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PART_1413213481581_20141013_101451Last week was time again for the Women and Spirituality Conference at Mankato State University in Minnesota.  I’ve done quite a few blogs on this conference and my experiences at it.  (There’s a list of links at the end of this post.)  I don’t see any reason this year should be different.

I didn’t take pictures this year.  I thought about it.  I know the mantra of public speakers is “document, document, document” and still I couldn’t bring myself to dig out my cell phone and snap a reasonable shot.   Maybe it was because the fall colors were somewhat muted this year.  It’s still a beautiful drive especially along the Minnesota River valley, but it wasn’t “vibrant”.   Maybe it’s was because this years conference seemed slightly under-populated.  There just didn’t seem to be as many attendees, merchants or even energy as there has been in previous years.  Maybe (and this is the story I’m telling myself) I just wanted  to be in the moment.

For all of the underwhelming impression, it was a really good conference this year.  The keynote speaker, Layli Maparyan, was very dynamic.   She packed an impressive amount of information and hopefulness into her presentation.  She definitely set the conference off to a great start.

The prayer beads that start the workshop "Daily Practice Sucks"

The prayer beads that start the workshop “Daily Practice Sucks”

An event like this provides the universe an opportunity to send me messages, and this year was no exception.  I gave my workshop Daily Practice Sucks twice, and in both sessions I was asked if I ever did workshops on making prayer beads.  This is something I’ve been kicking around, but it was nice to learn that there is a desire out there.  In fact I keep getting the “ping” that I need to be doing more with crafting and creative projects.

I am so very resistant to arts and crafts that this is a real challenge for me.  There is a phrase that suggests “leaning in” to those things that challenge you.  Apparently I’m looking at a year of leaning in.  One of the workshop proposals I sent to Pantheacon involved a long term art project.  I took a handmade card making class at Gilda’s Club where I volunteer.  Last week my GOM girls had me playing with clay.  Just in case I missed the point, as I was packing for the weekend my prayer beads broke and I had to restring them.



Perhaps I can attribute that “dullness” I experienced as simply my resistance to what the universe is offering me.  I can choose to lean in and stretch my own boundaries or I can live in a “toned down” vision of what’s possible.  I’ll even admit that there is some appeal to calm, predictable, and low-key but I know in my heart there is only one choice I can make.    I guess I’ll roll up my sleeves and try my hand at some crafts.



Prayer Beads

I do a workshop called “Daily Practice Sucks”.   Daily practice is one of those things that most religious practices encourage in one form or another.  Some people are great at daily practice.  They find their thing and they run with it.  They get a lot out of it and it really helps.

Other people are like me.  We struggle with doing daily practice.  It doesn’t matter how long I do something, I never seem to get to that point people talk about where I hit the “zone”.  I don’t become addicted to exercise, or feel horrible enough without my daily yoga to keep  at it.  I have been doing this spirituality stuff for a long time and I’ve tried a lot of things.

In my book (Manifest Divinity published by Immanion press and available in print or e-book from Amazon) I give exercises to help people achieve a stronger relationship with the Divine – as they choose to define that.  I suggest doing daily practice.  It works, it helps, it’s great.  I’m just really bad at it.

The workshop I give addresses a lot of the problems people have with daily practice.  In a smaller group (which is my preference) I can go through and address individuals about what they are hoping to achieve from their daily practice.  We can discuss what they currently do, or don’t do.  I love doing this workshop.  I always learn something new.  I love sharing ideas.  Best of all people come in saying they don’t have a daily practice and they leave saying “I have a daily practice.”

Earth Conclave Prayer Beads

One of the things I do in the workshop is share some of my own practices.  When I was at the Women and Spirituality Conference last month in Mankato I promised I’d post one of those practices on line.  This gets us back to the title of this week’s blog – Prayer Beads.

Prayer beads are something I learned to work with from the folks at the Earth Conclave. (  They are useful for a lot of different kinds of prayers.  People make prayer beads in many cultures and religious structures from Buddhism to Catholicism.  It makes remembering prayers easier.  It’s fun, portable and pretty.  They can be a very powerful tool for doing daily practice.

Making your own set allows you to personalize the prayer to suit your particular needs.  If you want to do a set of prayer beads for health, the people you pray for always, you can do that.  You can even add extra strings for those occasions when something extra arises.  You can make prayer beads to create sacred space.  You can make prayer beads to honor the ancestors.  You can make a prayer of gratitude into prayer beads and then wear them as a necklace to remind you to walk in gratitude throughout the day.  They are a great tool.

