Category Archives: Uncategorized

7 Things Your Inner Hestia Wants to Do before Spring Arrives

Hestia, Your Inner Goddess of Hearth and Home, REALLY Wants to Get Some Spring-Cleaning Done

In this first week of March, 2014, we’re in a funny little transition zone.

The cats are restless. They’re running around the house, chasing each other and getting into mischief. They want to go out.

Heavens, I want to go out.

But we’ve got a thick layer of new snow, which rests on a thick layer of ice.

Actually, layers of snow and ice intermingled, treacherous footing underneath.

This weekend, it will be warm. (That is, finally hitting the seasonal averages, which have seemed so far out of reach all winter.)

This weekend, we’re all going to get out.

Last Sunday, people were flooding into the grocery stores, looking (once again) for the Oh-my-God-we’re-going-to-be-snowed-in-supplies.

This Sunday, people will be looking for pansies.

Our Inner Hestia Gets Us Ready for the Magic of Spring

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Guinevere in the original movie version of Camelot.

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Guinevere in the original movie version of Camelot.

Spring is really all about sex.

You remember that song from the (first) movie, The Merry Month of May, from Camelot (both the original musical and 1967 movie).

It’s not just humans who are into that “lusty month,” and it’s not just robins and squirrels. Nature is having herself an orgiastic splendor. That’s what flowers are all about.

{To be continued – in March, 2017. The original blog post was interrupted by the Tower moments that you’ve seen in the blogs that have come shortly after this one. Blog updates began – most recently – with Those Tower Moments, and will continue (unless there is a new Tower-moment – on at least a monthly basis going forward. Xoxo – A.}

Practical "Unveiling"

Unveiling has been reaching an audience worldwide. Now, Unveiling fans can apply the “art of unveiling” to their lives – and to their dance. Alay’nya has taught women the art of Oriental dance through the Alay’nya Studio, which offers belly dance classes in North Virginia. Her book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey has been adopted by women worldwide as a women’s body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway guidebook. For those with an entrepreneurial bent, or those who are aspiring authors, Alay’nya (in her “daytime” persona as Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D.) has founded Mourning Dove Press, offering strategic guidance – and the possibility of publication under the MDP imprint – to those who want to sell more than the “expected” 200 copies of their works. Lessons learned while taking Unveiling to a world-wide audience are interpreted for others, using the time-honored principles taught by Sun Tzu in The Art of War.

What’s Coming in 2013 and Beyond – And How to Deal

What’s Coming in 2013 and Beyond – And How to Deal with It

Winter Solstice of 2012 has come and gone; we are now part of a new “B’ak’tun” (or Mayan long cycle). And of course, our lives are physically the same as before. But is there something different? And if so, how can we deal with it?

To all appearances, one day is still pretty much like the next. And yet, there are huge changes – immense changes – going on all around us. And what is perhaps most indicative of the times is that all these changes are converging. We’re dealing with not just one or two big things, but a great number of very big things, all of which are crashing into each other – more or less all at once.

Antarctic ice mass crashing

Climate changes are evocative of other sweeping forces impacting our lives

Last night, I read a column by Sara Nunnally, who described our current situation an economic winter. The contributing factors included an ongoing crisis in confidence, a credit crunch, falling interest rates (to be followed by a rise, then a much lower fall), and others. The overall impact pointed to long-term economic challenges.

So we start putting this together. Our big picture?

The earth seen from Apollo 17

We have a rate of change in our lives that is absolutely unprecedented in human experience.

It’s not just one thing, or another. It’s not just the collision of a growing world-wide population with a decrease in “cheap energy.”

It’s not just an maturing demographic, with more workers reaching retirement and wanting Social Security and Medicare, with fewer workers earning dollars to support the government expenditures. It’s not just the financial collapse of 2008-09, with others on the horizon.

It’s all of these factors, plus more.

It’s the simple fact that our technical growth – the rate of change in our communications, in our data storage, and many other factors is now racing towards an unimaginable future. Literally. We’re heading into scenarios where our minds – our imaginations of what the future will be – will not be able to keep up with what the future is actually becoming.

