Five Years, and a Magic Flashlight

This Spring I celebrate FIVE years as a Facilitator of Family and Systemic Constellations! I could make a long a list of adjectives to describe what it has been. Just One? EDGE. 

This work has brought me to the live edge, the space of emergence. I have learned to dive into that space, to expand into it, to turn on my capacity to see from within. So grateful!


What’s alive for you right now? What is your growing edge? Where do you want to go?  

How would having a compassionate, intuitive and skilled guide help you get there?

While I have a more public side in my group work, individuals have always found their way to me for personal coaching. Clients experience a relationship that is nourishing and creates genuine change.

What can you expect?

  • With presence and empathy, I connect deeply with the specific nature of your situation.
  • With a deeply honed intuition, I perceive hidden and misunderstood dynamics within your situation.
  • With compassion and love, I facilitate a shift in those dynamics.

What creates the shift?

I’ve used “I” several times here, simply because there is no efficient way in our language to describe what actually happens. In fact believe that the real cause of the shift is NOT AT ALL because “I” shifted it. Rather, it is the alchemy of your intention, our connection, a shared emergent awareness, and the larger consciousness of Love that actually creates the shift. “I” am just a really useful tool, like a magic flashlight, to help those things happen.

Who is this for?

This Winter, I held space for individuals seeking to understand their mysteries and challenges, and move more deeply into their personal and spiritual journeys.

My clients are committed to personal growth. They are familiar with their inner longings, and have a passionate desire to align their inner and outer worlds.

I work with my coaching clients in weekly sessions for four weeks. Each session lasts 75-90 minutes.

This Spring, I have space for four new clients. The exchange is $150 per session (four session minimum).

If you’re ready, email me at apfornes<at>gmail<dot>com. We’ll set up a time for a call and begin our journey.

With a Sunny Heart!

Alison
apfornes<at>gmail<dot>com

Incredible. Transformative. Healing. Mind-blowing. Alison has been for me a wise and intuitive guide and a powerful and loving companion as I journey into deeper and deeper knowing and loving of myself. I can think of no more important work than what she is doing and what I have been doing with her. I am immensely grateful.” – Jeff Golden

“I have worked with Alison on multiple occasions to help facilitate personal and community issues. Each time her work has brought me a shifted perspective and much needed insight, as well as facilitating a change within the system towards more love, understanding, and peace.
Sometimes the work is subtle, and sometimes it is dramatic. It is always healing and wholing. I would highly recommend constellation work and Alison’s facilitation to anyone who is willing to feel into the perspectives of another to achieve deeper levels of harmony and peace with their families and communities.”  – Kate Temple-West, katetemplewest.com

Alison’s facilitation of systemic constellations have provided incredible insights. I had hit a wall in thinking about new strategies and approaches for a challenge I was facing. In the course of 30 minutes I was able to “see” patterns, issues and avenues that I would never have understood on my own.” – Madeline Typadis-Snow

“To say that working with Alison is paradigm shifting would be an understatement: it’s paradigm exploding! This work opens realms of connection, healing, and truth that I’ve never imagined I could access, and has opened my heart and body and mind to another level of reality and possibility.” – Jessica Simkovic

Rage, Grief and Activism

scanned from 35 mm originals
Photo:  Peter Forbes

The Constellation

I was one of a small group of facilitators invited to do a systemic constellation around racism. The facilitator, Judy Wallace, asked us to generate a list of what should be represented. With the group size we had, we decided on White Power, Black Bodies, Child, Earth, Poor White Person.

I was the one who named “black bodies”. It came out of a recognition that had been stirring for months – that the painful legacy of slavery and racism from its origins through today is defined by the dehumanizing practice of simultaneously valuing and fearing black bodies, but which in my experience was rarely spoken of.

Representing black bodies, I found myself circling the center of the room, while white power stood just outside my circle. White power had a calm but piercing attention on the other white people in the room. Both white child and poor white person were not eager to align with white power, though white power was happy to include them in his power. 

As I circled the room, I felt numb, moving forward on a momentum that was not my own. White child tried a few times to connect with me. Their energy was curious and open, though white power tried to keep them away from me. In my representation, I could see the child, but couldn’t mirror their energy.

A shift occurred when a representative for LOVE came in the field. When love arrived, the numbness of black bodies transformed into rage. I felt it rise from my belly, and into my throat like a fire. It was at this point that white child became fearful of black bodies, and ran behind white power, who offered its protection.

