I wrote this article April 17, 2006, several months after I emerged from my Priestess Process™ facilitated by Carol Rydell. It serves as a potent testimony to the power and magic of this process.
Completing my apprenticeship in the Priestess Process with Carol - January 2011
A 'Model' Priestess
Sacred marriage declaration - 2005
My re-birth ceremony - 2005
The Priestess Process can literally be a moving experience with lots of dancing
When a Red-Tailed Hawk swooped down in front of my truck on the way to Carol’s house for the preview of the Priestess Process™, I knew it was significant. Having only dallied in animal medicine, I had no idea what it meant and couldn’t wait to get home to look it up in my Ted Andrews book. Something momentous was in store for me I was sure! Ends up I didn’t really need the validation.
My heart told me everything I needed to know.
There are times in your life when you know you’re supposed to do something even though you have no idea why. Something deep inside compels you. You can’t define it or describe it; you don’t know what you’re about to get yourself into; you don’t even know how you ended up there at that particular moment in time. But a presence, a feeling — a knowing — reaches you, guiding you to take a risk. Hinting to you that your participation holds immense value, the likes of which you cannot now even comprehend.
This was the Priestess Process™ for me.
I am Priestess Stephanie and I emerged with my sisters on November 20th, 2005. In the five months since that time, I cannot begin to tell you the effect this process has had on my emotional maturity, my confidence, my knowledge of self, my thought-processes, my spiritual awakening, and my relationships. Though I could write a book about it, I want to share with you some of the more significant aspects that have changed the very way in which I approach my life.
To begin this account, I must first give you a brief framework around which you can understand the significance of what I’m about to share. After 13 ½ years, I am getting divorced. The event that started this detour in my life happened at the beginning of October last year, a month and a half before I emerged. Although still deep in the process and lacking the perspective I have now, I truly believe I could not have handled myself in the manner I have without the foundations laid during the Priestess Process™.
In so many areas of our lives, we are unconscious of the way in which we have modeled ourselves after the significant persons who played a part in our development: parents, grandparents, big brothers or sisters, teachers, etc. In many cases, while these people did the very best they knew how, the model was incomplete. Lacking. Often negative or damaging. As adults we may find ourselves wanting to break free from those molds but having no idea how. I realized I did not have the courage to create my own new model, let alone the enormous confidence I envisioned it taking to live by that new set of rules!
While in circle with my sisters, we were empowered to create an environment in which we could be honest and authentic, without judgment and without trying to fix one another. We could take risks, say things we might not otherwise say, share our deepest fears, and reveal our darkest secrets. Speak of our grandest dreams and dare to make known our strongest desires. And we were safe! We fed off of each other’s courage. As one person disclosed an uncomfortable truth, the next person was inspired to reveal theirs. As one person’s guilt and shame was shared, the intensity of those emotions was dissipated. As one person shared their story of triumph, the energy of her joy reinforced the rest! Through journaling, movement, honest reflection, and living ceremony, we were challenged to shake off the old constraints and be present with whatever feelings were in our hearts at that moment. If that meant cry, then cry. If that meant cuss, then cuss. If that meant dance, then dance! If that meant ripping off the goddamned bra, then rip it off!
Now if you’re suddenly picturing a gaggle of women playing loud primal music, stomping around the floor, crying, laughing, shrieking, hugging, and losing the occasional optional clothing item, well then you’re not far from the truth! But don’t forget to picture the rest: women creating deep, meaningful, lasting, honest and supportive relationships. Women feeling free to say what they need without retribution. Women honoring each other and themselves. Women tapping into ancient wisdom from a blend of cultures. Women redefining old archetypes. Women recreating themselves!
And with the loving and watchful guidance from Carol and her apprentice Lidia, I began to see that a woman could be something completely different than anything I had every imagined. These incredible women, my friends – my new sisters – were showing me how it was done. They were becoming my new models. Their courage gave me courage. Their experiments gave me new examples of how I could be. I continually reflect back upon those months, as our timidity blossomed into fearlessness, and cherish every moment for the opportunity it gave me to construct new models for my behavior and decision-making processes. It is a priceless gift.
This new modeling completely permeated my navigation through my divorce. As my husband and I had many long, difficult, brutally honest, grueling conversations, I regularly called upon that space in my heart that was forever connected to those memories with my sisters. I drew upon the strength of the circle and the strength I found within myself to apply the new model I created. What I discovered I could be astounds me even now when I think about it.
I discovered I could become the observer and the participant at the same time. I could call upon objectivity and see beyond myself and even our relationship to see how the events in each of our lives lead us to this exact point. I could even see where they would end up leading us, though it would be apart. I decided that my divorce, our divorce, did not have to look like anyone else’s. While I realized how many of my old programs — old models — were running subconsciously throughout the years of our marriage, I took comfort in the fact that, though we were creating our “end”, we were co-creating the experience together, based on our truest, most authentic feelings and desires. It didn’t matter that no one we knew had ever gone through a divorce that looked anything like this. Ironically, nothing about us followed the norm. We consciously chose to create our own model of divorce.
If you find it curious I could speak so lovingly about someone with whom I’ve chosen to dissolve a marriage, I don’t blame you. But this too, would not be possible with out the experience of the Priestess Process™. Through the growth it stimulated in me, I realized that loving someone and knowing that our relationship had served its purpose could occupy the same space. My husband and I love each other dearly and vowed from the beginning of this end, that we would show up each day in our truth, whatever that looked like. That if the future of our relationship was in the balance, we owed it to each other and most importantly ourselves to be nothing less than absolutely truthful. Whatever future we were to build, it must be built on honesty.
The process of divorce is acutely different for each individual and each couple. For me it has been important to be deliberate and to own my feelings, whether positive or negative, whether common knowledge or deeply repressed. With the example of my sisters, I have learned how to acknowledge and feel my feelings. How not to judge them. How they are, each and every one, valid. I have learned how to speak them with confidence. To pronounce each word and complete each sentence. To look the other person in the eye as I speak my truth. And to be comfortable in the uncomfortable silence in between. That, my friends, is huge.
With my newly honed skills, I have learned that as humans, our process of “coming apart” can be just as loving and honoring as the process of our “coming together.” I have no idea what each new day will hold, but I now have the courage to exist in the present moment, not knowing what the future will bring. This would not have been possible for me even a year ago. I would have understood the concept, but with no actual idea of how to apply it to my life.
The Priestess Process™ is not a self-indulgent excuse to spend a couple days here and there doing a bit of philosophizing and fantasizing and playing make-believe like 10-year-olds in an attempt to recapture lost innocence and dull the pain of our unfulfilled lives. It provides real skills, real knowledge, real tools and makes you realize that real life is a gift! The path to fulfillment does not bypass our emotions; the path to fulfillment leads right smack through the middle of them! Through conscious choice I have learned to embrace myself, to own my life – every bit of it. Every emotion, every feeling, every thought, every action. I have realized that this ability — to feel — is the most coveted reason to be a human being on this planet.
“The Red-Tailed Hawk can awaken visionary power and lead you to your life purpose. It is the messenger bird, and wherever it shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.” This was the caption under a picture of the splendid bird in Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak book. When I got home from Carol’s house that fateful day, I quivered as a read sentence after sentence that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I knew I was making the right choice. I knew I was hearing and following an intelligence guiding me in a direction I knew I must go. So I went. And in doing so, I found the most amazing, courageous, passionate, intelligent, compassionate, loving, and creative person I could ever meet…myself.