Tag Archive: Personal Ceremony

Dreams and Gestalt Therapy.

Frederick (Fritz) Perls is considered the “father” of Gestalt Therapy. The basic concept of Gestalt Perls believed that unresolved conflicts from the past had a great deal of influence upon present behavior, and that these conflicts needed to be “worked through” (Perls, 1969). Dreams were a cornerstone of this type of therapy because of the dreamsenergy and reference work it provides to help people better understand the present.

When working with myself, my patients often discover just how powerful dreams can be when seeking insight into our day-to-day lives and possible hidden issues that we can’t see within the present.  You see, Fritz Perls felt that dreams were highly symbolic and made extensive use of interpretation and I couldn’t agree more.  I believe dreams are a subjective presentation of the person and that there is a sense of wholeness in every image.  By using dreams as a part of therapy, we can better connect to the meaning of what may be parts of ourselves that are veiled or living within a fantasy during waking life.  The meanings have to be carefully talked about, sometimes even talked through using an empty chair as a “third” party.  And we can always evaluate the idea of the intrapsychic dream landscape.  For example, was that angry dog really someone angry at you or yourself angry at a situation.

Dreams are powerful and there are many ways to decipher what they do and do not mean. I tend to believe our unconscious mind is always trying to help our conscious lives by providing clues to not only unraveling what is nagging us, but by presenting options for us to address, work through and then discover how to apply solutions in everyday life.

If you’re just as fascinated by dreams as I, let’s talk. I have plenty more information to provide to you and consultations are always welcomed. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for daily updates on this and other subjects related to Gestalt therapy.

What Sun Dance Means to Me

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance” and “A Brief History of The Sun Dance”.

“The tree represents the centre of the world, connecting the heavens to the earth…. The fork of the [tree] represents the eagle’s

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

nest… the eagle is the facilitator of communication between man and spirit….the eagle also represents many human traits…[he] is seen as courageous, swift and strong.  He has great foresight and knows everything.”  The main theme of the sun dance is the Buffalo which symbolizes life.  Plains Indians relied on the Buffalo for everything – food, shelter, clothing.  The sun dance symbolizes the reconciliation of humans to the Buffalo. ( http://www.slideshare.net/westlivaudias/the-sun-dance-presentation)

eagleAs I dance back and forth, connecting to the tree, to its waters, and to life, something happens within me that makes this trip worth the time and sacrifice I made to be here.  My perspective is altered and I begin to appreciate my connection to the earth I dance on, to the life-giving properties of the herbs and shrubs, and to my connection to everything alive.  “The tree is the symbol of the Source, the eternal light from which all consciousness, life and movement emerge.  The medicine wheel [the arbor itself] is the zero surrounding the Source.  “The Zero is Holy….From the Eternal, which is Time, and from all Energies, which are Space, all of everything was born from the Zero….The womb of creation is the Sacred Zero.”” Hyemeyohsts Storm, Lightening Bolt.  (http://www.thewildrose.net/eagle_dance.html).

It takes me a month to process what I experienced within those brief 4 days.  I know my

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calf Woman

perspective has altered and that I feel more in alignment with Nature, that I am better able to handle what life gives me, and enjoy whatever there is with gratitude.  I know that more will be revealed as the year unfolds, until

White Buffalo Calf Woman

the next sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

A Brief History of The Sun Dance

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last post has been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance”.

I first read of the sun dance in “Black Elk Speaks” narrated by John G. Neihardt, and then in “Two Ravens: The Life and

 Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior” by Louis Two Ravens Irwin and Robert Liebert. Black Elk was a Sioux elder and medicine man,

 

Howard Terpning - Prepare for Sun Dance

Howard Terpning – Prepare for Sun Dance

who lived through some of the horrendous years of white aggression (not that it’s over!) and believed the sun dance was for people of all races and colour.  Two Ravens was a leader in the radical American Native Movement group (AIM) earlier in his life; he later changed his views (see “Building Bridges Beneath the Sacred Tree”), and was a major influence in bringing the sun dance to all people.

Sun Dance was forbidden by the white authorities, and was finally allowed and not interfered with, thanks to leaders like Black Elk.  Some tribes – notably the Lakota Nation – allow only native dancers.  I participate in a sun dance open to all peoples.