I wrote a prayer and made up a set of prayer beads.  I said my prayer in my workshop and got the requests to post it. So here it is, my on again off again daily practice prayer bead prayer:

I am Golden

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Gratitude

I am grateful for the Earth and the gifts and tools of Earth

I am grateful for the Air and the gifts and tools of Air

I am grateful for the Fire and the gifts and tools of Fire

I am grateful for the Water and the gifts and tools of Water

I am grateful for the Bounty in my life

I am all things and all things are me

I am a magical child of the Gods

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

I choose to live in Love and surrounded by Love

I pray in Love and Light

Holding True to my own Heart

I pray for the Earth that sustains and nurtures me

I pray for my Patron Deities

I pray for Myself

I pray for the Waters that quench my Desires

I pray for my Totems

I pray for my Family

I pray for the Fires that warm and move me

I pray for the Ancestors that love me beyond all reason and support me in my work

I pray for my Clan

I pray for the Air, breath of life that inspires me

I pray for the Mysterious Ones who cross my path to aid and teach me

I pray for my Community

I Blossom in a sea of Love

I choose to live in Abundance

I choose to live in Beauty, Balance, and Delight

I experience Joy and Awe in the world around me

I am Amazed

Blessed Be

My Prayer beads


Last Friday when I was on the blog radio “The Priestess Show” (the topic was talking to spirits)( I was asked if I was going to write something about the Women and Spirituality Conference.  I realized that what I wrote last week was less about the conference itself and more about my misery so I’m giving it another go.

Mankato State University Women’s Department decided 31 years ago to start a conference exploring the experiences of women in spiritual practice.  The Sisters of Notre Dame at Good Counsel got involved in supporting this conference as did the local Jewish women.  Their mission statement from their current brochure:

The Women and Spirituality Conference was born in 1981 and the purpose was to provide a supportive and nurturing setting for a dialogue of caring and mutual respect between and among women and men from many spiritual and religious traditions. The conference does not advocate or exclude any view and continues to foster an understanding and celebration of similarities and differences. May we continue to aid one another on our individual and communal spiritual journeys.

Mankato State Centennial Student Union photo pulled from the university website.

I don’t remember when I first went to the conference except that it was in the early 1980’s.  The conference then was entirely held within the Student Union building. There were a few vendors at tables in the basement and the workshops were tucked away in the various meeting rooms within the facility.    I was impressed with the openness and variety of women (variety based on a Minnesotan’s perspective which means out of 100 women maybe 2 black, 5 native American and the rest white, though if you chose to notice probably 20-30 ethnically Jewish).  The world has changed and now there are attendees of all ethnicities, and often the Keynote speakers are specifically chosen to encourage attendance by women of color.

Starhawk was the keynote speaker at the first conference I attended, and so there was an opening and a closing ritual to the conference.  I can’t say if this was true from the start, but it has become  a conference tradition.  The opening and closing rituals tend to be very women empowering and an acknowledgment of unity in diversity.  There is often song or chanting and over the years the artistic representations have been remarkable.  There have been weavings, and puppetry and sacred hoops.   There have been multipart songs and singing bowls.  You never know what to expect when the conference opens, except that you will be embraced as a sacred being simply for being willing to join in.

This year I was helping with set up in the vendors area so I was late to the opening ritual.  The conference has expanded out of the student union and is now housed in the Union building as well as the next three attached with additional workshops in the performing arts building.  Some of this is due to the remodeling of the Student Union, but much of it is to meet the needs of the conference.  What I did catch was a beautiful chant about the power of women as the organizers paraded through the audience with ribbons and bells.  Later I heard several women describe the opening ritual as breathtaking.

Andrea Smith   Photo from South End Press author page

The keynote speaker this year was Andrea Smith.  I was not familiar with her before attending the conference but I was impressed with her talk.  She is an activist, teacher and an author who has done work directly regarding violence against women of color.

She spoke about the problems with the way non-profits are structured in this country.  How instead of changing the system they are looking to the system (the top 3%) for recognition in the form of money and grants.  That they color reality to get the grants and so perpetuate tactics that don’t work among all the non-profits in competition for the same funds.  The power to bestow or remove “worthiness or recognition” remains in the hands of the elite.  She encouraged us instead in small ways and in our relationships to become the change we sought.  I suspect this promotes her contribution to the upcoming anthologies The Revolution Starts at Home and Sovereign Acts both from South Bend Press.

There are so many choices for workshops at this conference some of which are based in specific religious practices and other which apply to many.  (pdfs of past programs are available if you google Mankato Women and Spirituality Conference.)  Often people assume based on the bios of the presenters that the workshops are for people who practice the same religion the presenters practice but I have never found this to be true.  The conference organizers are very clear in their requests for workshop proposals that even if the topic is specific to a religious practice the workshops should be accessible to the attendees regardless of their beliefs.