When the child ran to white power, I didn’t want this, but the trauma and grief in this body simply could not communicate in a way that the white child would understand. It wasn’t that the desire to make a connection wasn’t there – it simply wasn’t available as a possibility under those conditions.


We most often see the systemic trauma expressed as rage. I had a palpable experience of rage in this constellation, but really, we can see it everywhere.

On Facebook, and came across this argument about Van Jones:

“The time has passed for Van’s “Love Army” idea. How effective, exactly, do you think such an idea would have been in the American Revolution? There is a time to fight. And sometimes, the fighting isn’t pretty. When there is a preponderance of evidence that the biggest root of the Trump Base voting choice boils down to “Fear of Diversity” HOW reasonable is that? HOW can you rationalize something irrational? Or address such a person with any fact based, reasonable argument?” – FB comment in response to an article about Van Jones.

This was part of a long stream of comments this same person was making. Her frustration and anger were palpable, and FB was a useful outlet. The comment was written by a white woman, but I have seen similar expressions across the media by people of color. They express frustration at the idea that “love” and “empathy” should be considered tools for change. I understand these cries, and could easily argue on their side.

But when I step back, I recognize deep in my heart that love and empathy are not burdens for me – unless I am carrying another burden that is asking to receive the flow of love and empathy first. That burden, I believe, is unexpressed grief.

Rage and grief live together – two sides of the coin. Both need safe places for expression. In this constellation, the presence of love was able to soften my representation enough to access rage, but in that moment, I could feel it still wasn’t safe enough for the deep release that the body needed.

Any reader of this article will likely recognize their own grief at the collective and systemic trauma that runs through American society. It affects us all uniquely, and I believe this is a combination of the way in which this trauma literally lives in our bodies, and how sensitive we are to the larger collective field.

I also see that if we find ourselves unable to extend empathy and love to someone, or a group of someones, it is because we are carrying a grief that still wants attention. Grief can also be a form of loyalty. We hold onto it, not letting ourselves become soothed, for it is the way we show our connection to what has been lost.

While I have been able to find some safe spaces for grieving, it is still far too rare. The grief of systemic trauma is a unique form of pain. It is subtle, it lives in the shadows, and it seems to hide when you turn to face it. This is why each new event can activate a new round of grieving – and it needs to find expression.

My prayer is that we add “grief rituals” to our self-care practices. I believe there is an alchemy in communal grieving, and, my friends, alchemy is required for the kind of transformation our hearts desire.

 

 

About Alison: Alison Fornés, MEd, is a systemic constellations facilitator who works with parents, educators and changemakers. Her mission is to introduce people to the power of their empathic intelligence: that you have within you the capacity to change complex systems when you unlock your ability to perceive hidden dynamics. You can find more about her work at alisonfornes.com

Witch Trials, Trump Trials

img_4910I spent my snow day getting to know my new home town of Salem, MA, by reading The Salem Witch Trials Reader, by Frances Hill (author and editor).

Several hours later, I am laying on the couch with my eyes closed, trying to understand what it all means. What is the message for these times?

The trials took place in 1692, 315 years ago. The events began in January of 1692, and it was a year of terrible suffering: nearly 100 people were accused, jails overflowed with the convicted. 19 people were hanged, 1 person was pressed to death, 5 died in jail. Yet, by the following January, as if waking from a shocking dream, a newly formed superior court would reprieve the remaining accused.

What caused this? It was a confluence of many “dark” forces: a puritan and authoritarian religious culture which, by our standards today, had no protection of personal liberty, which viewed behavior only in terms of good or evil, and people as “us” or “other”; the harsh realities of colonial life; a culture of subjugation of women and anyone who wasn’t white and male (though that was no protection: several white men were among the accused and killed); and the reality of what we would call “terrorist threats” today: deadly battles between “Indians” and colonists. One historian also suggests that ergot (a fungus) may have infected the wheat, causing some of the initial physical manifestations that led to the suggestion of witchcraft. All of these things plus interpersonal grievances and grudges.

img_4912Once the episode was over, Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village and the lead witch hunter, would be ousted from his position in 1695. He died in 1720 without obituary or epitaph. Historians, including the author Frances Hill, consider him a sociopath: he showed no remorse, he lacked conscience and empathy. Ann Putnam, one of the accusers who was 12 at the time of the trials, stood in front of her congregation at the Salem Village church 12 years later and confessed to accusing innocent people; she died another 13 years later, and left no descendants.