(To be continued …)

Editorial Reviews of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"

Two New Editorial Reviews of Unveiling: The Inner Journey – “Groundbreaking” and “Fascinating”!

Two new editorial reviews have come up in the past several days for Unveiling: The Inner Journey:

“[a] groundbreaking book … full of research and stories …” – the McLean Connection, written by Lori Baker, and

“… an intellectual approach. … [with] references to biology, chemistry, psychology, history, mythology, religion and more … a culmination of all disciplines wise and helpful all in one place, with belly dance woven throughout … a fascinating read with so much wisdom and solid advice.” –, written by Nizana el Rassan

Karen McLane’s "Crowning of the Woodland Queen" – A Powerful Work for Our Time

Karen McLane’s The Crowning of the Woodland Queen – A Suitable Repertoire Work for Any Dance Company

When I was growing up (attending a Catholic school, no less!), we had the yearly ritual of crowning Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “Queen of May.” Now of course the Catholic church has survived as well as it has, over more than two millenia, by successfully adapting and incorporating rituals and practices of earlier times.

Photo credit: Robin G. Jordan in Anglicans Ablaze. Traditional Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic ceremony of crowning Mary as the “Queen of May.”

However, we have a much more ancient archetype of the “Divine Feminine,” called by many names in many different cultures over time. Here, she is shown as the Woodland Queen.

Traditionally, one of the most powerful ways in which we humans have not only honored our most important archetypes, but understood their message and power in our lives, was through dance ritual and storytelling. Storytelling today – when done by a gifted storyteller such as Diane Wolkstein – continues to enthrall us because we are brought into the personal connection and energy of the storyteller’s presentation.

Diane Wolkstein, performing at the National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough.

However, dance ritual is the other way in which we have historically “told stories” to ourselves. This goes back for many millenia; far longer than any specific religious church, sect, or denomination in existence today. Dance ritual, in fact, is one of the defining characteristics of human civilization. No one makes this point better than Iris Stewart, in her defining book Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance.

Karen McLane, with her troupe Ancient Rhythms Dance Company, recently enacted one such dance ritual in their performance of the Crowning of the Woodland Queen, at the Montgomery Community Arts Center on Saturday, May 26th. Her The Crowning of the Woodland Queen brings to life one of the most ancient of ritual dance forms, yet suitably updated for our times.

There is a storyline here; a struggle not so much of good against evil, but more of light against dark. In that, the story is reminiscent of the heroic myths that we all know and love – ranging from Star Wars to the earliest stories of our time.

Yet, there is a significant difference between the archetypal struggle portrayed in the Crowning, as compared to the classic Heroic Journeys first identified by Joseph Campbell in his well-known classic, the Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In the older, “heroic” storylines, such as depicted in sagas ranging from the Odyssey to Star Wars, the hero vanquishes his opponent. In this newer, and more evolved storyline, the hero(ine) does the necessary vanquishing, but then brings her opponent (her “dark side”) into herself as an act of integration. I emphasize this in my previous blogpost on the Crowning.

This is powerful stuff. It makes sense that we ask ourselves: where does this new, much more integrative and powerful storyline come from? Is it brand-new to humanity, or – as with Campbell’s Hero – does it link with a much more ancient provenance?

We find an answer if we look into the first known collection of human stories; those about the great goddess Inanna, “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”

The Inanna story is precisely what is being depicted in the Crowning of the Woodland Queen. Just as Joseph Campbell pointed out the underlying similarity of all heroic stories, there is a profound and poignant similarity between the Inanna myth and the Crowning.

“But wait,” you might say, if you’re at all familiar with the story first told in cuneiform tablets, and only popularized in this century. “Inanna didn’t rescue herself; she didn’t subdue her dark sister Erishkegal. In fact, Erishkegal put Inanna to death, and hung her on a hook to rot. And in Karen McLane’s story, the Woodland Queen defeats the Queen of Shadows, and then integrates her.”

