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#205 - What Happens When We Miss the Rites of Passages? with Kamya O'Keeffe
Episode 2053rd August 2022 • Happy Mama Movement with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz • Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
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It excites me continuously that more and more people are starting to talk within the matresence space and my guest today is no different. Kamya O'Keeffe is a senior facilitator of Rites of Passage programs and a mentor to women coaches and leaders. She creates safe held respectful individual and group circles and rites of passage programmes. Amy and Kamya explore what that means for matresence in this conversation, covering areas such as:

  • How rites of passage are not just life altering and significant moments such has creating life and the birth of a baby. These moments need to be acknowledged, honoured alongside rituals and celebration.
  • The community aspect of rites of passage and what that looks like within motherhood.
  • Separation, transformation and integration within a rites of passage.
  • The signs of a transition coming or transition needed and trusting the approach, even when we don't know exactly where we are going.

This conversation is deep, rich and nourishing and paramount as we develop our own understanding of matresence and heal within. To find out more about Kamya's work you can visit her instagram @kamyaokeeffe or her website https://www.kamyaokeeffe.com/.

If you would also like a deeper understanding of matresence and how we support women differently, the Mama Rising facilitator training opens just once a year. For early offers and to join, please jump the link below to join the wait list. https://mamarising.net/mama-rising-waitlist/.

Transcripts

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Welcome to the Happy Mama Movement Podcast.

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I'm Amy Taylor-Kabbaz.

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I would like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation

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on which this podcast is recorded as the traditional custodians of this land.

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And pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging.

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And as this podcast is dedicated to the wisdom and knowledge of motherhood, I

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would like to acknowledge the mothers of this land, the elders, their wisdom, their

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knowing and my own elders and teachers.

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Welcome back Mamas.

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We talk a lot on this podcast, around the rites of passage.

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Those rituals and acknowledgements that we need to have at core times in

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our life core moments of transition and change endings and beginnings.

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And you may have even listened to some of the episodes about what

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these rites of passage should be.

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How we move from maiden to mother, how we let go of our old ambitious versions

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of ourself and begin to explore who we are as we soften into motherhood.

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How this changes our relationships, our body, our sense of self, our identity.

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But in this episode, I wanted to explore a little deeper.

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What happens when we miss these rites of passage?

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How do we know we are ready for one?

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Because rites of passage are not just moments where significant new

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things begin like a new life, a baby.

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Rites of passage can be when your last child goes to school.

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When you return to work.

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When your daughter gets her first period.

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As you begin to move to menopause.

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These are all moments that when we begin to understand the importance of the

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matresence rite of passage, we also begin to see that there are so many moments in

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our life where we should be acknowledging, honoring, these rituals and moments.

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In this episode, I am thrilled to introduce you to Kamya O'Keefe..

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She is a rites of passage, facilitator and trainer.

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She speaks in many of the leading motherhood and matresence circles

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around the world and brings to our conversation, such a gentleness, a

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softness, a divine reminder of what we need most as women in these moments.

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Enjoy.

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Kamya, welcome to the podcast.

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And thank you for stepping into this space with me and sharing your

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wisdom with all of these Mamas.

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Hi, Amy.

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It's my pleasure.

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And an honor to be here with you really looking forward to our conversation today.

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You bring so much wisdom and an experience to this conversation of matresence.

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You work with and alongside many of the leaders in this space, many of

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whom, I hold such great respect for.

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And so I really would love to use this time with you to explore the

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rite of passage of motherhood.

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Or matresence and try and bring a deeper lens to this.

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Everyone who listens to this podcast by now, unless this is the very first episode

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they're listening to, knows the importance of this and that we need to do it better.

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But I'd love to explore with you even more like sink into what we

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are missing and what this really is.

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So let's start with what is a rite of passage in your mind?

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Yeah.

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So a rite of passage is a marking or a celebration and acknowledging

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of, life's transition, uh, moving from one stage of life to another.

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And rites of passage happen in many ways, but we have a lot of research

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and information about what the components of a rite of passage are.

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And, I work with the Rites of Passage Institute here in Australia, and we

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teach people what those components are, how a rite of passage happens.

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What are the precursors to it.

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What are the stages and how do you support a healthy rite of passage?

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So how do you create, transformation for someone who's going through

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that to be held in a, in a proper container of community to support them

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to step into that next life stage.

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And for them to really bring their gifts, to that next stage, and to

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have a vision for who they want to be.

