Earth Wisdom Tarot Sacred Art

Musings & Meanderings: Gearing Up & Letting Go

in Musings & Meanderings, Soul Work


rebirthWhat a paradoxical week! There were bright sunshiny days that trumpeted joy and rebirth, alternating with dull grey days that spit out rain. There was exultation and anxiety on the emotional barometer. There were afternoons spent exploring the mudflats at low tide, and mornings with nose pressed to laptop screen, fingers typing away. There was social media chatter and there were naps. There was gearing up and letting go. Gee, that does sound like Spring, doesn’t it?

My thoughts this week circled mostly around business, so (fair warning) that’s what I’m writing about today.

More and more opportunities are coming my way to lead retreats, and to teach in-person workshops. I am thrilled about this! It’s quite a shift away from the online work that has been my main focus for the past few years. Here’s an epiphany that came to me this past week:

I love leading retreats as much as I love painting!

It’s a third art form, along with writing and making art. I love love love designing experiences for people. And I love learning how to hold the wisdom of the circle.

Brigid altarBut / and. Here’s the paradox: I am finding that it is much harder work to create a sustainable income with in-person events because of the high overhead (venue rental, caterer, travel). With online courses, not only are the costs lower, but the pool of people who might want to join in is much larger.

And I love connecting with people who live far away from me. I love my friends in southern Ontario, in Massachusetts, in Brooklyn, in North Carolina, in Texas, in Santa Fe, in Chicago, in the UK and Australia. Virtual sacred space can be such a miracle and a blessing.

And I love teaching in person. This week, I was asking myself how to balance the two, keeping in mind my desire to avoid burnout and financial stress. (Not to mention making sure I have time in my schedule for writing and art-making.)

As I was musing on all this, I came across a blog post Jen Louden wrote on “How I Do My Business and Why.” (I’ve taken courses from Jen, gone on her retreats, and received coaching from her, so I tend to listen when she speaks.) She wrote:

“I adore teaching, and most of all I adore teaching live at my retreats, but they are too labor intensive to fill and teach more than a few times a year. So I teach online more often. And it works better for the majority of my community because they can’t always travel. So to serve and earn, I do both. It’s not about perfection, it’s about sustainable service.”

Synchronicity! The right words I needed to hear, at the right time.

“Sustainable service.” How I love that phrase.

gaian soul circleAnd so — the gearing up and the letting go. I am gearing up to launch the new Gaian Soul Circle, a private online community, later this month. I’m excited about learning more from Jen in her upcoming TeachNow course  about how to translate interactive activities to an online situation. I’m happy about beginning the new Circle with some of the folks who were part of the Gaian Tarot Circle or my seasonal ecourses, and who valued the community we created there so highly. I’m looking forward to having a private online sacred space to gather, to hold council circle via teleconferences, and to share wisdom about earth-centered spiritual practice, the Goddess, the tarot, connecting with nature right here and now, the sacred arts, and all those things I hold so dear.

And the letting go? I cancelled the retreat I had planned for late August, shortly after announcing it. (The September retreat is sold out.) Was I afraid I would look like an utter fool? Um, yes. Was I afraid I would disappoint the women who had already registered, and come off as completely unprofessional? Why, yes, I was. But I wasn’t sleeping, and my anxiety grew. So I took a deep breath, consulted the oracle, and sought the wise counsel of my mastermind buddy Theresa Reed.

And I chose self-care and sustainable service.

So be it.

I so appreciate the grace of the women who had already registered for August, as they easily shifted into coming to another retreat, at another time. Grateful.

A few things that lit me up this week:

The rest of Jen Louden’s post on “How I Do My Business and Why” is just as rich as the paragraph I quoted above.

art by lisa congdonI love the whimsical art of Lisa Congdon, and I especially love the quotes she has gathered and illustrated for her new book: “Whatever you Are, Be a Good One!”

My friend Carolyn Cushing has a feature on her blog I love called “Wild Wisdom on Wednesday.” This week, it’s all about rocks.

“It is stones smoothed by the sea, erratics resting from their wandering, rocks turning up in the garden, the pebble you picked for your pocket, that invite you to enter the full deep of earth.”

And I resonate strongly with this post by Latisha Guthrie on re-entry after a peak retreat experience:

“The poison and the remedy is always one and the same after reentry: pace and space. Too fast and too far and you’ll likely find yourself stranded in loneliness, too slow and too close and you likely find yourself suffocated by the fog of inaction. To settle into the rhythm of my daily doings again, asking for the space I need. Knowing the path is being prepared for me. Laying down expectations of needing to understand every piece completely. Embracing active discovery, letting go of finished lines, being present to the living mystery. This is my practice this week. This is my practice for always.” 

