By Sally Brucker LCSW-C, ATR-BC, Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®
There are times when life sharpens, things come into focus, and gradually, you become aware that you are standing before a threshold There is no way back to where you were before, and there is no way out, but through. This is a rite of passage, not an invitation to decline, despair, disease and death-As women we have the ability to teach those who follow that by valuing the lives of our elderly, all generations will become enriched.
We live longer than ever before. If you are 50 now, you can expect to live at least another 35 years. Sometimes referred to as the ‘third chapter’ or ‘third age’, after age 50 we enter a new stage of life, where our familiar landscape shifts. Hot flash! Menopause activated, we are on a threshold yet again!
I am passionate about helping women of all ages empower themselves, despite the hard times in which they are living. I truly believe that any woman can overcome her past and the emotional damage inflicted by both her family and others and the culture in which we live. As a clinical social worker and Co-Director of a women’s therapy center in Washington DC for over 15 years, I worked with women of all backgrounds, sexual preferences, ages, and issues. I was privileged to hear literally thousands of stories from women dealing with sexual identity, alcohol and drug abuse, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, parenting and couples issues, and poor self -esteem. Every day, I listened and tried to help my clients find a way out of the emotional prisons where they lived. As time went on and I began teaching and running workshops, I made it my focus to help instill my passion for empowering women. At the age of 72, I am proud to say that I am still doing this. My training as a Life-Cycle Celebrant® has greatly enhanced what I can offer. My work is also a combination of my training and background in clinical social work, reiki and therapeutic touch, SoulCollage®, and expressive arts therapies. I bring my creativity as a performer and artist to my work, as well.
About 20 years ago, I had a dream that was somewhat prophetic. I only now understand its meaning. In the dream, I was asked to join a well known and awesome all-female A Cappella singing group known as ‘Sweet Honey in the Rock’. The only problem with my joining, which they seemed to fail to see, was that they were all African American and I was White. No one except me seemed to care about this or even notice and so I took my place on a mountaintop, put on an African dashiki and attempted to sing ( I really cannot carry a tune). I think the dream was telling me that appearances really do not matter and that my ‘sisters’ really wanted me to start using my voice in an A Cappella kind of way.
Finding one’s voice became a theme of my work. Combining voice, movement, improv, visual art, and life-cycle ceremony enactment became a deep and integrative set of tools to use in this work of inner and out empowerment. With little or no experience in any of these art forms, but rather a willingness and sensitivity to trying the process, I saw women getting in touch with feelings, memories and their bodies in new and exciting ways. I decided that the best way to offer my vision for this was through weekend retreats.
In my retreats, women are guided through a process to come to new understandings of their life-span, origins, obstacles and life purpose. The range of possibilities is endless and varies from individual to individual. There is no one ‘right’ path.. Each is unique, to claim and celebrate.
The focus of my work in offering the Wise Woman retreats is on the classic archetypes of women’s development from maiden/innocent to mother/advocate to queen/ sovereign and to crone/wise woman. How we navigate and understand each of these stages, letting go of what no longer serves us, and reaching beyond our fears to what lies ahead, can be both exciting and empowering. First, we need to name and face our fears, then we can release them and then we can step over this new and vast threshold of our psychic development and truly grasp what it means to become a queen, crone or simply, wise woman. We make vows to ourselves, attune our bodies, make new connections and commitments, explore our relationships and visions, and we laugh and cry as we shed layers of self-doubt and regret.
The first Wise woman retreat was held in 2016 on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. There were nine women, four of whom were life-cycle celebrants, including our very own Charlotte Eulette! I was thrilled to have my tribe of enthusiastic and rambunctious celebrants there, along with others, as we explored ( through photographs and stories) the women we have been over the decades, our female ancestors and those persons and things whom would be our legacies. We examined and discussed beliefs, stuck places and worn-out aspects of our lives that no longer served us and created rituals to collectively release them, as we made way for our future selves to come into being. This process, akin to the hero’s journey is informed by the notion that every change involves loss and that without acknowledging this, it is nearly impossible to change. Our releasing ceremony involves a fire and is done with drumming and chanting, much like the ceremonies I learned from local shamans in Peru, about 6 years ago.
The second Wise Woman retreat was held in the Shenandoah Mountains at Sevenoaks Retreat Center in Madison, Virginia just 2 hours from Washington DC. Sevenoaks is a beautiful haven with an organic garden, walking paths in the woods, a lazy creek for tubing, a labyrinth, and meditation spaces. There are usually several retreats happening at a time, but there is space for quiet and privacy. In the second retreat, we created a meaningful croning ceremony, as we had done in the first, sang, read poetry, danced and read vows. Our group was diverse in age and backgrounds and there was a deep sense of respect and compassion, that developed over the weekend. I was amazed at the deep discussions that occurred and the strong connections to the natural world.
This Summer- 2020!!
The third Wise Woman retreat will be held this summer from July 23rd-July 26th at sevenoaksretreat.org
I will be joined by Melinda Parkhurst, who is a belly-dancer, artist and has just completed her masters in transpersonal psychology. Melinda brings an infectious enthusiasm and warm spirit and she will lead us in simple meditation and movement exercises throughout the weekend.
Sally Brucker LCSW-C, ATR-BC lives in Takoma Park, Maryland. Go to www.sallybrucker.com for more information.
Watch the Youtube Informational session about Wise Woman Retreat July 23-26, 2020 with Sally Brucker and Melinda Parkhurst
ZOOM Informational Meeting #3 on 04/1/2020 from 7-8 pm ET
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Meeting ID: 739 675 0884
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