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A lot of our work is with obviously the coming of age, uh, transition for teens.

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But through that, I work with all of the mothers.

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So my work particularly focuses on working with mothers in their

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life transitions, whether that's through postnatal repletion with Dr.

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Oscar Serrallach.

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If it's working with mothers who are facing that their children are in the,

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the preteen kind of, uh, puberty stage.

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If it's at that stage where their children are going through the, the

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actual coming of age, rite of passage.

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So I work with mothers all along the way, and I support and mentor women

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who are working with mothers all along the way at different stages.

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Yeah.

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Many, many years ago, I had the great privilege of interviewing Caroline Mace.

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And one of the things she said in that interview is Amy, we

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are built to have ritual and rite of passage as human beings.

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And when we don't have a rite of passage, we create our own.

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Exactly.

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She at the time was talking about boys and men and it really, really resonated

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with me, but the more I am in this space around motherhood and the lack of

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rite of passage, I see the same thing.

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In the end, at the moment, rite of passage into motherhood

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is what type of pram you buy.

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And you know, what brand of maternity jeans and what's your baby shower.

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And we create rituals without even realising it.

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Because we, as human beings need to mark these moments, don't we?

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Yes, we do.

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And exactly what you said.

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If we don't have them, if we're not held in community, um, with

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them and through them, then we will, as humans, it's a need.

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To, to mark changes.

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And often if we're, if we don't have them, something will go awry.

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An unhealthy rite of passage can be created.

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There can be a kind of disconnect there, uh, or we get stuck in

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the, you know, previous stage.

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We see that in the, you know, in the adolescent stage, if adolescents

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aren't marked into their young adulthood, they will remain in the

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adolescent mind frame and behavior.

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Because no, one's actually held them and, and said to them, this is

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your responsibility to step forward.

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In motherhood, I mean, it's so layered around the fact that we don't, I mean, we

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have some rituals, but like many of our rituals in modern Western culture, they're

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kind of almost consumerist rituals.

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And you know, there are some that you can to have beautiful, you know, blessing ways

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and baby showers and things like that.

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But often the focus as we know are on the baby, right?

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It's not actually on the massive, psychological, social changes that a

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woman will experience with motherhood.

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And my view is that these things happen throughout our journey.

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I know Dr.

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Aurelie Athan talks about Myres says we don't really know the length of it.

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I think the, the focus of my work is to say, it's not one thing,

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you know, it's not the birth and then you're a mother, right?

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And I'm sure this is what you and your community in Mama Rising.

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You know, talk about it.

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Isn't just one thing.

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And, and what I see is there are these, points along the way, and they can

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be different for every individual.

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I don't in any way, try to generalise them.

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But to understand that we are shifting all the time, you know, it might

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be at birth and the postnatal time it might be when, you know, baby

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goes to preschool, or nursery or kindy, you know, at those changes.

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There can be changes in our mothering journey where we have

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different relationships to our child and to the, world around us.

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So marking these along the way and acknowledging them is a way to like

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embed that healthy understanding of the mothering journey.

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Are rites of passage something we can do on our own?

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Absolutely.

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We can understand them.

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We can understand the stages of rites of passage.

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We can recognise them.

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I think the focus of my work is, is community based work.

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So it's mothers circles, it's groups.

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Because rites of passage were always traditionally held as a community

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activity, a community ritual.

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And part of it, especially on the return, is being seen and

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witnessed by your community for what you've stepped into, it's really

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about being acknowledged in that.

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And, you know, I can use a lot of these examples around the coming

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of age rituals, but, you know, we can see as I speak about them, how

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little of that there is from others.

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The recognition of wow, that you just, you know, journeyed

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navigated that whole journey.

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Um, and here you are now and recognising a woman where she is there and then

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a woman where she is further along.

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A lot of the times when I'm working with mothers who have teens, you know, pre

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preteen or adolescents, it might be the first time they've sat in circle and

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talked about their mothering journey.

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It might be the first time they've been with other mothers to share about all

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of the challenges that they're facing.

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So coming back to the question, can we do it on our own?

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We can do it on our own, but I think a healthy rite of passage is community.

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And I know, you know, a large part of your work is about building, you

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know, those mothering communities.

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And I think more and more, that's what we're doing.

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And it is important to say the healing, the transformation that

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happens with rites of passage, the scope of that work is community based.

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So it isn't therapy, right?

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It isn't individual therapy with a, you know, trained professional

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psychologist, psychotherapist, whatever.