One of my biggest takeaways from Jen Louden’s free call on TeachNow last night was the idea of creating different ways to present information so that all learning styles are supported, not just my own learning style. Oh yeah. I’m going to have fun with that!

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Storm Fri - Apr 04th 2014 8:43 am

    “With online courses, not only are the costs lower, but the pool of people who might want to join in is much larger.”

    But also… you tend not to show up. You say “hello” to most (but not all) of the students during the first couple of days and then you let everything fall as it will.

    For a couple hundred bucks, you should be there.

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Fri - Apr 04th 2014 10:07 am

      Storm, thank you for the feedback. Which course of mine did you take?

      Teaching is an ongoing learning process. My own preference for interacting with students is on the live teleseminar calls that are a part of most, but not all, of my ecourses. When I first started teaching online, I spent so much time in the discussion forum and answering student emails, that I very quickly wore myself out. I think I became kind of allergic to discussion forums after that.

      So when I started the seasonal ecourses a couple of years later, I followed the example of other teachers, and invited a hostess to keep the conversation flowing in the forum. I always had a section of the forum where students could ask me direct questions, to which I would always respond. Now the seasonal ecourses are self-study with a lower price point, because there is no forum.

      In the case of the Gaian Tarot Circle and the Gaian Soul Circle, I invited several “Guardians” to be present, to keep the conversation flowing. These Circles are not courses, but are community hubs.

      My experience has also been that students are often unaware of how much time, energy, and work goes into the preparation of the teaching materials, aside from the forum or teleseminars, especially when the information is presented in various modalities like video, audio, and PDF handouts. All of this is figured into the price of a course.

      As I move ahead with online teaching, I will keep seeking that “sweet spot” where I can be present for students in the discussion forum while still practicing self-care. I appreciate your feedback, and I thank you for listening.

  • Michaela Rosenberger Fri - Apr 04th 2014 11:37 am

    This is just what I needed to learn today: putting self care first, and being my best in my endeavors. Right now, I am taking a Tarot Foundation class with Biddy Tarot. I love that I am part of an international community. But more than that, before the class began, Brigit asked us to create an action plan with specific questions about how we would show up, and how we would accomplish our work. It made me sit and think and have a doable action plan that included self care. It gave me an opportunity to not only begin with enthusiasm, but to be prepared for the longer term of showing up, not just in classes, but also in our FB group. The results are that those who have consistently committed to showing up are receiving a great deal of benefit. Those who don’t …. As a course leader, you are prepared to give us your best. As an adult learner, we must choose our priorities. Thank you.

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Fri - Apr 04th 2014 1:39 pm

      Michaela, I love the idea of asking students to create an action plan. So glad it worked so well for you. I can see that it would be an excellent thing for the teacher to do before each course, too. Like “I will spend one hour a day and no more in the online group.” Really appreciate this post, thank you.

  • Maurie Fri - Apr 04th 2014 4:20 pm

    I really appreciate this post, Joanna. I too am in the process of trying to find what will work for me and the balance of online and in person offerings as I work towards sharing my passions and gifts. I know that in person is so much more natural to me. I know that designing things for online often feels cumbersome and overwhelming to me. I know I can find my way through this as long as I give my self the grace and the space to figure it out. Thanks for sharing a bit of your own journey in this. Hugs. ~ Maurie

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Sat - Apr 05th 2014 8:57 am

      Maurie, you will indeed figure it out! 🙂 And I think you would be an amazing teacher. I’m going to send you a little something in an email. Hugs & Blessings.

      • Maurie Sat - Apr 05th 2014 10:43 pm

        Thanks, Joanna!

  • Kathy Sat - Apr 05th 2014 2:32 pm

    I work extensively with online trainings and I find that they tend to be a cop out. Cheap? Yeah. Less labor intensive? Yeah. Canned? OHHHH yeah.

    On line trainings can add value but they tend to put money before people. So I don’t endorse them any more.

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Sat - Apr 05th 2014 2:49 pm

      Thanks Kathy. My experience has been completely different from yours. I take a lot of online courses (probably too many) and I don’t find them to be any kind of cop-out at all. From a teacher’s perspective, I have found that online courses are *much* more labor-intensive than in-person events. In-person events have higher fixed costs as I mentioned, but there are no videos or audios to create, no website classroom to set up, no teleseminar or forum software to navigate, no tech difficulties to troubleshoot. I cannot disagree with you more, that online trainings put money before people. That may be true of some of them, but it is simply not true of the ones I have taken.

