I thought I would take a chance and step out into new territory with my workshop page as bone – ink as blood. It is not totally new territory, my mentors; Ingrid Rose and Doris Maranda, have mapped out some of the psychic turf where memory and the body inhabit a space not always thought to be accessible. Working with Ingrid and Doris, who both use the unusual practices found in Continuum, I was delighted with the changes in my writing. Through the breathing techniques and other body-centred practices that are offered in Continuum, I was able to birth poems and prose that satisfied my need to tell my story in fresh and unexpected ways. As I explored what Ingrid calls, “writing through the body,” I rekindled a deeper sense of connection to, not only my memories as a child, but also to my ancestors. As I used these practices to write, I began to remember that as a child I had had a profound connection to the earth and to my Indigenous roots.
I wanted to offer this workshop as an invitation to others who many wish to reignite a relationship with the part of themselves that knows… the part that remembers the smell of the fertile earth; the part that never gives up. I am not Ingrid, nor Doris, and I am definitely not a Continuum teacher, so what I offered in the workshop was a merging of some of what I learned through Ingrid and Doris, with a simple answering of an inner call to use my drum as part of the “going deeper” exercise. We let go of the classroom/lecture structure and sat in a circle. It was a large circle, as there were at least 30 participants. After the breathing exercises, my drum and I went to each participant and showered them with drum beats from head to toe, trusting my instincts to guide me. Once finished, I read Sharon Olds, The Ferryer, as a prompt and invited all participants to write whatever came to mind, to not censor or edit anything.
We shared our writing and debriefed the experience. A number expressed surprise at the results and many spoke of the influence of the drum on the exercise. Most were graced with rich first drafts that covered new territory for them. I am very glad that I followed my intuition and told fear to take a backseat so that I could step into this new territory with my workshop offerings. By all indications this one will be a keeper. ~ All my relations ~ Jonina
Many thanks to Royal City Literary Arts Society and the New Westminster Library for hosting this workshop.
I was so delighted to be nominated for Remarkable Women of 2014. This years theme was: The Year of Reconciliation: honouring women who build understanding and empathy between people.
Jonina Kirton is a longtime volunteer and facilitator here at PeerNetBC. Jonina facilitates sacred circles and inclusive spaces for meaningful dialogue in various communities throughout our city including the DTES. However, this is but one of the roles she plays in our fabulous city. Jonina engages others particularly those within Indigenous communities to write and tell stories. Jonina helped organize the first National Indigenous Writers Conference this past year providing space for Indigenous writers across the country exposure, recognition and acknowledgement for their art and contributions.
There were many other wonderful women nominated.
I am delighted to report that Talon Books has offered me a publishing contract for page as bone – ink as blood. This book is now scheduled for release in the Fall of 2015. It has been a long journey, filled with potholes and all manner of internal and external forces that could have stopped me from moving forward with this book. It is largely autobiographical, mainly poetry, with some prose. It is my first book and the learning curve was at times dizzying as I circled and re-circled the issue of who owns my story. Yes, I spent a good deal of time worrying about whether or not I had the right to share my own story. In the end, with the encouragement my mentors, Betsy Warland and Ingrid Rose, I took flight and dive bombed the sad and often messy details of my own life.
In the meantime, I have had the pleasure of sharing the page with darling husband/editor. We both have poems in The Royal City Poets Anthology 2013. The book release was last weekend and the attendance was very good. Part Two of What Colour is the Sunset Today is up on the Arts Periodical under Flesh. I am not sure what is next. Another book perhaps. There are a few ideas floating around in my head, one being a book about my ancestors and the other a book on sacred circles. Two very different books yet somehow related as my work within sacred circles does require the support of my ancestors. But first a little time to digest all that has happened this year and time to contemplate my next steps. ~ All my relations ~ Jonina
Of late I have been focusing on my writing and not hosting any sacred circles. I do keep posting on the facebook page so if you have not already done so feel free to join the circle there.