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Someone who might be trauma responsive and doing that individual journey

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work, that's really important.

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And rites of passage is a different way of healing and working in community.

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Cause you get to hear other people's stories, you know, you get to

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identify, oh, I'm not alone in this.

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And you get to share your story and be witnessed with that.

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Yeah.

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Because it really is seen in others, that is part of that healing.

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And I also think there's that role of the elder, you know, the role of the

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one that has been before you to just, you know, like you're doing now in

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this recording, just nod and smile.

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Like yes, yes.

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It's a thing you're going through it.

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Yes.

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We've been there too.

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All of what you are saying is, okay, there's something that

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our nervous system needs in that moment of being seen, isn't there?

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And I find that a big part of the, uh, the way that I hold space

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and the work and the, the need.

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Is, is sometimes from others just to have, you know, it's, it's someone

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on the other shore going, I've been through this, I've walked this.

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Yes.

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It was really hard.

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And look, here we are, we made it, you know, there is, there is kind of

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that call from the other shore of.

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This can be really challenging and we can, we'll make it through together.

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You know, I can hold your hand and you know, how I describe my work is

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something like tending the thresholds of change or transition for women

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in their, in their life stage transitions, because that's what it is.

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It's holding the space for someone it's not doing it for them.

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It's not telling them what it should look like, or how to even do it.

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But it's holding the space for them and guiding them that,

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Hey, here's the sign posts.

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You might come across this it's okay.

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Yeah.

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If a Mama is listening and she feels that, you know, she really hasn't

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been held in this way, through this experience of motherhood and matresence.

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Perhaps she's a few years in and she's really beginning to connect to this idea

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of matresence and what she now needs.

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Without getting too, uh, specific.

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What are the signs?

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What are the symptoms almost of a woman who has not been held through

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the rites of passage of her life?

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Ah, that question.

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It's a good question.

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I thought you were going to ask interesting, uh, about what are the

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signs and symptoms of a transition.

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Because in the stages of a rite of passage, separation, transformation,

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integration, there's always signs around the separation.

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Well, let's start there.

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Let's start there.

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Yeah, let's explore.

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I think it's more, I think it's maybe more helpful to name those and then

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we can talk about the, you know, just that feeling of then I can relate

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to some of those as I share them.

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So one of the, one of the things we always talk about in separation or

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the, the, the signs of a transition coming or a transition needed, or

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rite of passage needed is agitation.

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So we'll feel, uh, some sort of frustration agitation, maybe just

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like, I can't do this anymore.

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I think probably your listeners, you know, we can all remember

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those times in our life.

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I, you know, what comes up for me, even when I say those words was a

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particular job that I stayed in too long.

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And it was like every day I was like, I can't do this anymore.

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I'm so frustrated.

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You know, it was just that feeling of I'm done and yet I was still doing it.

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So that sense of agitation, we talk about teenagers, you know, we, you know,

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people can all relate to do you know, anyone more agitated than teenagers?

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You know, they're, that's like their first major rite of passage.

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There is a lot of agitation because they're on one.

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they're in one stage and they're really ready to go.

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And everything's kind of confused and coming together and falling

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apart all at the same time.

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So there's a lot of agitation and I think those are the, the kind of signs

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and symptoms that something, we kind of sense something needs to change.

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We absolutely won't know what it is.

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Like, that's really important to say.

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We don't ever know like where we're going.

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And I think.

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A lot of the challenge for women and for mothers is this sense.

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You know, that, um, society gives a sense, like we should know where we're going.

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We should know what's next.

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We should have it all worked out and we should be clear and, you know, focused,

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just drive you, take these steps, ABC and D and then you're gonna get there.

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And I think that does us a huge disservice.

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Because, in our journey you know, this lifetime is our soul's journey and our

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path to finding out, to bringing the gifts that we brought to the world to bring them

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forth and to discover who we truly are.

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So we're not gonna know that if we knew that we wouldn't have this life

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to lead and the journey to be on.

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So I think a, a trusting that it will unfold.

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And as we do the dissent in the rite of passage, as we, you know, as we,

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we kind of dive into the cocoon or the transformative space, which is

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always gonna have a challenge in it.

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Um, and sometimes many challenges.

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We're always coming back with something a little bit more of ourselves, a

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little bit more of, of knowing about what's right for us and what we want.

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Maybe a bit more of our voice in that.

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So the one thing I always say about, and it probably should have been the

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first thing I said, they're cyclical.

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Rites of passage are cyclical.

