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This autumn will mark my 13th year as a teacher in a community that is often lovingly referred to as “cauldron.” The word cauldron is derivative of the older word caldera, which simply means “interior universe.”

The Cauldron Studies program is a sacred feminine path, and the external world is considered a good measure for our internal or cosmic reality. We must have a foot in both “worlds” to become what we truly are. Attaching meaning to my 13th year of teaching is done lightly but with great respect. Not with my mind, but more with my heart. I want to celebrate 13 years around the wheel of the year, to mark what I have learned, (and unlearned) and to honor the inner work of everyone that I have encountered.

The Cauldron Studies program provides theory and practice, and a psychological and spiritual model for further examination and exploration of the human soul. This path hopes to be more conscious of the patriarchal history of both religion and psychology, and intentionally incorporates women’s wisdom to create a balanced process.

What is sacred feminine wisdom? How can we articulate this energy inclusively with grace and loving kindness?

Psycho-spiritual development for women must include the whole person — the body, heart, mind, soul and spirit — inclusive to the many ways we identify ourselves as spiritual, soulful and relational beings. If done well, a sacred feminine path can include relational/connection practices while honoring skills of autonomy and individuation. We practice using story and myth, and rational thought with empirical methods, creative and embodied activities alongside of transcendent mindfulness practices. Living and spiritual practice are related activities that have equal value. We meditate and we clean the garage, we make art and we make dinner.

We believe that the developmental process toward greater consciousness involves: deep-seeing and memory; working with the senses and body; integrating fuller self-concepts, building community and developing capacity, cultural understanding and responsibility; the cultivation of felt, embodied and useful wisdom; and an active engagement in the broader world concerning justice, peace, and compassion across lines of religion, gender, race, sexuality, culture, age, or nationality.

Each season the wheel turns again, and with summer my colleague and I find ourselves preparing for the next year of study, watering the seeds that have been planted, getting ready for the harvest in late summer as this teaching year ends and another begins, we release and let go of some students while opening to others, new faces and souls, death and rebirth. We pray to “attract” just the right souls, leaving this up to the cosmos, and we engage and do the practical detailed work of preparing and developing another student body and curriculum. Showing up and letting go. Everything that we learn, or unlearn, informs our next year of study. It is alive and organic.

For most women, inner development follows a path reflected in nature; beginning in the dynamic stillness of dark, growing/waxing, full/fullness, decreasing/waning and emptying, to begin again in the dark. This endless, yet natural, cycle of life is eased in community. We lean into the interested gaze of others much like ourselves. We learn from each other.

Women gathering in circles,
asking where did we go wrong?
Where did all this suffering come from?
And how long can this go on?
— Heather Murphy, lyrics from “Another Way”

Our inner yearning is not easily quenched or addressed by outer forms.

We find ourselves working to integrate both poles of experience, ensuring that our outer work informs and is aligned with our inner truth. This is a continuous cycle of discovery and integration. We recognize that our insight must eventually be acted upon or it will recede back to where it came from. If you are given a gift yet refuse to unwrap and put it to use — what value does the gift have?

If our psycho-spiritual development is grounded in the sacred feminine tradition, women will see, hear, feel and experience themselves and their ways of being in the world. We can learn, develop and engage in a developmental process that honors and integrates a tapestry of skills and values.

As each of us is guided to tap into the innate wisdom of the body, the soulful yearning and the spiritual transcendence of the spirit, a deeper, sweeter balance will emerge in beauty and brilliance.

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Kara Vangen, CHTP, has extensive training in the healing arts and Buddhist transformational studies. She is a member of the Diamond Approach and specializes in integrating mindfulness practices and the Feminine Healing arts. She has co facilitated and "mid-wifed" the Cauldron Studies program through the Tree and The Well with Cara Carlson, Ph.D., LICSW, who is an integral psychotherapist and consultant. For more info about this years classes Kara can be reached at Karalily@msn.com. This article includes excerpts from the guidebook, On the Rim of the Cauldron, by Cara Carlson and Kara Vangen.

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