My writing is taking an interesting turn and I am quite pleased with some of the new pieces. Here is a link to a YouTube video of a reading I recently did at Poetic Justice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtrkrxlCr80). It includes some new work such as the newly fertile girl which is about my first moon time.
the newly fertile girl
I was never slapped but rather handed a box of kotex and a phamplet
alone in the bathroom I read about the changes in my body
in shock at the sight of blood between my legs
not at all reassured that this “transition” to womenhood was a good thing
my days as a tomboy over and my mother relieved
now considered unclean and in distress men should keep away
no one told me that during my moon time I could dream, have visions
were I born 4,000 years ago I would know my blood was powerful
that women running naked through fields at night made crops grow
legs spread we destroyed worms, beetles
how did my ancestors know that within my body lay the ability to green the earth
that in those same cells the power to heal limbs
recently tests done on mice their blood flow restricted
limbs withering until moon blood applied
stem cells found in our regenerative blood
cells that facilitate healing stimulate blood vessel growth
and all because some Egyptian God and men feared our power
I did not learn to put my blood on loam dolls
this conception spell many medications ointments lost
there was no one there to offer an Isis knot of flax, papyrus and cotton
banished to my room instead of a hut
I only had Kotex celebrating my initiation into womanhood
~ copyright 2012 ~
poet/author & facilitator
“Menstruation became associated with male honour and hence odd traditional practices developed like the Jewish tradition (note: it is not a religiously sanctioned tradition) of slapping a daughter who starts her period. It is believed that the original purpose was to “slap sense” into a newly fertile girl, warning her not to disgrace the family by becoming pregnant out of wedlock; or to “awaken” her out of her childhood slumber and into her role as a Jewish woman.” http://musfem.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/a-feminist-history-of-menstruation/
We are in the 8th month of our Intention Circle and many miracles have occurred. This month we held our circle at Jericho Beach where after a grounding meditation we all went in search of found objects such as driftwood, twigs, shells, feathers, dried leaves and stones so we could make a mandala. As we gathered the found treasures we gave thanks, honoured the cycles and the elements involved in the development of this natural piece of art i.e. if it was a piece of driftwood we thanked the earth for offering a place for its roots when it was part of a tree, the sun and the water for maintaining it, the water and the sand for roughening it and making it the beautiful object it is today. As part of the thanks we left a little tobacco.
We were very absorbed in the making of the mandala and soon found that daylight had left us. We ended with a closing prayer in the dark. Here is a picture of the mandala which has a large orb hovering over it. Clearly someone was watching over us as we sang “We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way”. ~ Namaste Jonina
As our 2012 Intention Circle moves into its third month I find myself contemplating the need to balance the spiritual with the practical as one moves towards their dreams or visions. At times I find that as I move into the practical steps I can lose sight of the spiritual aspects and vice versa. It seems challenging to remember both as I can easily get lost in one dimension or the other. I imagine I am not alone in this.
As I contemplated this I found this quote:
The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.~ Ramakrishna
And I was again reminded of something Swami Muktananda once said.
Self-effort and the Guru’s grace are like the two wings of a bird: The bird needs both to fly to the goal.
These two quotes clearly and wisely speak to the need for self-effort and grace in all our endeavors. As we move forward with the practical steps to bring about our vision and dreams may we be ever mindful of the Creator, God/Goddess or whatever you choose to call your source of spiritual wisdom and strength. Depending on the project you may call upon other deities or the ancestors to be of assistance. For example if there appears to be barriers or obstacles perhaps some puja or prayer time to Ganesha is in order. If your project is related to the arts you could engage Saraswati’s assistance. No matter the project I always like to bring a little compassion into it by seeking the assistance of Quan Yin. There are countless deities available to us and you will of course select those that fit with your faith. For some of you this may be Jesus Christ or Mother Mary.
To this end you may choose to create an altar under your vision board or at the very least place a candle which you can light daily as you read your vision statement. Let the lighting of the candle be your invitation to the source or sources of your spiritual wisdom and strength. As you do this please do remember your sacred sisters in prayer. If we each spend a little time offering prayers for each other’s works then we will all be a force to be reckoned with…
On January 22nd we will have our first Intention circle. I have asked all participants to come prepared to share their vision or goals for their various projects. In preparation I too have been contemplating what my focus will be for this circle. In my case, I am multi-tasking; both visioning for the circle and for myself. I walk in two worlds as I explore our collective world and my individual goals. There is of course cross over. One of my goals is clearly to host/facilitate this circle. Whenever doing a circle I look for tidbits to support the topic. I pray and ask for the right book to fall off my shelf and to open at the very page where the juicy inspiration rests. Yesterday that book was Creating with Others by Shaun McNiff. The page it fell open to had important information on the art of contemplation. Very timely reminders were provided by Shaun McNiff who says that To imagine is to let go……
After reading his thoughts on contemplation, I was reminded of the difference between “thinking” and the use of prayer and contemplation to arrive at decisions. The first suggest that the answers reside within our mind, the second acknowledges that we live in an abundant universe and that the answers can find their way to us through many means. Given this, I would like to suggest that, rather than “thinking” about your vision or project and how to put in it two or three sentences; you reframe this process. In other words, in place of “thinking” our way towards the important answers we seek, we can instead use prayer and contemplation. So the question ( i.e. what is the focus of my project? how will I succinctly present this vision in two or three sentences?) becomes a prayer, a simple request for clarity. We will not ask our mind to solve this, but rather we will seek the guidance of our Creator, Higher Self – or whatever we choose to call God/Goddess. In my experience, this is not a one-time thing. I pray without ceasing on such matters. Each time after I pray I sink into contemplation – which is so much more refreshing than “thinking”. Using these methods, previously unimagined ways of looking at our project or vision can arise. Perhaps the vision or project itself changes, morphs into something yet undreamed.