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I know we have a hero's journey and a model.

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That's like, it's this one thing and you do it.

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And all good.

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I don't believe that model works in women's lives.

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We are cyclical beings.

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And you know, it's like for me anyway, that's how it works.

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You know, I do a, there's a transition and I d o do the deep dive and I have to

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face some challenge and I have to look at something and then I come back up and

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I've got a little bit more knowledge, a little bit more wisdom about myself.

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A little bit more connection.

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Um, and it, and it happens again.

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And I think that's the thing I mostly want to share with women is that these

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aren't like, Hey, you do this one rite of passage, and then you're good,

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which is the, the story we're told.

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Um, and you should know where you're going and what you wanna achieve.

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It's more like an unfolding of our lives.

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It will be a constant journey.

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And I'm not saying it's going to be constant challenges, but those

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might look like different things.

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It might be, you know, the challenge of, um, you know, making a decision about

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what you want to do with your work, how you want to define your relationships,

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how you want your, your family to look like what, you know, it can be anything

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about how we're finding more and getting closer to what it's true for us.

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Yes.

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And so that agitation, I think is a really beautiful thing to, to recognise.

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Um, that whole, I can't do this anymore.

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That very resonates with me as well.

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That is my internal mantra.

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When I am stuck, I can't do this anymore.

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And sometimes it even comes out of my mouth externally.

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So if we hear that in our mind, what do we do if we are recognising in our life,

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we are in that state of perhaps agitation, we're in a place of, of not transitioning

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or getting ready to transition and we're unsure, what do we do in that space?

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Hmm.

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Well, a few things I would recommend this is what I do.

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Certainly doing things like practicing the pause of checking in with ourselves,

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checking in with how we're feeling.

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What's there, you know, just coming back to honoring where we're at and

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then honoring what we might need, how we might resource ourselves to move forward.

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So that can be your own practice around practicing that pause of checking in.

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How am I feeling?

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What what's okay for me right now.

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What capacity do I have?

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And then how do I need to resource myself?

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But I also think doing that in some sort of creating those kind of, you know,

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circles of women around you community, around you to check in, because sometimes

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it'll be like, you can sit in circle and do that, do a check in, where am I at?

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What's going on for me?

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What do I feel like I need?

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And you hear it from four or five other women where they're at, which can all

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be different, but somehow there's that wisdom of the circle that helps to

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both articulate what's going on and to receive some support if needed or

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just some sort of, if you have a, a wise counsel of women with you, and

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it doesn't mean that they have to be like, You know, be trained in, you know,

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rites of passage or anything like that.

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It's just having that community to share with, because I think naming

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it can sometimes, you know, it's a feminist practice to name things, right?

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Name what's going on, naming what we're feeling, what we're, what

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we're seeing around us, what we're recognising in, in maybe systems or

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structures that aren't serving us.

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So I think finding those ways that we can talk about it really.

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And that might be with a counselor or a therapist.

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It might be with a group of, you know, other mothers, other women to support.

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But I think that's the first thing is to recognise it.

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In, you know, traditional communities, rites of passage.

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There were elders that would recognise that something needed to change.

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They would recognise that someone was ready for a shift and they would

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be the ones that, you know, made that happen through the community.

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We don't really have that, but can have a council and that group of that circle that

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women can create can have elders in it.

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And I highly recommend, you know, having a diverse age range, have some women

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who are, you know, younger than you, or earlier on their mothering journey.

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And maybe through the mothering journey, you know, my children are now 25 and 27.

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And so, you know, sometimes it's great that I can share with a Mum, you know,

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her children are at that kind of teenage stage, you know, of like, oh, well this

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is, this is what it was like for me.

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And you can always receive those, you know, that wisdom.

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And we always say, you know, there's no giving advice or philosophising,

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but we can share our own stories.

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And when we share our own stories, we can really support each other.

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There's great medicine in that for mothers sharing their stories.

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It is a fine line though, isn't it?

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To, listen consciously, share stories, but not tip into advice or

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reflection on what worked for me.

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What is that line for you?

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Well, it's really clear.

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We have I set very clear boundaries, if you will, around circle work.

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And when we're in circle, we always speak from I.

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So we tell our own stories.

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My, you know, I feel this I speak from I, because you'll notice as soon

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as people go into the U language.

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Changing it to giving advice philosophizing or, you know, we all,

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any of those kind of statements, we all think this, or is something.

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Um, so it's always speaking for mine.

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It's always confidentiality.

