Soul Circle

prayer-group

I have always been curious about Isabel’s Prayer Group, a group of six women that call themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Disorder and that has been meeting every two weeks for almost thirty years.

I asked the women what their friendship means to them, and below you’ll find some of their responses. I pretty much had to lie on the floor for a while afterwards, their answers moved me so much. I took Nora, my eleven-year-old daughter, when I visited the group to take this photo, hoping she would be as inspired by these friends as I am.

Valerie sent me this:

I joined the group when I moved back to California after four years on the East Coast. In the Prayer Group, I hear about manifestations of the Divine Feminine in the midst of mundane tasks, like walking the dog or making soup.  

I love this circle because it’s so generous and accepting: we talk about everything from our white-knuckle moments of frustration to our sips of grace. We share our hopes and dreams in the same breath as we acknowledge all our comic imperfections.

Everything in the circle is confidential. Nothing is censored.  We can talk about our losses or frustrations without having to “get over them.”  Each woman is bright, polished, and unique: and I marvel at our collective strength. 

I have been blessed, rebuilt, and rekindled by this circle, the times I’ve needed it the most—after cancer, a cross country move and a heart-rending divorce. 

There is always good food from sushi to champagne for a special celebrations, a moment to  “check in,” followed by a soulful question. Then we enter a deep space, with a bell and candle, and end with round of gratitude and prayer.

As we tidy up, one of Isabel’s stories is sure to make us laugh.

Pauline wrote about spirituality:

This circle is the most deeply spiritual experience I’ve had in my life. I expect these friends to be with me until I’m gone, witnessing every passage of my life, and often imbuing the challenges and gifts of my days with layers of meaning that were there but hidden from me.

I don’t personally use the word prayer–for me, it’s meditation, presence, witnessing, love, intentionality, grace, mystery, the ineffable.  

If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that is enough.

And Carole sent this note:

When you love someone and they are in pain or jeopardy and you feel helpless to do anything, here is something I can do. I can join with my sisters, pray for them, hold them in my heart, and lift them up with the help of this soulful, powerful circle.

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As I lamented not having a similar group of my own, Isabel reminded me that the writer Jean Shinoda Bolen, one of the founders of the Sisters of Perpetual Disorder, wrote a book called The Millionth Circle that will inspire anyone who wants to start a group like theirs, or strengthen a circle that already exists.

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Woo-Woo?

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A group of us recently came together for an intuitive, creative art process called SoulCollage®. The idea is to create cards that bring us into conversation with our native intelligence, and then consult with the cards to illuminate our questions, dreams and challenges. Although it sounds a bit like working with tarot cards, SoulCollage differs in that the cards are created from our subconscious minds about our own lives.

Isabel rolled her eyes at first and said it was too “woo-woo” for her, but she was immediately immersed in creating beautiful cards from a vibrant collection of photographs our SoulCollage® leader, Jennie Oppenheimer, had gathered from art magazines and a massive collection of ephemera. Isabel’s first task was to find pictures of dogs (no surprise there!). Each person created two to three cards and then was asked to speak through the cards in the following ways: “I am the one who…” “What I have to say to you is…”  “My name is….”

Each card had its own personality: some were funny, some were painful, all were beautiful and revealed little hidden pieces of the creator’s life story. We were surrounded by interesting and wonderful women and spent the day laughing, sharing and eating delicious food in a magical house set deep in the green forest.

Jennie Oppenheimer is an artist and leader of SoulCollage® creativity workshops. It is her passionate belief that creativity and play not only illuminate our strengths and originality but help us to discover our own unique purpose and potential. For SoulCollage® workshop or coaching info contact jennie@soulio.org.

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Visiting Eleanor Roosevelt…sort of

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Isabel and Lori had a most interesting visit to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, located in Hyde Park, NY. They loved every aspect of the tour but were truly moved by the home Eleanor Roosevelt created because it reflected perfectly her extraordinary personality and the quality of her mind and heart. She was the consciousness of FDR and of the nation. Long before such issues were popular, she fought for equality and justice in America and to to end racism and poverty for women and children. She was instrumental in drafting the Declaration of Human Rights and was so respected that dignitaries from all over the world came to visit her. It is easy to imagine all those powerful men in Eleanor’s modest living room or sitting at her small oval table.