Because I identify as a Pagan or a Wiccan I often find people who come to my workshops looking to talk with a Wiccan High Priestess.  Still I have found that the people who attend my workshops from other religious traditions also often stop to talk and thank me for a meaningful workshop.  There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that what you have to say makes a difference for somebody.

Over the years I have attended (and presented) workshops that were lectures, rituals, discussions and meditations.  I have dropped in on a few yoga or dance based workshops.  This year I attended a workshop where we all played a board game, “What Would Goddess Do?” ( which was really fun.  It’s always amusing to me how even with the vast amount of choices often you see the same faces from workshop to workshop.  I sat to play the game with 3 people who had attended my workshop earlier.

For a woman just beginning to explore or to question their relationship with spirituality this conference is remarkable.  For someone like me who’s been doing this for years there is still always something new to try, someone new to meet, and something to learn.  There are old friends and new in an environment that encourages openness and sharing.  If you get the chance the 2013 conference is scheduled for October 12 & 13th.  Mark your calendars now.


I am late with my post this week.

Getting ready to present my workshop. All that “stuff” on the table I was carrying around all day – 15 extra pounds makes a difference!

I spent this last weekend in Mankato Minnesota at the University Women’s Studies sponsored Women and Spirituality Conference.  This event has been ongoing annually for 31 years.  I’ve attended many times and have frequently presented workshops on various aspects of spiritual practice.  Each year my experience is different.  Sometimes I’m moved by a ritual or by the keynote speaker.  Sometimes I’m all business, presenting my workshops and getting out.

The weekend was what I was hoping to write about for my Monday blog.  I had a great time.   I met some amazing women.  I got to catch up with old friends.  I presented my workshop twice and got lots of positive feedback.  I love this workshop.  It’s called “Daily Practice Sucks!”   People come in struggling with daily practice.  They say they don’t have any.  They leave with a confidence saying “I have a daily practice.”  It’s incredibly rewarding and humbling to be able to facilitate this kind of transformation.

The weather for the weekend was perfect.  It was high 60’s-low 70’s perfect fall weather, even on the day there was a hint of dampness in the air.  It was great to be able to walk outside between the buildings on the University of Mankato campus.  I walked quite a bit and I sat quite a bit and there is the problem.

“Ember’s Bait Shop” She was selling aprons (like the one I’m wearing) and tutu’s and let me sit when I couldn’t stand any more as long as I’d pass out her cards.

I have some significant chronic pain issues, currently centering on degenerating discs in my low back.  Walking too much, especially in dress up shoes, especially carrying “stuff” is really not good for me.   Sitting too long in uncomfortable chairs with my feet on the floor (rather than elevated) is also not really good for me.  Spending hours driving in the car (even with the heated seat, which helps more than you can imagine) is not good for me.

By Sunday afternoon the drive home was done with grinding teeth and drifting attention.  There are days when I really shouldn’t drive.  Sunday was probably one of them.  When I got home I brought in my purse and a wheel of cheese.  I took a long hot bath and brought my clothes in from the car.  I took a nap and brought in my bag of promotional materials for the book. (Manifest Divinity available at  I left everything else in the car. I went to bed as soon as I could and was up every few hours to refresh my pain meds.

I got to visit my nephew and his wife who live in Mankato. Great Aunt time! Wouldn’t trade it for the world even if it did set my back to spasming!

Monday morning it was all I could do to get Orion out the door.  I had tears in my eyes, not because I was crying but because my body needed to react to the strain I was putting it through.  As soon as he was gone I went back to bed and slept until half an hour before he was due home.  I NEVER do that.  Pain is exhausting!

I sat down three times to write my blog.  I even got my photos from the weekend onto my computer.  But I couldn’t concentrate.  You’ve seen how my literary skills deteriorate on my “bad” days.  Yesterday I couldn’t write a paragraph.

I didn’t just sit and sleep.  I finished unpacking the car.  I took Orion to the grocery store (I needed stuff for his lunch).  I took things very slowly and asked for help.  I put the last of the groceries away this morning.  (It’s no problem leaving the box of kitchen garbage bags out overnight.)

They say that “motion is the lotion for the joints” and apparently it’s true because I am doing better today.  It’s a balancing act between not enough movement and too much.   The weekend was both.  Yesterday was apparently just right.

So you don’t really get a blog about my amazing weekend – I really did have a great time.  You don’t get a blog on Monday.  But you get a blog with much gratitude for feeling up to writing it.

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