Gaian Soul

Earth-Centered Practices for Everyday Mystics, Healers, & Creatives

How do you discern a call from Soul?

in Spiritual Practice

For the last couple of months, I’ve been pondering the ways that we recognize a call from Soul.

How, I asked myself, can I tell if an inner prompting, or a desire, is a true call from my Soul … or if it’s from my ego, or perhaps even from the wounded part of me that hides in shadow?

If someone asked me that question — “How do I discern a call from Soul?” I would answer:

Use all your sacred tools: tarot readings, journal writing, time in nature, conversations with trusted wise ones, tracking signs and symbols in dreams, cards, books, and nature; and perhaps most importantly, paying attention to your body reactions. I would say that the call from Soul might come as a sudden Tower-like epiphany, or it might unfold slowly over time. I would say: Double down on meditation and prayer practices. Keep your senses alert for signs and messages.

I then counseled with a circle of Wise Ones and asked for their responses. Here’s what they added:

“Your true self — your soul — never speaks from a place of fear or judgement or low self-worth. If you feel those things, it is not your soul speaking, period.”

A friend who was raised Catholic had this to say about the process of discernment she learned in the church, and which still serves her well:

“The first thing I learned was to find solitude and reflect on our inner feelings while listening for the still, quiet voice of God. The second was to be observant and watch for signs and symbols in the world around me that appear as clear indicators of the path forward. The third one I remember clearly was to wait and be patient. I remember that because I’ve never had an excess of patience and don’t like to wait for anything. Finally, after enough time doing the first three things, commit to the path forward.”

Another one responded:

“I journal — a lot! — when faced with something I think may be a call from Spirit. I write about it. And then I read what I wrote. If I have a lot of justifications, qualifications and ego-based desires, I know it’s not a call from Spirit.

Then I use my essential divinatory practices — tarot, praying for guidance and meditation (so that I can hear guidance).

And I tune in to my body. To me, historically, a call to Spirit is not without some excitement/fear but it is almost always accompanied by relaxed joints, soft muscles, a deepening of my breath (having more depth and breadth) and a lightness to my body. If heaviness, tension, or shallow breath are present, I assume my soul is not in alignment.

Finally, if something is a call from my Soul, I trust that it will move me to action, even if/when I am filled with fear. I have an inherent belief that I will never lose or miss out on what is right for me — not in path, people, places, opportunities. I trust that even if I resist (due to fear), the power of love that wants to move through me will grow so big that I can’t ignore it and will feel compelled to align with it.”

Such a lucky woman I am, to have such Wise Ones in my circle of friends.

I pass the talking piece to you:

How do you discern a call from Soul?

The New Year Slowly Unveils Her Face

in Uncategorized

snow, sun 2012It seems to me that the New Year unfolds in increments, beginning at All Hallows and continuing through Candlemas.

Gaian Priestess faceShe comes in quietly, like a ghost on All Hallow’s Eve. She unveils Herself a little more each day through the season of darkness, pausing to mark the birth of the Sun at Solstice, feeling the radiant warmth of the dawn’s rays.

And we enter the deep dark with Her, dreaming, resting, incubating. We look back at the year gone by and note our successes and our disappointments. We rejoice with our community at the Return of the Sun.

But the days are still dark, still short, still cold. Secular New Year’s Eve and Day comes and goes.

As the month of January unfolds, we will find ourselves desiring to cleanse ourselves, to eat austerely after our holiday feasting, to move our bodies, to wipe the slate clean and bring something new into manifestation.


And this holy longing grows. What do we want to do differently in the coming year?  How do we want to be different?  We carry these questions in our hearts into the cold January days, and we mark the daylight that grows longer each day, oh so infinitesimally.

Soon it will be time for Candlemas at the beginning of February — a time for initiation, for pledges, and for promises. And the Old Woman of Winter will make way for the Maiden of Spring.

Most of us who live outside of mainstream culture no longer make resolutions, knowing that they come from a place of lack and often from shame. And they rarely work.


Gaian SeekerBut like the Seeker setting out on the path with the goal of reaching the top of the Great Mountain, we need to have an idea of where we want to go, if we ever want to get there. We Seekers walk the path of deepening and transformation. We make conscious choices by creating maps, making plans, and setting goals. At the same time, we need to be guided, to be nudged by intuition, signs and synchronicities.

“Here,” the New Year whispers. “Follow this path, follow the lead of the swallows and butterflies . . .”

And we lean into Mystery.