Shaun McNiff reminds us that. The creative act is based on the paradoxical ability to stay focused on what is happening, while letting go of the need to control outcomes. It is with this understanding that we walk the fine line of goal setting, or visioning, while not holding on too tightly to our initial picture or ideas. We will want to stay open to the messages that come through once we commence the journey towards our vision. McNiff encourages us to stay away from linear, step-by-step guides and to surrender to the unexpected. I like the sound of that.
I encourage you all to stay with prayer and contemplation rather than “thinking” too much. McNiff’s explanation of contemplation reminded me of the richness of these practices. He reiterates that to imagine is to let go and goes on to say …in creative expression there is a need to stay focused on a particular thing in order to travel deeply and expansively without attachment. Establishing a focal point for creative contemplation helps a person direct energy in a particular direction and avoid becoming scattered. Jumping quickly from one thing to another and trying to do too many things at once makes our perceptions aimless and superficial. Yet we don’t want to cling to an object so tightly that we block the movements of imagination that emerge naturally from contemplation.
I look forward to entering sacred space with all the participants, where together we will explore this terrain of travelling deeply and expansively without attachment.
I will be offering a one-day workshop on peer support and sacred circles. The workshop is being presented through PeerNetBC and intended for anyone wishing to bring some of the tools found in sacred circles to their peer support group.
I will be offering the following workshop at the 19th annual Women’s Spirituality Celebration on March 12th, 2011. This year’s theme will be Expressions of Authentic Feminine Voices and the title of my offering is Fanning the Feminine Fires: Finding your Authentic Voice through Poetry. Join me for 1 1/2 hours where we will gather to fan the feminine fires and find our authentic voice through poetry. Come play, write a poem; locate the lover, the mystic within. Poets are often mystics and mystics are often poets. Words weave pathways to inside, paint pictures of outside and settle between you and I like the gentle touches we long for. All levels welcome! Rumi was once a beginner…
Jonina Kirton is a Métis/Icelandic poet. Her writing, often contemplating the practicalities of embracing a spiritual life, has been featured in Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out, Pagan Edge, First Nations Drum, Toronto Quarterly, Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, New Breed Magazine, emerge.
To register please go to the Women’s Spirituality Celebration website at www.wscelebration.com.
Igniting the Inner Life
Book signing & talk by Regina Sara Ryan
7:00 – 9:30 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011
(music by Carol Weaver and Garry Ward at 7:00 pm & talk at 7:30)
Eternal Abundance, 1025 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC
hosted by Jonina Kirton www.sacredcirclesbook.com
Regina Sara Ryan’s latest book Igniting the Inner Life is directed to those with a focus on spirituality, self-understanding, yoga practice, contemplative prayer or the awakening of the heart’s knowledge, regardless of the religious tradition they follow. The inner life is the intrinsic spiritual dimension of existence. To “ignite” it is to make a pilgrimage within, to move from out there to in here in the orientation of life, work, choices and relationships.
Regina Sara Ryan, a former Roman Catholic nun, has apprenticed to a spiritual teacher of the Western Baul tradition (a tradition with Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi roots) for the past 25 years. Since the early 1970’s she has studied contemplation and mysticism from many faith traditions, and is the author of 9 books in both wellness and spirituality, including Praying Dangerously and The Woman Awake. Regina is a freelance writer and editor, and conducts seminars and retreats in the U.S. and Europe.
Regina’s website: http://www.reginasararyan.com
Fanning the Fire: Peer Support and Sacred Circles. What do they have in common and how can you bring the tools found in sacred circles to your peer support group?
Circles and peer support are not new! We have been sitting around the fire, holding council, partaking in ritual since time immemorial. Yet many peer support groups do not consciously use ritual or provide the space for spiritual principles. One obvious exception to this is the twelve step programs that have successfully used a peer support model that includes spirituality to create change in millions of lives. As facilitators or anyone looking to start a peer support group how can we use some of the tools found in the peer support group model and sacred circle rituals to create community and effect change in our lives? Whether we are looking to create support for our writing, with manifesting or losing weight we can create or adapt ritual and sacred circles to foster a supportive community for ourselves and those who wish to join us in circle.