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So stories are not shared outside the circle.

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You can absolutely always tell your own story or your own experience.

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When someone's speaking, I often use a talking object that when

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that person's speaking, they have everyone's clear undivided

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attention, and I know what you mean.

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It can be a fine line.

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And, and it's the reason I do like women's facilitation training,

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because it can be a fine line.

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We're often conditioned, certainly I was, to rescue.

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If someone's in tears or t here is something, uh, you know, big that

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they're sharing that we, you know, we're, we're kind of conditioned to rescue.

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We want to save them or, you know, make it okay.

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And actually the, the medicine is really just to listen.

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Just to let them speak.

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We don't need to fix it.

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Um, it's really very rare that we get spaces where we can just

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say how we feel, without getting anything back, just being heard and

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acknowledged and know that it's safe.

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You're in a safe container to.

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Yeah.

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So, if you could really, uh, support a woman's transition into and

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through motherhood in the ideal way, in your mind, acknowledging those

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rites of passage, when would you those and what would they look like?

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Yeah, so obvious one is, um, pregnancy and birth and post.

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Natal time, right?

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So those could be different things throughout there.

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They could be like three stages of that Rite of passage, uh, the

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separation, the transformation and the integration, I would say it's like

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those three stages in, in that way.

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So I would have, uh, you know, experience rituals set up for

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each of those moments and stages.

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Um, and I think there are.

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Look, I, I am hesitant to say these are the ones because it will, because

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every woman's different and there can be different times of recognition

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or change or transition for them.

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So I would say, but the ones that come up the most that women share with me.

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So rather than me saying, I think it's this, the ones that

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it's obviously, uh, birth.

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Uh, postnatal time and then the transition of, uh, children

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leaving home in some way, right.

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They're going out into the world, whether that's nursery kindergarten

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school, whenever that is.

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And so no timeframe or any shoulds on that, but just that shift of there is a,

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you know, there is a moment there where they're, they're, they're separated and

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that's a transition and an adjustment.

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And there's an acknowledgement.

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I think all of these are around acknowledging that the, there are

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transitions happening and recognizing that something has shifted and having people

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hold you in the recognition of that.

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So there might be other ones along the way it could be from, um, yeah, it can

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be another child being born, right?

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Obviously for me, that was a massive transition.

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There was grief about like, I wasn't having this one on

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one relationship anymore.

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And the joy of having another baby and child and, and you, you know, there's all

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these things, that's a big transition.

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So the birth of each child can be, again, that same recognition

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that I mentioned first, but also added onto that something more.

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There's another layer there.

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The one that is, is most predominant in my work is that transition of when

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children are becoming adolescent.

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So they've kind of gone through puberty, but they're, and they're in

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puberty, but there there's that point where, again, there's the break and

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that usually coincides with, uh, a woman's menopause transition, right?

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So something is building in that, in that space.

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Uh, and some change is happening for her.

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Biologically, psychologically, spiritually, socially, all of

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those things that transition.

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We know that, we're kind of conditioned to believe that's a

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bad thing that menopause is a bad thing or disease or something wrong

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with us, and I won't go into all of that, but there is a big transition

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for women addressing that stage.

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And moment in life.

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And it usually coincides with their children's coming of age as well.

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So that's, that is kind of the nexus of where I do a lot of my work because

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those two things are, are quite big and they, they have a big impact.

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So if along the way, those first transitions that I mentioned, if

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there haven't been, you know, there can be other things like moving home,

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going back to work changing jobs, relationships ending, like all of those

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things are transitions that need to be acknowledged because we are different

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from who we are before they happened.

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So I'm, I'm not minimising any of those, those are all big changes.

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And that's why I say, you know, every person's different, what

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changes they're going to experience.

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Uh, but yeah, a lot of my focus in the women I work with are at that, uh, preteen

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adolescent, their children's stage.

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And they're in the peri-menopause, menopause phase.

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It's a beautiful opportunity for us, or for these women, to really

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sink into what they're letting go of and who they're becoming in

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each of those moments, isn't it?

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Just recently I went through a transition that, you know, wasn't a chosen one.

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It came out of nowhere and I went very much into survival mode as I had to

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for a number of months afterwards.

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And recognising later.

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Oh, I didn't acknowledge.

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I didn't sit with what this meant for me enough.

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And feeling that in my body, feeling that in my nervous system, recognising,

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hang on, I missed a step here.

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I went straight into survival, which is what we do, especially,

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you know, and just as we give birth, we go into survival mode.