Throughout November, December, and January, as the New Year unfolds, we walk a continuum between making conscious plans to following the promptings of the Spirit, back and forth. We need both, in order to bring our visions and dreams into manifestation.


I have found that it is absolutely necessary for me to map out my plans for the coming year, to set goals and create strategies. But I rely on intuition and the guidance of the Spirit to help me make those plans.

And I keep myself open to the winds of change.

Tarot Prompts for December

in Tarot, Wheel of the Year

Here are a couple of tarot / journaling prompts for you … and my own responses to them.

What do I need to know about the coming month of December?

I pulled the Ten of Fire from the Gaian Tarot in answer to this question. I pulled the Ten of Fire from the Gaian Tarot in answer to this question.

I was not too happy to see this card! The Tens in the Gaian Tarot are all mini-Death cards. Something is passing away, and what is to come, is not yet clear. Fire is all about creativity and passion and personal power. So in December, I may experience some kind of a mini-death around those things.

It could be burn-out (yes, I have been working very hard). It could be that I am bringing a particular creative project to completion (which I am; my intention is to finish before the end of December). It could be a lingering illness; the bronchitis I brought back with me from a long plane ride in November.  It’s even possible it’s not about me, but about something happening on the national or international stage that affects me.

It’s hard for me to say right now how the Ten of Fire might manifest in my life. But I do need to remember that some seeds need the intensity of fire in order to germinate; and that indigenous peoples commonly set controlled fires to maintain the health of the land. I think I can look at this card as release and letting go — even if it’s painful — in order to make way for the “unknown new” that is to come.

Your turn. What do you need to know about the coming month of December?  

What composted wisdom do I carry with me as I await the Return of the Sun?

Choose a question, either early Winter or early Summer, depending on where you live. Pull a tarot or oracle card and let the imagery spark suggest a way to finish the sentence:  

The composted wisdom that I carry with me as I await the rebirth of the Sun is …

The full blooming wisdom I carry with me as the longest day of the year approaches is …

I pulled the the Two of Earth from the Gaian Tarot.

The composted wisdom that I carry with me as I await the rebirth of the Sun is the reminder to focus on one thing at a time, instead of priding myself on how well I multi-task. I’ve been making my plans for 2018, and find myself adding things in to my schedule, then going back and cutting them out. Because this is composted wisdom, it is slumbering beneath the surface of my awareness. I’m grateful for this reminder to always look for and find my center in the midst of many demands on my time and attention. And to focus on One. Thing. At. A. Time.

Your turn. What wisdom do you carry into the season? 

Tarot Prompts for November

in Tarot, Wheel of the Year

Here are a couple of tarot / journaling prompts for you … and my own responses to them.

What do I need to know about the coming month of November?

Gaian Tarot 5 of EarthI pulled the Five of Earth from the Gaian Tarot in answer to this question. I just had to smile, because the imagery in this card looks very much like the view from my window right now — bare trees, rain, and leaves whipped up by the wind, drifting into piles on the ground. The 5 of Pentacles is traditionally a card of deprivation, illness, loss, and survival concerns. My own particular twist on the card in the Gaian Tarot is to show a person who knows s/he has the survival skills necessary to build a shelter to survive the storm, whatever that storm may be.

Over the years I have heard many people describe this card as very comforting. They call it the “hunkering down” card. It’s time to hunker down and wait out the storm. I have the sense that this card is about literal storms, as we often get in November in the Pacific Northwest. I think it’s also about the political storms brewing in the US as well as other parts of the world. We all need to remember that we do have the skills and the resilience necessary to see it through.

We might ask ourselves: What are my survival skills? How do I cultivate resilience?

Your turn. What do you need to know about the coming month of November?  

What wisdom do I carry with me into the season?

Choose a question, either Autumn or Spring. Pull a tarot or oracle card and let the imagery spark suggest a way to finish the sentence:  

The rooted wisdom I carry with me as I inhabit the darkest time of the year is …

The blooming wisdom I carry with me as the earth bursts into flower is …

Gaian Tarot MoonI pulled the Moon from the Gaian Tarot.

The rooted wisdom I carry with me as I inhabit the darkest time of the year is … the knowledge of the Sacred Wheel of life / death / renewal in my very bones. I am grateful for the teaching that Nature Herself has given us: as the moon waxes to fullness then wanes again, we know that all things begin, blossom, come into full flower, wither, release seeds, and die. When times are hard, we have the promise of renewal. We know that the time of grief and loss won’t last forever. When times are good, we can cherish them, knowing them to be evanescent and all the more precious.