In a very short time, as the colonists would be considering revolution, and the dark superstitions of Puritan culture would be replaced by the Age of Reason: the Enlightenment.

As I get up from the couch, the radio is reporting that the appeals court has rejected the Trump Administration’s bid to uphold the travel ban. I can’t help but think we are waking from our own shocking dream (even if the majority of us never went to sleep).

What I hope is that when this dark time comes to its quick end, we will be inside of our next age. I am thrilled to consider what evolves out of the Age of Reason. Maybe we have reached the Awakening.

Don’t despair, build.

We said yes, whether through courage or through naïveté, to an impossible dream, and we built something far more beautiful and mysterious than we could have planned.

Just about 10 years ago, I was a new mom and had taken a leave from my teaching job. My family and I were feeling into our new life. I was both nesting and growing roots, and my spirit was seeking community.

With this intention growing, the answer to my wish arrived in the form of a 12-page manifesto. Some folks, friends of friends, or maybe acquaintances of acquaintances, had created a vision document for intentional community, and it found it’s way to Adrian and me.

It spoke of building a genuinely diverse community; of creating new economic structures; and of living in a way that honored the earth.

At the time, we were just a couple of years into owning our house, so we weren’t ready to sell everything and move, nor was there yet a place to move to. The vision at the time existed only on paper. But we were excited by the vision and decided to take the journey to see where it would lead.

communityvision
The original community at a visioning retreat in 2010. Some of the people in this picture left the community in anger, others moved on with joy and inspiration. Many others have joined us since then. Through it all, a greater vision – perhaps one only known to our hearts – has sustained us.

Now 10 years later, and I will tell you that almost nothing come out “as we had planned.” There is no large intentional community living in our own garden of Eden.  After spending some intense retreats together, after building relationships and purchasing a building for co-housing, we experienced a big conflict that divided many of the original founders and split some people away from the group. After that conflict, the energy that held us together re-organized and it took some time to heal. There’s even healing still to be done.

And yet, we did build something that has lasted through these years. It has sustained the people in it through the richest and most challenging times we can experience: birth and death, grief and mourning, relationships beginning and ending. It has been a community of joy, music, dancing, food, celebration, friendship, support, and love. We are indeed a welcoming and diverse community.  We are also fluid: while there is a physical location around which the community orients, many of us do not live there. Instead, we are held by a larger bond.

childrenbeautiful
Some of our beautiful children, summer of 2013. May they build upon the foundation we have prepared.

I can only begin to describe what it has meant for me and my family to be part of this vision and, more importantly, part of this creation. We said yes, whether through courage or through naïveté, to an impossible dream, and we built something far more beautiful and mysterious than we could have planned.

After I became involved and started experiencing life in community, a refrain came into my thoughts: I can do anything. WE can do anything!

joyfulbirthday
Community celebrating Aries birthdays in April, 2015.

As I write this, we have just experienced a shocking presidential election. It will take some  time for us to move through this shock, and many of us will need support. (Honestly, if I were a Trump supporter and Hillary had been elected, then I would feel the same way. I bow to that truth.)

For me, it feels as if a fire has torched many of the old structures. As we sit among the embers, I make this fierce offering:

  1. Focus on what you want to build. What is your vision? If you don’t know, then this is an excellent opportunity to discover what you want. You will know you’ve found it when your heart sings. What’s key here: say what you WANT, not what you don’t want. In this election, the country was largely divided into people who were either for Trump and anti-Trump. Very few people were connected with building an alternative vision. If your energy is focused on what you don’t what, how can you manifest what you do want? Your energy is precious. Focus it wisely.
  2. Tell someone. Share it with just a few people, or share it widely. Connect with people who resonate with the vision, and share a meal with them. If you create a space for sharing dreams and getting excited, you will leave your meeting full of life, energy and creativity. Plus, here’s the secret: the friendship and community that you build around a shared vision is, ultimately, the manifestation of the vision!
  3. Allow vulnerability. When you share something you care about, it’s scary. Notice the vulnerability as it arises. Acknowledge it. As you sit with it, it WILL transform into the inner support you need to act on your dreams.
  4. Recognize fear. Fear will arise. You know you’ve met fear when you start acting on your vision, but then you get a “no” that is making excuses for why you shouldn’t. That is fear. An authentic no is not fear based, an authentic no is grounded and doesn’t make excuses (sometimes we ignore our no’s and make excuses in order to say yes, but that’s a different post). “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” as the classic book says.
  5. Stay oriented. Your body, your felt sense, is truly a compass. When you find that a thought or fear has thrown you off, practice releasing those thoughts. (Byron Katie’s The Work is an excellent tool for this process) That bad feeling you’re having is telling you that you are facing the direction of your fears instead of your dreams. That bad, depressed feeling is the sign that you are thinking a thought that is untrue for you. Re-orient towards your vision. Your vision – your personal, authentic truth – is energizing and joy giving.