  • Carolyn Cushing Sun - Apr 06th 2014 11:30 am

    I am captivated by this idea of /term for facilitating retreats (in-person and on-line) as a “third art.” There is a term, that may come from sociology, of the third space. This is the space that helps you make a transition. For example, in the sociology studies, they looked at how neighborhood bars helped make the transition from work to home, creating a buffer between the stress of the workplace and the home where you could be with your family (the potency and addictive potential of alcohol, yes, could also create negative impacts). In looking at the civil rights movement, researchers identified places like the Highlander Center, which trained in non-violent strategies as well facilitated cultural and strategic exchange between different movements and activists in different parts of the country, as places that fostered the emergence of a powerful Southern freedom movement. Guess who’d been trained at Highlander? Rosa Parks; no, she wasn’t just one woman sitting down, but rather was part of a movement.

    So leading retreats as a third art is about creating a transition space and, depending on the how and the who, this transition space can be a support for the transformation of participants.

    As a how and a who, I have observed and experienced that you, Joanna, create a container / a space / a learning environment that encourages (maybe even demands in an undemanding way) that participants step forth to share their gifts. You start with sharing your gifts and learning and content, and then you step back. That creates the space for participants to interact with and learn from each other. Ah and here is a “hidden thing” that you do; you draw together wonderful, wise, supportive groups of people. To do this is an art; maybe there are steps to lay out, but I think it comes from a long process of … probably attending to and heading all your arts.

    We talked a bit about this on the closing of the Gaian Circle; you are the Priestess, not the High Priestess. You work to create a Circle of equals and a part of that, I’m thinking, is stepping back.

    I’m captivated by this “third art” and observing and mapping out just a bit here (in this growing long comment!) because I aspire to this kind of facilitation / training / teaching. I desire to help people find their intuition or strength or wisdom. I have watched and learned from you about how to create the space for that to emerge.

    I love Michaela sharing Brigit of Biddy Tarot’s idea of starting a course with the identifying of desires and goals as well as what resources / time you might devote to a course or experience … or it can be something good to do ahead of choosing a course to see what you really want and them comparing it to what is being offered. “Teaching,” “course,” and “facilitation” are words that have a lot of meanings under the umbrella of their letters and not everyone does it in the same way. Making a match asks those on both sides of the equation to be clear in what they are looking for or offering.

    I am going to be thinking more about this! And also how it is my third art.

    And thanks for linking to my Wild Wisdom post. Another example of how you facilitate the wisdom development and sharing of the many!

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Sun - Apr 06th 2014 6:55 pm

      Once again, you are brilliant, Carolyn, and I look forward to reading this again and replying when I have a bit more attention. Thank you !!

      • Carolyn Cushing Mon - Apr 07th 2014 8:40 am

        Actually, “I” am not brilliant. I exist within an ecology / a field of brilliance. And sometimes I can pin down a spark of light in the pattern and reflect it back. Which leads me to my further insight on this “third art.” When you practice the third art, you follow the cycle of the moon. You form the idea in the generative dark of the new moon, then start to make it. There’s lots we don’t see because it is only being carried on a crescent. But then you are building the infrastructure and spreading the word as the moon is growing larger. When the moon is full, you share your piece, your light, your reflection of the sun; that’s your teaching. But then because you create communities as much as teach, you begin to withdraw. The moon grows smaller. When the moon is new again, we, the participants, have to look inside to find our own light. We start to share it with each other and the moon grows fat again. We like to be in the full moon light (hey, I like my sparks to be acknowledged) but we are none of us the sun. The Sun may be the Divine, the Goddess, or maybe it is all of our lights combined.

        • Joanna Powell Colbert Mon - Apr 07th 2014 8:44 am

          I love this analogy. Thank you thank you thank you. I am still musing on this idea of the “third art.” Loving it.

          • Carolyn Cushing Mon - Apr 07th 2014 8:57 am

            This is very helpful for me, too, in thinking about how I work/teach/facilitate. Over the past few months, I have been especially strongly wanting and working to follow the energy of the moon. And now here is how it guides third art teaching.

            Oh and I know you love the salmon cycle, but good thing you didn’t follow that for your teaching life: Swim upstream with tremndoues effort, give a tremendous push for birth (the participants), give ’em every last thing you’ve got, and then die. Totally not sustainable for teaching.

          • Joanna Powell Colbert Mon - Apr 07th 2014 9:04 am

            Oh I am doubled over laughing, Carolyn, thank you for this! 😀

  • Melissa Sun - Apr 06th 2014 3:24 pm

    I’m excited about an e-course offering. I’ve always wanted to do a retreat, but they are totally unfeasible for me right now because of money/distance.

    e-Courses I think require more of a dedication on part of the student, as it is totally easy to just brush it off, or not “show up.” fully to the meetings.

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Sun - Apr 06th 2014 6:58 pm

      Thank you Melissa. I have to agree with you there . . . as someone who takes a lot of ecourses myself, I know that the quality of my experience is directly in proportion to the amount of time and attention I give the course.