Two of the major inspirations in my life created “Eureka”
moments for me. The first, in my early twenties, happened when I started to read Maria Montessori’s books. I got extremely excited, thinking, “This woman makes sense. What she says fits to what I really feel about children and life generally.” The second, in my early fifties, happened when I started to read
Marion Woodman’s books. I got extremely excited, thinking, “This woman makes sense. What she says fits to what I really feel about myself and life generally.”
Marion Woodman died this week and it has left me with a sense of awe and wonder at the powerful influence she has had on my life and on my main life’s work, Montessori education. I spent many weeks listening to this woman’s wisdom over a period of ten years. It was a deep privilege to have known her and to be able to carry on some aspects of what she created in my life and my work.
Marion Woodman was a Canadian Jungian analyst who took Carl Jung’s work, and developed it further, exploring aspects of consciousness through the body, feminine energy, addiction in our modern world and the power of love and presence for human beings.
“I want to die having lived my own life”, is what she told us many times. She certainly did that! And in the doing of that she opened the door, enabling us to live our own lives fully. What does that mean for me? It means I learned to listen to the real me, my inside feelings, my soul, in Marion’s words. I learned to do it some of the time, and I learned to forgive myself on the times when I forgot and reverted to the old ways. I learned to be kinder to me and more understanding of others. I also learned that sometimes one must be firm and clear to be true to oneself. Most of all, I learned the incredible value of presence and love when dealing with myself and others.
What did Marion and her work give me to enable me to learn those things? In association with Mary Hamilton and Anne Skinner, Marion developed BodySoulRhythms. I attended about ten week-long courses with these amazing women over a period of ten years. We analysed dreams, we listened to and really heard poetry, we painted, we sang and above all we danced. We came into our bodies and there discovered our true selves. Sometimes we cried, sometimes we laughed, we explored our bodies and our souls, all the time in the presence of a group of people who totally accepted us as we were in that moment. What a privilege! When we went home at the end of those weeks we were renewed, more attuned to the importance of our own lives, and a little bit stronger when faced with the temptation to go on living someone else’s life – that was always the challenging one😊
In her books and her talks, Marion repeatedly pointed out that what is most missing from our culture is the Mature Feminine. Real Mothering, she explained, is the ability to “hold presence.” In this world there is never enough time to get the level of mothering we need, mothers are only human after all. We need to learn to be present and give love to ourselves first, and then we will be able to give it to others. When Marion talked about the feminine, she meant inner energies in men and women. Marion constantly repeated to us that we also had to develop our inner masculine energy to balance and protect our inner feminine. She was not talking about “women’s lib” or “frilly pretty girls”. Inner feminine is about the fierce earthy energy that encompasses compassion and growth.
Marion showed us how to become conscious of our own inner blocks, our prejudices. Through dance, song, painting, writing, we learned to become conscious of what we had been holding for years, holding on to positions that were not really about ourselves, rather they were about something we felt we “had to” do to be accepted in our world! She showed us how to listen to our bodies, to love them – in other words to be present to ourselves. Presence does not judge, it listens. If we are present for a person with our whole heart, they will feel it, even when we say not a word. That is being human!
That was the first thing I took into my work with Montessori – presence. Montessori asked us to observe children with our whole selves, and in that way, we will be privileged to see the child’s inner spirit. When we observe with total presence we offer the child love, not judgement. We are then able to see the real needs of the child (or infant or adolescent) and solve the problem with love rather than “rights and wrongs”. Of course, we use our intelligence and education when we solve the problems of the children, but we start with love!
Next, I realised that when Montessori talked about normalisation she was referring to a spiritual transformation, which is not that unusual if a person lives a life in touch with themselves, in the way I was learning to do. I would say I experienced many such experiences when on BodySoul courses. And, as Montessori said about the child, when I emerged from those experiences, something had changed. Montessori talked about the child “making conscious what was unconscious”. I was doing the same thing!
Marion Woodman spoke to me at the end of my BodySoul training and asked me to bring her work through my work to parents. I wrote The Conscious Parent based on Montessori principles and BodySoul principles. Later I observed that people learned better by teaching themselves (a Montessori principle and completely in line with Marion’s work) so with the help of others, I wrote The Conscious Parent in Action, (also called Conscious Adult, Conscious Child) a handbook for discussion amongst adults who would like to become more conscious. My work was evolving!
Probably the most important thing that I learned from Marion and her BodySoul method, is something I have used in my personal life and my work in every place I can. I try to pass this message to those I love, those I teach and those I work with. I learned that I must love myself and forgive myself before I can fully love others. I learned that this is not done by preaching but by being in my true self, by loving my true self. And I learned that finding my true self, means listening to my body and my heart, allowing time to hear messages from inside me, being patient and allowing life to unfold. Just as Montessori had said about the child!
Let me finish honouring this powerful and inspiring woman, Marion Woodman, by quoting one of her favourite pieces. For me, this knits together my personal life, my journey with BodySoul, my passion for Montessori education and how I aim to manifest it in Waterpark Montessori and my writings.
“Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, humankind will have discovered fire.” – Teilhard de Chardin (as quoted in The Ravaged Bridegroom by Marion Woodman, University of Toronto Press)
Read more about Marion Woodman - https://mwoodmanfoundation.org/
Read more about Marion Woodman - https://mwoodmanfoundation.org/