It takes a year to prepare for the sun dance.  A dance chief is selected and begins the process of planning space, requirements, meals, preparation of the ceremonial lands and of the dance arbor.  Closer to the time, the grounds are cleared and made ready, then the many supporters who make the sun dance possible spend weeks putting all the structures in place to feed and protect and support ceremonially the participants.  The tree is decorated, room is made for the ancestors.  The bodies of the dancers are purified by way of a sweatlodge.  Finally, the arbor is blessed and sealed and the dance begins.

Next week I will talk about how I personally am impacted by participating in the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

The Sun Dance

The sun dance is a 3-day Native American high ceremony that, to my knowledge, encompasses all other ceremonies throughout the year.  It is a ceremony performed for ourselves and our community.

Sun Dancer

Sun Dancer

It requires sacrifice: people food-fast for almost four days, some dry-fast (no food or water, no moisture of any kind except for the rain that naturally falls on us), and some have body piercing.

We dance to drum and song, back and forth to the Tree of Life, free of distractions.  By connecting to the Tree, to the ground water that feeds it, and to the water within us, we are able to fully appreciate this gift of life that we have been given, however brief, and rejoice in it.

Not everyone who wants to can participate as a dancer – there is limited room in the dance arbor.  And so the dancers dance not only for themselves and their community, they also dance for the healing of Mother Earth and thanksgiving.

“The Dance shows a continuity between life and death – and a regeneration of spiritual oneness with the Great Spirit.  It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic true deaths and rebirths.  All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another.” ( http://www.dancingtoeaglesspiritsociety.org)

In next week’s blog, we will be talking about the history of the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Every Day Unique: Never to be Repeated

For those that are just joining my journey now, this series of posts are about the beauty of ceremony and ritual.  It is something that nourishes my spirit every day, and I want to share this with you. To catch up to this post you can read “The Beauty of Ceremony and Ritual”, “Healing Nature:  I gave up a pleasure cruise for this!”, “Morning ritual with coffee:  soul hungers”, “Bracketing support”, “How to live fully” and “Greeting my partner”.

I began this series in nature and am ending it also in nature. Sitting in front of a fire in a cabin in Algonquin Park, a Canadian nature preserve north of Toronto on the Canadian Shield. It’s cool and filled with life. Yesterday we hiked to a white pine that is over 400 years old. That means it was here before this country was disturbed too much by any changing culture. This tree was young when thewhite pine air was clean and animals and humans made space for one another, respected one another. I spent time in ceremony and connected with this ancient white pine, appreciating its ancient tree wisdom and deep roots. Then left a gift offering in thanks. The day was beautiful and unique, as every day is; never to be repeated.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto-based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Bracketing Support

For those that are just joining my journey now, this series of posts are about the beauty of ceremony and ritual.  It is something that nourishes my spirit every day, and I want to share this with you. To catch up to this post you can read “The Beauty of Ceremony and Ritual”, “Healing Nature:  I gave up a pleasure cruise for this!” and “Morning ritual with coffee:  soul hungers”.

The other day, I faced a personal crisis that involved a number of people. A big deal. To emotionally prepare, I found a quiet moment and went inside to see how I was doing… I offered myself support by breathing into any area of my body that needed it. final_fantasy_xiii_cocoon_background_by_miku8-d4p4mbzThen I focused on what was important, what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to deal with the situation as a result. This brackets the event for me in a supportive cocoon. Did it work? Not completely – not everyone wanted what I did or felt as strongly – I made mistakes. But one thing for sure, I was able to live with the end result and sleep well that night.

How do you support yourself when your world does a flip?  Does it work?  How can you support yourself even better?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto-based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Healing Nature: I gave up a Pleasure Cruise for this!

For those that are just joining my journey now, this series of posts are about the beauty of ceremony and ritual.  It is something that nourishes my spirit every day, and I want to share this with you. To catch up to this post you can read “The Beauty of Ceremony and Ritual”.

