One of the great joys of my life in having a circle of women who are willing to experiment with new ideas and projects with me. At our August Red Tent mini retreat, I introduced a new activity that I wasn’t sure was going to “work,” but I trusted that the women would be willing to share it with me, regardless of the results. Part of me also says, “who’s to say whether something ‘works’ anyway? What does ‘works’ even mean?” However, as anyone who has facilitated any kind of group is aware, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. It is part of the energetic alchemy of a group and there is no shame in having something fail to work. At the same time, something working extremely well often has more to do with the unique synergy and connection of the specific people present on the specific day and the energetic container and atmosphere you’ve created together than it has to do with your own specific skill level as a facilitator! This one worked. 🙂
For this watercolor affirmation card group exercise, I drew inspiration from two sources: Suzanne from Goddessing from the Heart’s Summer Self-Compassion Camp’s idea of creating a watercolor affirmation card deck and Jennifer Louden in her book Comfort Secrets for Busy Women with the idea of an affirmation circle. To prepare for this project, I cut heavy watercolor paper into rectangular cards about the size of an index card and pre-painted them completely with watercolor paints. I let my four year old and seven year old help me with this and we only did abstract background designs. At the start of the circle, I laid the blank cards around the outside of the altar cloth so that people could see them as we began, passed the rattle, sang, and did our other circle activities.
I asked each woman to write an affirmation on the watercolor card of her choice. I had paint markers available and encouraged them to also embellish the card around their words. We then formed two circles–half the group on the inside and the other half of the group standing behind them. The inside group should be facing each other, not the surrounding circle, eyes closed or open according to preference (I recommend closing eyes for full immersion!). Each woman on the outside whispered her affirmation into the ear of the woman in front of her and then each member of the outside circle rotated in turn around the inner circle, whispering the affirmation into the ear of each woman. We then switched places and the women on the inside, stood on the outside and whispered their affirmations into the ears of the second group. It was a powerful, emotional, magical experience.
When I was on the inside circle, it was like entering an otherworldly cone of gentle, nurturing, affirming sound. The whispering voices of the other women could be heard all around and it gave the sensation of being within an ancient oracular chamber, which was an effect I had not anticipated at all and was pleasantly surprising. After we finished, we shuffled the cards and passed them behind our backs and each woman chose one at random to bring home. We closed out this segment of the evening by singing Wise in Her Ways together.
After Notes: A more efficient means of pre-painting the cards would be to paint entire sheets first and then cut them up into cards, rather then cutting them up first and individually painting each one. Additionally, you could just use colored card stock. I wanted the feel and soft energy, soft focus, of watercolor though. An adaptation for a longer retreat would be to have each person paint and make their own full set of cards instead of just one. In our Circle, I used this project after we had journaled and passed the rattle, so the mood was already reflective, introspective, centered, and receptive. If the timing of your other activities of the day is different, that might impact the mood/energy of this group activity. I didn’t specify to write on the painted side of the card and so about half the group wrote on the blank white side instead, though I had intended for the colored side to also be the affirmation side. You may wish to employ some other means of switching the two circles, because the way I did it meant that each person really only heard half of the available affirmations.
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“The soul should always stand ajar
Ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”