to allow aspects of the lives of ancestors to provide some illumination.

At a time when I have been looking at ancestral wisdom and actively working with life stories, I was a little taken aback when a woman, researching the life of my great-great-grandfather, George Watson, and his brother John who were prominent mercantile shipping personalities in Hobart in the early 1800’s, contacted me.

Her enquiry, along with the crocodile’s nudge, inspired me to take another look at the lives of these ancestors. Given that I do not have a seafaring bone in my body I cannot even imagine life as the captain of whaling ships.

However, I do live in a house in George Street which has glass doors with images of Blue Gum Clippers of the kind they built in the Battery Point Ship Yards in Hobart.

Clearly, I am on notice to look at these ancestors again. Perhaps there is something, not only in my great-great-grandfather’s spirit of adventure but in his work with convict lads, that will guide future work and creative projects.

Mah Meri Tribe Celebrate Ancestors

The Mah Meri tribe in Malaysia, is a small minority of the country’s population, where people celebrate the death festival by remembering their ancestors. It’s a day of dancing that’s steeped in tradition. The photographs are spectacular!  Such a rich tradition!

Malaysian villagers give thanks in an ancestor-worship ceremony.

Members of the Mah Meri tribe don their intricately-carved masks and perform the historic Main Jo-oh dance for the annual Ari Muyang festival in Pulau Carey, 90 miles from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The local people use the festival as an opportunity to offer prayers and blessings to their forebears, as well as thanking ancestors for good fortune in the past and hoping for future prosperity.

Each family will have built their own altar, or panga, to their ancestors not far from their house, which is loaded with flowers, incense and food the night before.

The mixture is then burned, the smell of which is believed to alert the ancestral spirits to the gift.

The date of the festival changes every year and is influenced by the lunar cycle. It is also thought by some the date of the ceremony is delivered to a village elder in a dream by the spirits of his ancestors.

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