After a full day of being transported to the world of FDR and Eleanor—including the difficult times in which they lived and the world they helped to shape—Isabel and Lori had dinner at the home of David Roosevelt, the couple’s grandson, where he lives with his wife, Manuela, and their little girls, Isabel and Grace. They live in a large haunted house that has been in the family for generations. At night, they say, they hear ghosts who play the piano, sing and bang doors. Everyone, including the family’s three dogs, simply ignores them.

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Help Aylin Hear

Every day, here at the Isabel Allende Foundation, we get requests to fund very deserving individuals. And every day we have to refer to the bylaws of our 501(c)(3) organization that state very clearly that we cannot fund individuals—and then explain the limits of the foundation to people and causes that are both worthy and that pull at our hearts in ways we didn’t know were possible.

Every day we wish we could make an exception…

Aylin

For the past six years our executive director, Lori Barra, has traveled to the mountainous countryside outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, to visit and photograph a special family. This family includes two girls, Aylin and Andrea, twins who were born profoundly deaf. The girls have made it thus far through life communicating with one another using their own secret language and, in Andrea’s case, thanks to the help of a hearing aid. Unfortunately, Aylin cannot be helped the same way. Recently, however, Lori discovered that she is an ideal candidate for a cochlear implant, a miraculous device that will bring her—for the first time—into the hearing world. And not a moment too soon, since every day that goes by leaves Aylin a little more isolated and falling a little more behind.

Aylin and Andrea

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post and back to the foundation. Since the foundation cannot help Aylin, and since the girl has woven herself into Lori’s heart, Lori and her husband Nico (Isabel’s son), have decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help Aylin hear.

If you have the means, or even an interest in learning more about this project, please visit the site, read about this remarkable girl and contribute if you wish. Help us help one girl in one small village—it isn’t much and it is everything, all at the same time. You will fall in love with her, too; we all have.

Through photos and frequent updates, the online campaign will chart Aylin’s progress, beginning with her journey to Mexico City, where the cochlear implant surgery will take place, and  encompassing the post-operative and aural rehabilitation therapies she will require. Best of all, every penny will go to help Aylin who, with luck, will very soon be brought into the hearing world.

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Enlightenment

Isabel needed to protect these little ones.

Isabel needed to protect these little ones.

Isabel sent me the following note about her recent travels to the green hills of upstate New York. For the record, hedgehogs are my favorite animals and Isabel’s shoes are…heavy. Here is what she has to say for herself:

Lori and I were at a spiritual workshop with Eckhart Tolle at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. We were hoping for a bit of enlightenment. At Omega all food is vegetarian, everything is organic, all trash is recycled, silence is the norm, there is no drinking or smoking, and the wildlife is tame because no animals have been harmed by humans in decades. A robin made her nest on a chair on our cabin porch. People, even very young children, came to look respectfully at the little birds. Also, a local rodent was curious and I thought it might eat the birds, but when some Omega staff saw me running after the hedgehog with a shoe in my hand, I was warned not to interfere. The baby birds were beyond ugly!  Naked creatures with huge beaks, but in a matter of three days they grew feathers. The mother watched from a tree nearby and came often to feed them. We had to leave before they were able to fly. (I hope the hedgehog was vegetarian too, as is everybody else in Omega. ) 

Regarding our enlightenment, it may be it is difficult to achieve in a week, but just being in the beautiful surroundings of the 230-acre paradise and in the presence of a great teacher and so many seekers was good for our souls. 

Imagine

Imagine!

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Pretty Omega!

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At the bookstore.

Omega green

Omega pretty greenery.

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Shoe Fetish

I recently convinced Isabel to buy some sensible shoes….Okay, okay, her podiatrist convinced her, but I have been saying as much for what…fifteen years? Anyway, seeing as how I don’t have a medical degree of any sort and, well, the foot doctor does, she finally listened.

Doesn't she look happy?Happy feet, happy Isabel!

Doesn’t she look happy? Happy feet, happy Isabel!

I took Isabel to a shoe store that only sells orthopedic shoes—think huge, clunky and overly padded. It turns out they were not so bad…well, not really. Here is how Isabel described a pair of liver-colored lace-ups lying sad and rejected on the unfortunate-looking carpet: Those look like horrible extruded internal organs.” I had to agree that they were pretty awful.

But we kept on looking and eventually found shoes that were less repulsive. A lot less repulsive. Success meant not only that Isabel walked out with five pairs of shoes for a variety of activities–for walking, for going out, for standing at her desk and for around the house–but that she was actually wearing them the day I picked her up to run some errands. She was wearing the comfortable shoes! Wearing them and singing their praises!