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We go into, how am I gonna keep this baby alive?

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How do I breastfeed?

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How do I manage this?

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What food do I need to get?

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We very much go into a survival mode.

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And sometimes I've recognised in my own life.

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Those missed rites of passage, those missed celebrations and acknowledgements

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and grieving of the transition can show up quite a way, a long way down the path.

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But I would love for you to just, I guess finally, before we finish,

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reflect on that, we can always go back.

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And mark it years later and have just as much of a healing and a recognition and a

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claiming of the new version of ourselves.

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If you've missed it, trust me, I missed it myself.

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And I did this bummer, missed that one.

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I'm now going back and doing what I wish I had done or had someone held me through

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back then we can do this again later.

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Can't we?

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Yeah.

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And, and first of all, I wanna just really honor you in sharing that and

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that recognition of, of grief not processed or grief, not sat with.

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It's a courageous thing to do to go back and look and, and yeah, just really want

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to acknowledge that in, in your sharing.

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And to say that we mustn't beat ourselves up about not going there,

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because again, we're not really, um, we don't often have those muscles

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around sitting with our grief or even acknowledging that grief is there.

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And, and for me the same, in many transitions through my mothering journey,

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I didn't stop to check out where I was.

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So.

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I, you know, I'm here, I'm 60, my children are grown.

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I do this work.

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I get a lot of opportunity to go back and go, oh yeah.

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Okay.

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That moment.

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And what would it have been like?

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So I can understand.

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Francis Weller talks about the five gates of grief, which

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you're probably familiar with.

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But I think it's around the fourth gate of grief is grieving for what

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we know we should have received and rites, but, but didn't.

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And rites of passage is one of those things.

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There is a, a sense of like, I didn't get acknowledged in that, you know, I didn't,

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maybe that was, you know, at, at the birth of your child or maybe it was a, separated

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from my partner and I did this on my own.

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Or I, you know, I went back to work when my baby was, you know, many things where

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we we often aren't given the space.

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And then therefore don't give it to ourselves to acknowledge those moments.

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But certainly we can, as you know, like mother ourselves in that we

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can hold that person that we were then and kind of go it's okay.

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You, you know, it's it's okay.

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You did the best you could at that moment.

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And look, you're here.

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That's what I always say to women.

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You know, you're here.

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You've.

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Things have unfolded in this way and you're here now and you're

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looking at it now, what a gift.

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What an absolute gift to be able to have the time to have people like yourself,

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supporting women through these stages and understandings and, um, yeah.

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I, I think it is absolutely fine to recognise it later.

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And just to give yourself that.

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Um, that space and that compassion really.

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And I always talk about, you know, it's courage, curiosity,

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and compassion that helps us to navigate all of these transitions.

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And that goes for what's happening now.

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And also what happened before.

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Mm, I love that courage, curiosity and compassion.

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Yeah.

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Thank you so much.

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You have a divine energy.

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I can just imagine what it must be like to sit in mother circles with

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you and have that space being held.

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Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and with all of us and all the work

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you do in all those different places.

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I'm so excited by how much, this conversation is growing.

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We have a long, long, long, long way to go.

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But every week when I interview someone new for the podcast and

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more and more people are speaking in these spaces, I get so incredibly

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excited that the, the wave has begun.

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The ripple effect has begun.

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So thank you for being a part of that.

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You're so welcome.

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And I so agree.

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I see more and more that we're talking about, you know, women's rites of passage.

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We're talking about these transitions and we're honoring not only what

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we didn't receive or we didn't get, but finding ways forward to do that.

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And finding ways forward to do that in community because

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women together are powerful.

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Oh, yes, here we come.

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Thank you so very much.

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Thanks, Amy.

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So great to talk to you.

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Thank you.

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As I said to Kamya in that interview, I can only imagine the divine energy

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you would receive in circle with her.

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A beautiful elder with wisdom to impart and space to hold.

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How I wish we could all have this in our lives, how I wish each and every

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one of us had a space where we were held, nurtured and celebrated in those

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moments of massive transition and in the moments of small transition.

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If you've never had this and you're recognising that this is what you

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have missed and you most need, let me say again, it's never too late.

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As women, it is all about the cycles and it will come around again.

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You get a chance to sit with women and reflect.

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You, get a chance to grieve, to heal, and then rise.

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To find out all about Kamya's work both as a rite of passage

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facilitator and in the matresence space, please go to the show notes.

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