Jonina Kirton is a Métis/Icelandic poet/author and workshop facilitator. Her interests in spirituality, writing, and peer support group facilitation have coalesced in her work with sacred circles. With twenty five years experience in peer support, twelve step programs and spirituality she is accustomed to walking in two worlds.
Banyen Books and Sound ~ February 27, 2011 (11:30 am to 1:00 pm)
Please note this is an introductory talk and there will be a one-day workshop on the same topic March 26, 2011 to register go to www.peernetbc.com.
My dear friend Karen McGregor’s book The Madonna Code: Mysteries of the Divine Feminine Unveiled will be released on November 24th, 2010. I am so blessed to have had a small part to play in this book as her writing partner and one of her mentors around sacred circles. The book will be available on Amazon on November 24th. http://www.amazon.ca/Madonna-Code-Mysteries-Feminine-Unveiled/dp/1907498435/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289876757&sr=1-1. In the interim you can pre-order at the Spiritual Author’s Circle website at http://spiritualauthorscircle.com/. Namaste Jonina
Inviting Women In: Sacred Circle Workshop for Women
Saturday, August 21, 2010 ~ 10:30 am to 4:30 pm
Brittania Community Centre
1110 Cotton Drive, Vancouver BC
Cost $50.00 per person ~ some subsidies available ~
To register please call Jonina at 604.255.0002 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org on or before August 13th, 2010.
Many women are looking to reclaim their spirituality through ritual. Sacred circles are a touchstone, a place of safety as we branch out to explore the personal meaning of ritual. Ritual and sacred circles bring us back to that part of us identifying with Elsa Gidlow’s words: “I know myself linked by chains of fire to every woman who has kept a hearth”. From this place we find our centre; we find the strength and the vision to create the lives we wish to create.
If you have ever dreamed of starting your own sacred circle, or using the tools found in sacred circles for your work as a facilitator this workshop may be for you. No experience is required and beginners are welcome!!
We will begin with a sacred circle, move to a potluck and end with a discussion on what makes a circle sacred and how to create safety. The topic for our sacred circle will be ritual. In preparation please do spend some time in contemplation about your experience with ritual, what is the difference between routine and ritual and how can we use ritual to uncover our dreams and to bring them to fruition.
As you contemplate ritual you may find the following poem a nice starting point.
There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind,
My bones turn to dark emeralds.
by James Wright
Please bring something to share at the potluck and an item to add to the community altar. Preferably an item that has some meaning for you and that represents your relationship to ritual. If you are new to ritual bring a found object i.e. stone, drift wood, a cedar bow or a flower from your garden. Spend some time with the object; leave it on your kitchen table, your bedside table or somewhere that you will see it often. Ask it to reveal to you its meaning.
Inviting Women In: Sacred Circle Workshop for Women
Saturday, August 21, 2010 ~ 10:30 am to 4:30 pm
Brittania Community Centre
1110 Cotton Drive, Vancouver BC, Canada
For more details on workshop and how to register click here.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 ~ 6:45pm to 9:00 pm ~ we will gather as women seeking to reclaim ritual and experience the sacredness of the circle.
In this circle we will explore what Jean Shinoda Bolen calls our “assignment”. Whether your assignment is raising your children or taking on major environmental issues you will need support. A women’s circle can offer a safe place to lean into your fears.
Together let us access that tribal and ancestral knowledge found in sacred circles so that we may find our way to our assignment. Collectively we have the wisdom, the strength and the courage to show up for life and remain grounded. Come let us walk together and remind each other of this important message “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” –Ms. Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Australian woman addressing a missionary serving in her country.
Newcomers welcome! We are all in this together.
This circle will be held at Brittania Community Centre in the Family Room, 1110 Cotton Drive, Vancouver, BC. Space is limited so you must register with me before attending. Register by email at email@example.com or call me at 604.255.002. Minimum donation of $5.00 suggested but if this is too much please feel free to attend anyway. Namaste Jonina
July 7, 2010 join me at Karen McGregor’s tele-seminar featuring myself and Nancy Kerner. More details to come.
May 23, 2010 I will be giving the following talk at Banyen Books and Sound. Circles: Women Exploring the Sacred. Many women are looking to reclaim their spirituality through ritual. Sacred circles are a touchstone, a place of safety as we branch out to explore the personal meaning of ritual. Ritual and sacred circles bring us back to that part of us identifying with Elsa Gidlow’s words: “I know myself linked by chains of fire to every woman who has kept a hearth”. Click here for details.