Here are some photos of the types of shoes Isabel used to wear:
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Poetry and Comfort

Isabel was handed this card by the teacher and asked to write a poem about it!

Isabel was handed this card by the teacher and asked to write a poem about it! She was given 3 minutes to write. One of the many assignment from our class.

Earlier this year Isabel mentioned she wanted to take some classes—music appreciation, dance, needlepoint…and poetry! I went online, found her a poetry workshop and decided to tag along with her while she attended a class at the Grotto in San Francisco. After all, how many people can say they took a poetry class with Isabel Allende? Well, let me tell you, it was pretty cool. One of the activities our teacher, Maw Shein Win, started us on was to hand out pages ripped from old copies of art magazines. She then told us to highlight or circle words or phrases that resonated with us. It was pretty interesting to see what we ended up with as we teased out seemingly random words and phrases and tied them together to create a poem.

Another cool tool we learned about is Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards published back in the ‘70s by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. Each card features an aphorism intended to help musicians break creative blocks, and it turns out they can be used to spark ideas for poetry too. For instance, take the phrase: Don’t avoid what is easy. Now, try to write a poem based on that.

Some cards from the Oblique Strategies deck.

Some cards from the Oblique Strategies deck.

When I asked Isabel if I could share one of her poems on the blog, she told me (and I quote), “Dream on!” So, sorry about that. It seems she is not ready to show the world her poetry. For the record, I found her poetry lovely—very reminiscent of her early books Eva Luna and Stories of Eva Luna.

It will be fun to see where this new adventure takes her.

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Puppy Time

perlaIsabel has a new little friend! Meet Perla, who has been gracing our office recently. We didn’t want to fall in love with her but we all have. Dulce, Isabel’s other pooch, is managing…barely. Although a puppy, Perla seems to have managed to make herself top dog. She is less than half the size of Dulce, yet somehow she dominates.

Perla came from Paw Fund, an animal rescue and health clinic for pets in the East Bay that helps people help their pets. It’s a great organization; it’s also the one that brought Dulce into Isabel’s life. Lucky us
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KINDness in Action

Isabel in the middle with Ellen Jorgensen on her right, Director of Public Outreach and Strategic Development and Wendy Young President of KIND

Isabel in the middle with Ellen Jorgensen on her right, Director of Public Outreach and Strategic Development and Wendy Young President of KIND

Isabel and the rest of us at the Isabel Allende Foundation recently met up with KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), and we came away as impressed and inspired as ever. You may remember that KIND, which represents immigrant children in court and helps them gain asylum here in the United States, was the deserving recipient of last year’s Isabel Allende Foundation Espíritu award, which is given annually to organizations that support causes Isabel feels strongly about.

The services KIND provides are critical. According to group’s website, “Over 100,000 children came alone to the United States in the last two years. More than 50 percent of these immigrant and refugee children do not have attorneys to represent them in their deportation proceedings. This humanitarian crisis of Central American children at our border remains a due process crisis in which thousands of children are at risk of being returned to great harm, even death.”

KIND’s work seems to be without end, and the flow of children and other asylum seekers from Central America fleeing poverty and danger is unending. KIND President Wendy Young has described these children as some of the most vulnerable in the world.

Here is the good news, however: 90 percent of KIND’s child clients do win their cases and achieve legal status and protection. That is why we need to continue to support KIND, and we hope their work will inspire our readers to speak up in support of legislation recently introduced by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California that would mandate counsel for unaccompanied children and other vulnerable individuals.

The refugee crisis seems to be in the news often, both in Europe and here in the United States. I always feel more hopeful when I learn about people helping. I am grateful for the kindness and good work being done on behalf of these vulnerable children.

Here is a link to just one story about a girl named Angela. linkhttps://supportkind.org/stories/angelas-story/

Here is a link to just one story about a girl named Angela.

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Then and Now

Heres a fun photo of Isabel’s office in 1910 and now, 2016. The building hasn’t changed much. The original owner, Frank Linsley, a prominent Sausalito resident and former Mayor built the house in 1903ish, as far as we can tell. Love the old carvings on the gable and window areas in the old photo.

Isabel in black and green posing for the photo.

Isabel in black and green posing for the photo.

Love the little trees.

Love the little trees.

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