 Sitting, wet, freezing. Near Bancroft, in a tent, during the coldest spring week in at least 20 years. Here to spend time with myself and face some important truths. Chose this over a weekend of pleasure in hot and sunny climes. Wondering, “What was I thinking?” That night, I froze in my arctic weather sleeping bag, grateful only that I’d had the sense to pack a cot. During the week, I kept running into weather and dashed expectations. I wasn’t able to do what I’d planned so I read a lot the first 2 days. Then went in search of medicine items that I hadn’t planned on needing… all in the company of someone as unlike myself as night sky in northern ontariopossible. Together, once we decided to make the most of our situation, we accomplished more than either of us could have done singly. The moon and stars appeared my last night. Stayed up well into the morning, watching earthly magic happen. Nature touches our heart and soul.  I’ll go on that pleasure cruise next year and appreciate it all the more for my week in Bancroft.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto-based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Summing it all up – Flower Soldiers: inspiration, meaning and purpose

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through my medicine journey in Mexico.  It was an incredible journey that I am still benefitting from. And I feel it is important to share those benefits with anyone who wants them. To catch up to this post you can read “Digging for Sacredness” , “Powerful Influence” , “Honouring the Ancients” and “Ceremonial Imagery“.

After Teotihuacan we travelled south to Tula, and then to Xochicalco (pronounced So-shi-kal’-ko).  Tula is believed to be Tollán, the legendary Toltec capital, which flourished between 850AD and 1150AD.  It was surmounted by a temple dedicated to the Toltec hero-god Quetzalcoatl. Surrounding the temple are sculptured columns in the form of warriors – flower soldiers – that were sculpted from the likeness of actual warriors.  They have flowers on their sandals, and as far as I know, it represents their reverence for all life, and in their dedication to serving life.

Their statues are at least 20 feet tall, and each has distinct features – one looks ruthless and passionate at the same time, another looks learned, another stoic, and the last one pitiless.  It’s a hot and sunny day, and they are hot to the touch where the sun

Flower Soldiers at Tula

Flower Soldiers at Tula

touches them; cold otherwise.  All four wear the flower sandals, the ritual ceremonial dress and headdress, and each carries a mirror on their back representing their connection to a higher realm.

Flower Soldiers were skilled warriors, and skilled healers (including self-healing). They had to be willing to do battle in their daily life, and to live life daily to it’s fullest.  The highest level of heaven was to die as a flower soldier (the lowest – hell – was to have successive lives of lots of noise and nothingness). It was critical in their training to learn how delicate life was and that life must be respected.  Their motto, if they had one, might have been akin to:  Today is a good day to die!

They were leaders, and yet the war for a flower soldier was an internal rather than an external war; their quest in life was to walk their talk in beauty, with honesty and integrity; emotionally balanced, physically capable, a voice for their community, and connected to spirit.  I look at their faces and wonder what each of these soldiers were like when they lived. I imagine what one
of them might say to me, and I sit for an hour leaning against one of the columns and feel the energy of the columns at my back.  I want to make him my ally, and I want to remember the feeling of him when I need physical and emotional mastery and power; when I feel the need of a strong presence in times of doubt.

The next day we traveled further to the ancient city of Xochicalco ( pronounced So-shi-kal’-ko).  This city flourished between

The Mayan Calendar on the Temple of Quetzelcoatl at Xochicalco

The Mayan Calendar on the Temple of Quetzelcoatl at Xochicalco

200AD and 900AD.  It means “House of Flowers” and was the city of the flower soldiers.   It was here that the Mayan calendar was codified, and is depicted on the walls of the temple of QuetzelCoatl on the grounds.

It is the culmination of my medicine journey that began in Mexico City.  Throughout my journey, I wanted to feel the sacredness of these spaces and connect with them. I wanted to feel that life must be respected. I wanted to find allies from the past and present to help me on my own path.; allies that would strengthen my vision and clarify my intent as I wrestle with the everyday challenges I meet along my way.  What I discovered is that I met myself along the way. And I really felt a connection with the generations of men and women who have lived, struggled and triumphed before me.

Have you ever taken a journey that has deeply impacted you? How would a flower soldier lend meaning and purpose to your life? If you were able to spend an hour with a flower soldier, how would you spend your time?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

What a mirror shows: Reflecting on Ceremonial Imagery

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last couple of posts have been taking my readers with me through my medicine journey in Mexico.  It was an incredible journey that I am still benefitting from. And I feel it is important to share those benefits with anyone who wants them. To catch up to this post you can read “Digging for Sacredness” , “Powerful Influence” and “Honouring the Ancients“.