And you’d be absolutely right. Inanna was indeed killed, and hung up on a hook. At that point, she was powerless to save herself.

However, Inanna was one smart cookie, and she knew what she was getting into even before she entered the Underworld.

Precisely because she knew what was going to happen to her, Inanna instructed her warrior-handmaiden Ninshubar to weep and plead for her in front of the Father Gods, should Inanna fail to return within three days. This is precisely what Ninshubar did, until Father God Enki relented and created two little “sprites” that he sent down into the Underworld to rescue Inanna.

The rest, as we way, is history. Inanna returns to her palace, and a new storyline unfolds.

However, for the first time in human history, we have a story of having a goddess (or even a god) encountering her or his “dark side.” There isn’t much time, as Inanna makes her fast and furious way back to the “regular world,” for integration. For real, true integration, we need to look deeply into the story of Jesus of Nazareth.

This understanding of encountering our “dark side,” and integrating it, has emerged with much more force in the last century. There has always been some understanding of it, but now, more and more people are becoming aware of this aspect of who-we-are.

Eckhart Tolle describes this as our pain-body.

I write about this in Unveiling: The Inner Journey.

So what should we do?

Recognize our shadow when it comes out. As the Woodland Queen does in the Crowning, we defeat our Shadow by taking away its power. But then, we don’t spurn and abuse our Shadow. She is, after all, a part of us. Instead, we join with her. (T’ai Chi students will understand what this means.) We mirror her. (Neurolinguistic psychology students will understand what this means.) And then blend with her, causing her momentum to join with and aid our own. (Ba Gua martial artists and judokas and aikido practitioners will understand what that means.)

And if we’re not practicing one of the internal martial arts such as T’ai Chi, Ba Gua, judo, or aikido?

We use our own dance art. We use it to pull up our stuff (because our “opponent” is inside ourselves, after all.) And we practice softening, relaxing, and releasing. All of our spinal release moves are designed to help us deal with this. You can read about this in Unveiling: The Inner Journey, Chapters 14-16.

And we go to see performances of the Crowning of the Woodland Queen, whenever we can. And take those whom we love; those who want some healing in their lives. And let the story of how the young Queen defeats and then integrates her Shadow encourage and empower our lives.

Karen McLane’s "The Crowning of the Woodland Queen" – An Archetypal Story of Transformation

Karen McLane’s The Crowning of the Woodland Queen Tells a Powerful and Compelling Story

This last Saturday, May 26th, Karen McLane’s The Crowning of the Woodland Queen was a significant turning point for humanity.

As humans, we’ve used dance for many millenia – not just to entertain, but to transport. We’ve used dance in ritual and in storytelling. And even though we’ve had many new forms of storytelling emerge – everything from novels to movies – dance still plays an important role.

When we use dance to tell an archetypal story, one that triggers a powerful resonance in ourselves, we can shift how we feel as a culture. In fact, we can shift the entire nature of human experience on this planet. (Think of butterfly wings triggering tidal waves.)

I went to Karen McLane’s new theatrical dance production, The Crowning of the Woodland Queen, hoping (perhaps against hope) that this would be the case. And most marvelously, my deepest desire was fulfilled.

But first, a point of comparison.

A month ago, I went to see Ballet Preljocal performing Snow White at the Kennedy Center. This was a highly-touted, sold-out performance. The dancers were all top-of-the-line professionals. The choreography was excellent and exciting. (The dance where the “seven dwarves” maneuvered freely up and down the “cliff face” in a form of aerial ballet was stunning!) The scenes were expertly set and the music by Mahler was memorable and evocative. (Strains still come through my mind.) Not only that, the costumes were by John Paul Gaultier. That in itself was worth the price of the ticket! And of course, I came home from the show uplifted and excited. After all, I’d seen some great art.