Last night I watched the almost-full moon rising in the east, hiding her face behind storm clouds, then coming out to shine in all her brilliance. My heart rejoiced to see her, La Luna Bella, my beloved friend.

The model for the priestess in the Gaian Moon card was my friend Charlotte, who was an organic farmer for decades. The sweetgrass in my garden that I harvest every August comes from her farm. She died on Winter Solstice three years ago; her photograph is on the altar for our Beloved Dead. I like to think that she is one of the ancestors whose voice is whispering in the wind.

Your turn. What wisdom do you carry into the next season? 

Return to Aldermarsh

in Nature Connection, Retreat


One year ago, my retreatants and I said farewell to Aldermarsh, the beloved retreat center on Whidbey Island, Washington, where we have been gathering twice a year for the past six years. Energetically, it didn’t feel like a final goodbye, but we had been told it was. And so we grieved, held ceremony, and wrote love letters to the land.

And She came back to us.

One year later, new owners and new stewards are holding the center of Aldermarsh Retreat Center. It is thriving as a non-profit retreat center, and I have already booked 3 retreats for 2018. One of the stewards told me that she could hear and feel great peals of joy reverberating from Marsh House and the Main House during our retreat.

We have loved the land, and She loved us right back.

(I posted the following photos on Instagram each day of the retreat.)

flowers and fir

Tuesday: Grateful beyond words to be back at Aldermarsh. The land recognizes us and welcomes us home. Tomorrow we call the circle!


Tuesday: The theme of this week’s Gaian Soul Retreat is “Herbcraft: Mysteries of Cedar and Rose.” When I bent down to lay my offering of sweetgrass at the base of Grandmother Fir, I saw others had already left offerings … of cedar and rose. Of course they did. #thelandisalive

morning mist

Wednesday: Good morning, mist in the meadow. Good morning, waning moon. Hush.

arriving 1

Wednesday: The circle is gathering!

arriving 2

Wednesday: Circle is growing! Big laughs and hugs and grins as each woman arrives …


Thursday: A day of herb crafting with guest teacher Latisha Guthrie. Exploring the mysteries of Cedar and Rose on a plant walk.

latisha teaching

Thursday: Latisha taught us to connect with the plants in silent communion, in making bundles, cedar oil, and cedar salve.

Latisha smiling

Thursday: Making cedar salve. Full hearts.


Friday: I love watching the altar grow, as every day we notice and honor all that is sacred.

sea dance

Friday: Walking the sacred waters. Yesterday we communed with woods and meadows, today we commune with the sea.


Friday: Across the threshold, we enter the silence, and practice the art of noticing.


Friday: Time to play with the wind spirits on the shores of Useless Bay!


Friday: We made rosaries of rowan berries, elderberries, corn, rose hips and beads. These rosaries are ephemeral, like a sand painting. Eventually they will crumble, but our prayers will live on.

pie and salad

Saturday afternoon downtime brought chocolate pecan bourbon pie, cashew ice cream, and … salad! Some women!

serpentine path to the temple

Saturday night: We walked the serpentine path at sunset, slipping between the worlds, entering the Temple of the Green Ones. And inside: Holy. Holy. Holy.

Two of the women at this retreat came from storm-wrecked Houston. Others came with damaged-but-healing bodies or weary spirits. We know we are privileged beyond belief to step outside of time for a few days, away from the responsibilities of our everyday lives, to fill the well of our creativity and spiritual practice. We will each return to our own work, our own part in mending the web of life, whatever our part may be. We retreat to connect with nature, to make sacred art, and to share our hearts with our sisters, so that we are better able to do the hard work of healing the world.

“The moral covenant of reciprocity calls us to honor our responsibilities for all we have been given, for all that we have taken. It’s our turn now, long overdue. Let us hold a giveaway for Mother Earth, spread our blankets out for her and pile them high with gifts of our own making. Imagine the books, the paintings, the poems, the clever machines, the compassionate acts, the transcendent ideas, the perfect tools. The fierce defense of all that has been given. Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision all offered up on behalf of the earth. Whatever our gift, we are called to give it and to dance for the renewal of the world.

In return for the privilege of breath.”

— Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

My friend Cari Ferraro wrote this beautiful post about her experience on retreat with us. I appreciate it more than I can say.

Would you like to retreat with me? I have a new plan for 2018 and beyond. Because the March and September retreats sell out so quickly, they are now limited to retreat alumni or by application. A new yearly retreat is dedicated to foundational practices and is designed for those who have not retreated with me before. If you want to be among the first to hear when registration opens for the retreats, please sign up on the Early Bird List. Thank you.