One of the temples at Teotihuacan honours the god QuetzelCoatl, the feathered serpent.  Compared to the temples of the Sun and Moon, it is small.  It sits near the south-east corner of the site, and is adorned with carved sea shells, circles (sometimes called goggle eyes) and feathered serpent heads.  Each circle represents a mirror, which makes this temple a place filled with mirrors.

Ceremonial imagery is designed to inspire.  It is designed to remind us of stories, lessons, and behaviour. Reflecting on this ceremonial imagery is a wonderful way of getting in touch not only with your world, but also with yourself.  So this temple was the perfect place for self-reflection.

What do I see as I gaze into the mouth of the feathered serpent and the goggle eyes that line the walls?  Staring into the mouth of the feathered serpent, I felt powerfully alive.  The walls suddenly became acute magnifying glasses for how I see myself at this moment. I see a kind of duality – beauty and complexity, life  and blackness, possibility and intrigue – all within me.  Rather than something that is “out there”, I see these things within me reflected in these mirrors … what I am capable of being, here and now.  Like a Gestalt experiment in owning my projections, I am in this moment all those things.  What’s this about?  What is beautiful about me in this moment?  What is causing blackness inside me? These are large, deep questions I am asking. All because I tool the time to reflect on what was around me – in this moment it was some powerful ceremonial imagery.

Near the end of the day, I stopped to enjoy the vibrant red of the flowering tree by the entrance, and spotted a hummingbird,

Can you see the hummingbird at the centre flower?

Can you see the hummingbird at the centre flower?

clearly focused on it’s daily task.  I captured a picture of it as it was taking nectar from one of the flowers.  I recalled the medicine of a hummingbird – clarity, joy and beauty in the present moment.  How fitting!

As I recall the ceremonial imagery of the temple, I can still recall what I saw inside me. As I gazed into the mouth of a feathered serpent, I saw power, personal power, and magic.  I felt a longing for something greater than myself. I felt a connection to my universe, to the spirit of my universe.  And because of that, I also felt hope and beauty.  What could be learned about yourself by looking into the mirrors of the Temple of QuetzelCoatl? What kind of reflection would the ceremonial imagery evoke in you?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Decreasing anxiety: How can personal ceremony help?

How can personal ceremony help decrease anxiety? 

A dear friend of mine recently lost her best buddy, her dog Sammy.  He was her running mate and constant companion. She and Sammy would explore all the local parks and walking trails, sharing water and snacks along the way.  It was joyous.  Then Sammy ; after he died, she stopped running.  After a few months of not running, she found herself avoiding social gatherings of any kind.  She felt anxious and immivable, more and more, developing an unspecifiable dread of a lot of going out events.

This began to worry her. She knew Sammy meant a lot to her and that she missed him, but couldn’t understand how his death could result in such a feeling of general dread.

She got checked out physically by her doctor, joined her local YMCA, modified her diet eliminating sugars and wheat, visited her Naturopath. All these things helped her health, yet she still avoided nature trails and parks, and most social gatherings.

This all happened starting in the fall and through winter. When Spring came around, my friend was poignantly reminded of her joyous time with Sammy, and for whatever reason, decided to take the things of his she still had give then away to the universe. She gave away his leash, collar, bowls, and blankets to goodwill. She took any chews and treats to her neighbor’s dog. Then she gathered up all Sammy’s remaining toys and his ashes, and buried them in a spot in the back yard where he liked to sit. She sat there for a long while smelling the new plant life, appreciating the sun on her face and body, as Sammy would have.

And almost magically her dread began to fade.

It seems that in loosing the companionship of Sammy, my friend had also temporarily lost her connection with her natural world. Sammy was her link, and possibly in reconnecting naturally with his things and his essence, she re-connected with herself.

Maryanne Nicholls, a Toronto psychotherapist that combines the psychotherapeutic approach of Gestalt Therapy with the natural healing power of Native American Shamanism, offers counselling on anxiety, group work, and workshops. For more information, contact her at www.thejoyofliving.co.