by Jennifer La Lima-Ortmuller
“What is it that calls you to stretch beyond what is comfortable into places that are uncomfortable, and to realize that you are more powerful and more magical than your mind could have believed?” — Julia Butterfly Hill
You can’t spend a weekend nestled in nature with Julia Butterfly Hill, and ever expect to look at a tree in the same way again. Hill lives in action and connection. For 738 days she lived 20 feet from the top of a 200 foot, 1,000-year-old redwood tree in order to gain protection of ancient forests. There she found a connectedness to the divinity of nature. What peace can women find in female divinity? What answers can women find by celebrating the divine feminine within themselves and in nature?
On Friday, September 10, women and men from New York to California to Florida entered into the woods of Cosm — a creative and spiritual sanctuary atop 40 gorgeous acres in Wappingers Falls, New York co-founders and artists, Alex and Allyson Grey, hosted this weekend retreat to inspire a reconnection to the divine feminine.
Allyson beamed as she welcomed guests to CoSM, “This is a unique opportunity for women to honor the many forms of the divine feminine. We are honored to have inspiring and creative presenters here with us this weekend.”
And, many forms would be honored. Presenters Dr. Mary Rockwood Lane, Dr. Julie Holland, and Alex and Allyson Grey delved into the diversity of ancient goddesses from the warrior goddess, to the mother goddess. Holland discussed the lack of nature in women’s lives, “Immersion in nature is therapeutic,” said Holland. “As Eckhart Tolle says, ‘Let nature teach you stillness.'” Sheri Winston motivated guests to feel empowered in their natural sensuality, and Kiana Love gently brought guests out into nature to experience healing through the senses. As the weekend began, I sat secretly anxious. I wondered how I could tap into my divine energy, experience deep sensuality on a regular basis, and also find time to touch the bark of a tree, clean my house, go to work and open up that business I keep meaning to get around to.
As guests filed in, Pete Seeger strummed; his deep, warm voice filled the room… “To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn… ”
My mother sat in the CoSM dining hall by my side. She had decided at the last minute to come with me. This would either be a weekend of divine connection, or three days of way too much mother-daughter time. But as Seegar melted my heart chakra, I gazed over at my mother. She sang along as though no one else was in the room and in her eyes I saw her 20-year-old, guitar-playing, divinely gorgeous, creative self. I discarded my shy and joined in with the others, “…a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”
Julia Butterfly Hill followed Seegar’s performance with a glimpse into her talk for the next morning. We would be dancing in our darkness, in the shadowy parts of ourselves. Hill was the presenter I most wanted to meet, but I wasn’t sure I had any darkness within. At least, I’ve been working on gratitude and light in my life, and possibly trying to escape any sadness in my heart. As a writer at the event, I could decide to watch others acknowledge the things that hold them back, or I could be one with them and acknowledge those things in myself as well.
“I’ve learned so much from the presenters,” said Maria Paniccioli of Brooklyn. “Unfolding the divine feminine requires acknowledging the pain and sadness of the inner child. Only when we embrace the beauty and essence of the inner little girl, can we become full of light.”
Forty guests filled the CoSM library the next morning for yoga with Julie Kirkpatrick. Success and relationship coach Barbara Biziou led a ritual of letting go. “Rituals connect mind, body and spirit,” said Biziou. “They open you up to new resources. Honoring the divine feminine to me is about being heart-centered and honoring the interconnectedness in all things. Appreciating and choosing to embody compassion, collaboration and love are all aspects of the divine feminine. I was once told by a dancer in Bali: There are people out there who need you, so live your life so they can find you.”
I allowed myself to stop thinking as an observer. I let go. I let myself acknowledge the things that hold me back. Some of them real, some imagined. So many of us are afraid to follow our passions in life, but passion is the essence of being.
“The cocoon is the dark part,” said Hill. “Anywhere we are disconnected from our whole selves, we are bringing that disconnect into the world. I had thought that darkness and mystery should be repressed, but we learn from the darkness. We emerge like a butterfly; light is brought forth from the darkness. It is all one.”
I sat amongst mothers and daughters, business owners and aspiring business owners. Each one of them desired a deeper connection to nature, and many agreed that they were professionally driven by a desire to nurture and to create. “I want to heal others through a more spiritually-based practice,” said nurse and mother Alexis Crisafi of New Paltz. Crisafi’s dream is to open her own practice where she can combine yoga and mindfulness with psychotherapy. “I’ve learned to be patient while working towards my goal, one step at a time.”
I watched my mother transform throughout the weekend. Before raising three children, before soccer practices, school plays, bills and parent-teacher conferences, she was an artist. She was a musician, a painter, and a writer — and she created and preserved those things in me as well. As I honored the divine feminine, I honored my divine mother. On Monday, following the weekend retreat, my mother, a social worker, embarked on a new method of healing — combining music and nature with therapy.
Much of this weekend was intended to be about female entrepreneurship or women’s success in business and money. But, this was neither a how-to seminar nor a crash course in small-business start up. Money relationship mentor, Helen Kim, combined self-awareness with financial wellness. “Explore what you want in life,” said Kim. “In this process you might reassess your needs and wants. Think if tomorrow was your last day, who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do? Serve the universe in your own way.”
The speakers at CoSM were guides. They led the way as each of us tapped into our own creative, individual self. Each speaker stripped away the busyness, the fog of my mind so I could see my authentic self, and reassess my purpose. Alicia Klat and Julia Butterfly Hill showed guests the light and beauty in the darker parts of ourselves. The sadness we all experience in life does not have to be covered up by a smile. “Acknowledging your whole truth is an invitation to embrace all of who you are,” said Hill. “The more you embody and embrace your whole self, the more you can manifest truth in the world.”
After Sunday morning yoga, I made a commitment to be in nature more. I set my intentions and goals, both of which revolve around reviving the creator and nurturer within me.
“So, now that you’ve recognized what it is you want in life, what is holding you back?” Klat instructed. “Whisper into your hands. What is holding you back? Now blow it into the light and acknowledge it.”
I know my soul’s purpose. I know what I want to do… and I shouldn’t feel surprised because I’ve known all along.
To see the full list of CoSM presenters: CoSM: Honoring the Divine Feminine