woman on fire


By Tanya Tiger


After my daughter’s death the Universe offered up an opportunity of a lifetime—a retreat which would help me re-center and regain some level of normalcy (whatever that is).

I had never traveled anywhere alone before, but something inside me knew that I needed this retreat. I was a mixture of nervousness and excitement as I left for the airport. I had no idea what to expect and that kind of excited me. I knew that I would be joined by 30+ woman, all seeking something that we couldn’t quite name.

Over the next week of the retreat and the week following I would come to know the true meaning of “Soul Fire.”

“The cure for pain is in the pain.” ~Rumi

I cried nearly every day for the first three days I was in the Montana wilderness. Settled in the beautiful mountains, the ranch was warm and welcoming. Nature surrounded me.

I could feel Mother Earth more deeply than I had since my childhood. I could breathe her in, taste her in the spring water, feel her in the grass and hear her in the songs of birds and animals dancing all around me. Slowly but surely I could feel myself coming out of the fog. I could sense that I was becoming “me” again. I had almost forgotten what that felt like—to be at home in my own body and fully present in the moment.

I hiked around the lake often and received the gift of stillness. The Great Mother reminded me of the beauty of simply sitting still and letting nature come to me. A baby chipmunk became a frequent companion, allowing me to sing to him, watch him play on the rocks and even play peek-a-boo around a tree.

He would come and sit next to my foot, play with my shoe, and then scamper up onto a rock to nibble some little nugget of goodness he had found. A small, purple, butterfly landed on my water bottle and then flew onto my hand where she sat for over an hour. I couldn’t help but feel Krissy’s presence everywhere.

My soul and I were finally reconnecting and magic was happening all around me.

The women at the retreat blew my mind. We all arrived with our own stories, our own pain, and our own hopes for the future. Some of came with a sadness in our eyes which would turn to a brilliant shimmering by the last day of the retreat. We gathered, we laughed, we cried, we danced and we became one with our souls.

A fire was lit in each of us—a remembering of who we have always been, beneath the layers of masks and facades that we had buried ourselves under to simply survive in this world we incarnated to. We shook off years of trauma and heartache. We busted through walls of resistance and knocked down defenses made of metaphorical razor wire, blades and bullets.

We shined a light on our darkest parts and celebrated our glorious lightness. We were all caught in a great becoming. I imagined myself like a butterfly, snuggled in my cocoon, unsure of what would transpire but knowing that the transformation was needed—no, destined.

I thought I had sprouted from my chrysalis while I was at the ranch. One of my soul sisters commented on how the sadness was gone from my eyes and I noticed how we all seemed to “glow” a bit, like gold reflecting in the sunlight. I felt fully alive and present, ready to face life head on, at peace—as much as one can be—with the death of my daughter, and confident that I could carry this feeling back to “reality.”

I knew there was a chance that I might experience a bit of a crash upon returning. Sera, who ran the retreat, and Jessica, her 2nd in command, both warned of the possibility of hitting a wall on return to the “real world.”

I had no idea what I was about to experience. I fell into darkness and I fell hard. My return to my day-to-day life was my entering into the chrysalis. The pain of dissolving and being reborn had only just begun. I felt as if my very essence had been sucked out of my body. I could barely get out of bed. I couldn’t even fake a smile.

I felt dark, dangerous and deeply saddened.

I reached a point that I didn’t care what happened next. I didn’t care if my life ended, if my marriage fell apart, if I disappeared into a puff of smoke. I simply stopped caring about everything. I was both terrified and numb. It was as if I was standing outside of myself, watching all the beauty I had experienced at the ranch fade into a muddy, cloudy, vortex of nothingness.

I could feel the inner battle raging.

There was a part of me that was still fighting. I called to my soul, to the wonderful women I had bonded with so deeply, and I called to Krissy. I found myself on my hands and knees one evening sobbing silently, yet uncontrollably.

All I could muster were the words, “Help me. Please, help me.”

My whole body felt like it was falling apart. My mind was spinning, full of white noise that was so loud I could barely stand it. If not for my family I probably would have ended it right then and there. I felt like I was being swallowed whole and dissolving into darkness. I could not imagine going on if I was going to continue feeling this way.

The next day I barely got up. I had turned my alarm off and crawled back into bed. I put on a good face when my daughter Katie came in to say goodbye before going to school and then I rolled over and fell back to sleep. I knew that if I remained in this place of sorrow and emptiness I would lose my family.

Loved ones can only watch for so long before they realize that they have to let you go or risk being consumed too. I would not have blamed them if they had left me. I didn’t feel worthy of seeing another sunrise. I made my way through the day, like a robot, going through the motions and just getting by.

That little part of me was still fighting from the inside. It wouldn’t let me cave in completely. I believe that part of me was fueled by Krissy’s love and my refusal to leave my other daughter without a mother. When I got home that evening, I could feel a shift under the surface. The heaviness wasn’t as heavy. The darkness wasn’t as dark. I still felt overwhelmingly sad but for the first time in a week I felt a small glimmer of hope that things might be shifting.

That night my husband and I reconnected, a bridge had been lowered over the abyss in my heart. I could feel a settling happening within and as I shut my eyes for sleep, I felt a sense of hope that things would be even better in the morning.

I was up before my alarm and felt much steadier on my feet. The veil was lifting and my heart whispered that the worst was over. As I went through my morning routine I remembered something that had happened at the retreat and it lit a spark inside. I remember undergoing a sort of out-of-body experience during a ritual where I embodied the archetype of Priestess. I performed a part of the ceremony with such ease that it felt as if I had done it a million times before.

As I went through each motion, my body had heated up from the inside, filling with energy and shooting from every pore in my body. When I snapped back to conscious presence in the moment I was told, “That is who you are Tanya…that is the real you.”

There was another moment during the retreat that would sanctify this reality for me. It was another shift in reality. I won’t say any more than that because it truly is sacred, and those who were present acted as witness.

So, as I stood looking in the bathroom mirror, worlds away from that beautiful and magical place in Montana, I remembered who I really am. I am the Priestess, the Carrier of the Mysteries, the Mother of the Sacred Feminine, and the One Who Howls at the Moon (insert a wink to my soul sisters here). I am the mirror which reflects back into the world. I am a Healer, a Mystic, a Divine Incarnation bent on spreading love in this and future lifetimes.

And, I am a perfectly imperfect human being.

I realize now that the darkness was necessary for my rebirth. It was the tearing away of illusions and the destroyer of false selves. Now when I close my eyes I’m not lost in the dark.

I see myself sitting in the center of a beautiful purple flower, protected by a crystal clear dew drop. I can see out into the world but the protective “bubble” of dew limits the negative energy that can flow in. To many this may sound crazy. To my Soul Sisters I know it makes perfect sense. And, as we said at the retreat, my soul loves you, my soul respects you, but my soul doesn’t give a f*ck what you think about me.

I am finally free.

I am becoming…

“Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in Ecstatic motion.” ~Rumi

Photo: redinkbooks/tumblr

Editor: Dana Gornall