Finally, I leave you with this blessing, which came to me some days ago:

“Your heart dwells in Yes!

May you have the capacity to hear,

and the courage to listen!”

thepathtopeace
As I meet more and more people who are part of my community, I know that I am on the right path.

Medicine Drum Workshop

13450812_10153727485537986_7541778228892311929_n

Make a medicine drum

Wednesday July 20, 2016, 12-4pm, Rock Tavern NY

Saturday July 23, 2016, 10am – 2pm, Location TBD

Workshop limited to 10 participants.

Cost: $100 + Materials Fee (See Which Drum, below)

The sacred process of making your own personal medicine drum takes you deep into your primal self. Your heart has a knowing. Touching parts of you that may have been hidden in this lifetime. You make tactile contact with the animal through its hide and with the sacred wood hoop, connecting to the elements of water, air, earth, fire and spirit. Using your inner wisdom to create a sacred instrument for Ceremony, Celebration, Healing and Journeying with intent, respect and honour.

Do you feel called?

The drum holds great cultural and symbolic power to Native America people. The beat of the drum is in harmony with the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The round form represents the circle of life and the whole universe and its steady strong beat is the pulse, the heart beating.

They believe the drum has a life of its own, as well as its own powerful spirit.

About Nadia

Nadia Khan Kimmie is a student of life! She started her inner journey of working with her shadow side and has been transformed through the powerful work of Family Constellations and Shamanism, of which she is an international practitioner.

She has been studying Shamanism since 2011, practicing Earth Medicine such as Vision Quest and Sweat Lodge, Wheel of Elements, Sacred Fire Ceremony and Women’s Healing circles.  She began facilitating Medicine Drum making workshops in her native South Africa, and has continued these offerings in Germany and the United States. Nadia is a natural healer and her teachings carry this essence. “All aspects of her work are based on healing and sharing the wisdom she has learned from her teachers and her own life lessons.”

Nadia trained as a Family Constellations facilitator in 2012 in South Africa, with Tanja Meyburgh of African Constellations, when she started observing how she was repeating her own family patterns and how it was manifesting in her children and witnessing the positive impact of the knowing field in her life.

She has been a lifeline councilor and in 2015 she pursued her gentle Yoga teacher training certification in California to incorporate more healing modalities into her work. Nadia is also an artist who plays with porcelain, loving that medium for its translucency and working with the light and shadow.

In her ‘previous’ life Nadia was a Managing Editor and she has a BA majoring in English.

Akehela Mitakuye Oyasin

Thank you to all my Relations


Which Drum?

Which Hide?
Drum Stick Included

ELK

When we are working in the West on the Medicine Wheel – the Water, emotions, shadow self – then Elk Medicine gives us the stamina and endurance to get through the edges, from the known to the unknown.  As we go through our fears, we expand ourselves and add more trust to our circle.  Trust is the lubricant that helps us take the “leap of faith” that leads us to unity with spirit and to a reclaiming of our original grace.

Elk is powerful medicine for healing child abuse and addictive patterns.  The Elk will bring up our unresolved grief and help purify and cleanse us through crying and grieving our sweet tears.  The vibration of Elk opens the third Chakra, the belly, where we carry our fears and undigested values that interfere with our pure will.  The Elk is a communal animal, hanging out with members of the same sex except during mating season.


DEER

When we are working on the natural laws of circulation – the circulatory system, the heart – then Deer is our Medicine.  Many of us are taught to “figure life out”, so we live in our heads with little attention to our hearts.  Deer opens the heart Chakra, teaching us to trust and to empower the feminine qualities of Love and Wisdom.