In contrast, Ms. McLane’s production was at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, seating about 300 persons. The dancers ranged from pretty good (and enthusiastic and charming) amateurs to pretty good professionals and semi-professionals, They were drawn from local dance schools (for the younger dancers) as well as from Ms. McLane’s own troup, the Ancient Rhythms Dance company. The choreography was appropriate. In some cases, it was exquisite and lovely, in some cases, Ms. McLane did the best that she could with what she had in terms of dancer’s capabilities. The stage setting and lighting were well done. The music was selected from commercially-known pieces; many of us in the audience recognized favorite pieces. However, the music was not original or unique to the show. The costumes were lovely and quite effective – the use of sequins and sparklies for the (sometimes dark) stage lighting was really just perfect. And while well-done, they were not quite at the same level of costuming by Gaultier. (No offense to Ms. McLane. But few of us mere mortals can compare with his creative genius!) Once again, I came home uplifted, excited, and even inspired. Because not only had I seen some great art (it’s the effect that counts, not the various “moving parts”), but my soul was touched and transformed in a very special way.

I had intended to blog about the Ballet Preljocal performance. After all, what’s not to write about? Fabulous show, great dancing, superb costumes! But a few days later, other things had taken priority.

Yet the day after I saw Ms. McLane’s work, I knew that I would blog about this. In fact, blog more than once and from two different blogsites.

The difference between the two?

It’s in the transformative power of the story.

After Snow White is brought from passive death-like sleep back to life by the kiss of her prince, the evil Queen Stepmother is brought to justice. According to the original Grimm’s Fairy Tale (and as danced out in the show), red-hot iron shoes are strapped to the evil Queen’s feet, and she is forced to dance until she dies. Pretty gruesome ending, isn’t it?

In the Crowning of the Woodland Queen, there is also an evil, scheming, powerful woman: the Queen of the Shadows. She and her minions cast a spell, causing the to-be-crowned young Queen and her retinue to fall asleep. However, the young Queen wakes, and a battle ensues.

Point one: The young Queen rescues herself. She nearly succumbs to the potent sleep-spell, but she emerges and fights her own battle.

Point two: The young Queen takes the power away from the Queen of Shadows, but she does not hurt her. She removes the Shadow Queen’s headdress, but does not punish.

Point three: The young Queen “integrates” the Queen of Shadows into her own retinue. The two dance together. The young Queen blends with the movements of the dark Queen. She “mirrors” her. These are techniques well known in areas such as T’ai Chi Ch’uan and even neurolinguistic programming (NLP). However, to see them in dance has a special meaning. These movements of blending and mirroring tell the story of bringing our dark side into alignment with our true selves. This is the kind of process that author Debbie Ford describes in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers.

So what kind of stories do we want to tell ourselves, and each other? Tales of harsh judgment? Tales where we “kill” our own “Shadow”? (And for all that we can be viciously cruel to ourselves, does this harshness ever work?)

Or do we want to tell ourselves stories of forgiveness, of acceptance, and integration? Of love, even? Of becoming whole?

Our nature as a human species is inextricably tied up with our species-wide “self-talk.” We create our realities with how we create stories about our lives. Archetypal and allegorical stories are the most potent, because they speak directly to our innermost being. Let’s honor and rejoice in the fact that a new level of “self-talk” and “storytelling” is emerging.

Ms. McLane’s work may well be the progenitor of a new wave of storytelling. As it is, this work deserves widespread attention. It should and rightly could become “repertoire” among various dance schools and dance theater ensembles, much as the Nutcracker is a mainstay repertory story. There can and perhaps even should be segments of this show put into YouTube clips, and into DVDs, for use in dance education, theater, and dance therapy. And this is a show that should be refined, honed, and polished like a jewel – shown often and with great affection, as more and more people use the message of The Crowning to understand and heal their own lives.

"Wise Woman Wisdom" – from Susun Weed – Great Resource!

Wise Woman Wisdom – Compendium of Unique Values – by Susun Weed and the “Wise Woman” Team

Came across this lovely website recently: Wise Woman Tradition – they have lovely references, information, resources, and links – and I am absolutely thrilled that they’ve chosen to feature Unveiling: The Inner Journey as their current Featured Website for one of the “sister weblogs” – Empowering Women.