When we are healing “poverty consciousness”, the belief that there is just not enough time, money or love, drumming with Deer reminds us that we live in an abundant universe, with more than enough of everything.  Deer helps us learn the Laws of Circulation –when we feel unloved, then it is time to love others, and that love comes back many-fold.


HORSE

Horse takes us on the Shamanic Journey, keeping us in third dimensional reality so we may ride the vibration to the spirit world to get the healing we need for self and others. Horse is pure energy – like lightning, it can transport us quickly through the cracks and crevices to the other side.  Drumming with Horse will lead us to trance states and to the higher vibrations.

The medicine of Horse teaches us that true power is the wisdom found in remembering our total journey. Strength, power, endurance.
 


BUFFALO

When we seek wisdom and guidance from the Ancient Ones, the Ancestors who came before us, drumming Buffalo opens the door to that vibration.  Buffalo is associated with Wisdom and Abundance and is the source of the Sacred Pipe, as White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Pipe to the People.  When we pray with the Pipe, we are joining the masculine Sky Energy with the feminine Earth Energy, and whatever we pray for will be given.  If we are manifesting from Spirit to Form, drumming with Buffalo is an ally in that intention, reminding us of the connection of Prayer (spirit) to Form (physical).


MOOSE

Drumming with Moose is empowering the Feminine Energies, as Moose hangs out near the water, and can stay under water for up to a minute while eating from the bottom of ponds and lakes.  Moose reminds us to go into and through the feelings and to take the nourishment available in emotional honesty.  Moose is also associated with self-esteem, learning how to get our nourishment from the inside, and spontaneity, trusting ourselves to act in the moment rather than controlling future decisions through planning results.  Moose is a great protector of the child, and working with Moose can teach us to nourish and protect the little one inside.

COW

Cows can teach us about the home and community and the joy, contentment therein. Cows aid us in realizing to be easy going and live in the moment. They show us about love and connections at work and home. Cow also may demonstrate how to eat properly. Are eating enough fruits and vegetables? Are you happy at home? Cow can teach how to make those changes that are needed to balance to the joy in your surroundings.

TO REGISTER:
Send your name, phone and email, hide and hoop size to Alison: apfornes (at) gmail (dot) com

She will confirm your workshop space and send payment information. Hide payment for the July 20 workshop due by JULY 1, 2016. Teacher payment can be made in advance or when you arrive.

Download Flyer:

drumNY(2)

Multidimensional Presence

(I am updating my personal blog, and will publish the old posts here. This was my first post on my original Constellations blog: June 9, 2012) 

LEARNING TO BE PRESENT has been a central and ongoing theme over the past 12 or so years of my life.

This practice takes the guise of many different activities. Most of us are familiar with sitting meditation, and body awareness during everyday activities: walking, eating, and writing (right now, I am suddenly aware of my fingers moving across the keyboard, the weight of my body on the chair, the movement of my breath in and out of my body), for example.

In the beginning, my practice was anchored by the concentration meditation of counting the breath. This continues to be a useful tool for me to bring awareness to my mental activity, and to learn to be clear, focused and relaxed. It also enables me to experience the swing between “tightness” and “dullness” in my practice.

Spiraling out from mindfulness of our mental activity, bodies and senses, we expand mindfulness to our speech and emotions, and to our actions and how they impact others. Students of Buddhism will recognize the Eightfold Path in this discussion.

But this is not intended to be a dharma talk. I’m writing about this now because since working with Systemic Constellations, in my experiences as representative and facilitator, I feel as if I have been introduced to a new level of perception that was previously outside of my conscious awareness.

I realize as I try to write about this that I don’t even know what the language is for this kind of awareness, so I’ll call it “field consciousness,” because that seems like the most accurate description of what I’m naming.

(And, thanks to the magic internet, in the interval between identifying that term and writing the words in this sentence, I did a google search of “field consciousness” which has shifted the direction of this entry!)

So the question I have been formulating, and which is fully articulated in the writing of this blog, is: what does it mean to bring field consciousness into present moment awareness? 

Because of the nature of fields of consciousness, I find that having asked that question, I am seeing different aspects of the answer shimmering ahead of me. For now, I will offer this article from the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

http://media.noetic.org/uploads/files/s5_sensing.pdf

And here’s a longer audio piece, by Christopher Bache, PhD, but well worth it if you have the time.

http://noetic.org/library/audio-lectures/chris-bache-living-classroom-part/