This set of websites is very information-rich, including many small steps that we can do to shift ourselves towards greater vibrancy, health, and overall well-being. I’m going to be reading through their content over time, and incorporating many of their recommended “healing practices” into my life.

Check this blog over the coming month of February, 2012, to find out when I’ll be doing an online radio interview with Susun Weed of “Wise Woman.” Will post time and date for when this becomes available!

Press Release on "Unveiling" published at the Grand Forks Herald, Jan 6, 2012

Unveiling: The Inner Journey in the News – Grand Forks Herald

Unveiling: The Inner Journey was noted by Grand Forks Herald writer Paulette Tobin, on January 6, 2012.

With “Unveiling: The Inner Journey,” successful, mature, professional women can chart their way to personal fulfillment and happiness. It helps women access all of who they are instead of being limited to one or two roles.

Alay’nya is the pen name for Grand Forks native Alianna J. Maren, who lives in northern Virginia. She built on years of study of the martial arts and Oriental dance before writing “Unveiling.” Her father, Edward J. O’Reilly, was part of the UND chemistry department faculty. Maren, after attending UND, earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at Arizona State University.

For the full article, see Ms. Tobin’s full set of book reviews in the Grand Forks Herald.

Integration – The "Final Step" (of Your "Power Journey’s" First Stage)

Integration Equals Mastery – The First Challenge of Your Adult Life Journey

Before you begin any difficult overland travel, the first two things you want to know are:

  • Where am I going?, and
  • What’s the map?

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? We need to know our destination. As Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, states: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Similarly for us. Our goal is total fulfillment of our human potential. The nature of this “potential” is unique for each of us. However, we share a common high-level roadmap in our adult life-journey.

Just as no child matures without going through the “terrible twos,” and no teenager becomes an adult without some sort of angst; some sort of “identity crisis,” as adults we face similar life-challenges. And the truth is, these are as well-known (in some circles) as are the “childhood development stages” first elucidated by Piaget.

As adults, we have similar growth challenges. The ancient Kabbalists understood these, and charted them as twenty-two pathways. These 22 paths became identified with letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and also with the Major Arcana in the Tarot. The first of these paths is the entry point. It simply means, “This is where you start.” (More on this later.)

The remaining twenty-one paths or steps are grouped into three sets of seven. Each set of seven paths is a major adult journey. We need to take these in order; we really can’t do the third “journey” until we’ve completed the first and the second.

For now, we focus on the first adult journey; integration.

“Integration of what?” you might ask.

Integration of your internal V8 power-car engine. (I introduced the V8 Power Car – analogy for life-mastery in the August 4, 2011 blogpost.)

The thing about this engine is: it doesn’t well unless you can get each of the power-car “cylinders” (archetypes) to fire when and where needed.

The ancients understood the idea of eight powerful archetypes, all drawing one person towards a compelling goal. The Greek god of the oceans, Poseidon, was said to have a “chariot of the gods” drawn by eight immortal horses.

Goddesses also rode chariots drawn by powerful horses; Eos – the Goddess of the Dawn – is shown in a chariot drawn by two gorgeous Pegasi. (Reproduced with permission.)

Our cultural history is replete with this compelling image; a person driving a chariot pulled by two, four, or even eight powerful beasts – each with a determined mind of its own!

Our goal; the “end” that we have in mind at our “beginning,” is to identify and harness and use each of these “beasts” or archetypes successfully. This is the completion of our first adult life-journey.

This goal – integration – access to and power over each of our core archetypes – is not trivial. In fact, it is one of mastery. However, it is one where we must succeed – if we are to progress further. This is the “end” that we must “keep in mind” (following Stephen Covey’s prescription) as we begin our first adult life-journey.

(Reproduced with permission.)

Unveiling: The Inner Journey takes us through our core power archetypes. Both women and men need to learn, access, and use each of these archetypes – although we may individually do so with different proportions and emphasis.

In particular, two Unveiling chapters– Chapter 7: “A Real Woman’s Path (Really Does Exist!)” and Chapter 11: “Shifting State” – describe these archetypes in detail. Succeeding blogposts will follow through with this theme.