Starting in November, the Sacred Fire Community Lifeways program will be starting its own revolution.
In the first of a series of upcoming webinars expanding and enriching our current Lifeways programs, Karen Aberle and Cristian Valenzuela will be teaching an online webinar series called “Getting Ready for Deep Relationship: The Trust Factor.” This engaging, practical course will expand on the offerings of their full course, “Getting Ready for Deep Relationship,” a two-day course for everyone, no matter whether or not you are currently in a love relationship.
The focused webinar, “Getting Ready for Deep Relationship: The Trust Factor,” will be an eye opener both for singles and people who are in a love relationship, and both for people who have already experienced the full course and those who haven’t.
The webinar will take place on three consecutive Sundays (one hour each day at 2pm ET/1pm CT/12noon MT/11am PT/ 7pm GMT: November 4, 11 and 18. Cost: $50 for the series. Register now.
Karen Aberle and Cristian Valenzuela are marakate (shamans) in the Huichol indigenous tradition and have been a couple for more than 24 years. Formerly corporate management consultants, they bring together shamanism, deep community experience, and the discourse of the philosophy of language to present powerful ways of achieving greater heart/mind balance. Madeline Merritt met with them in September to discover more about their Lifeways programs, Getting Ready for Deep Relationship (for singles) and Deep Relationship (for couples).
SFC: Thank you both for joining us today. My first question is, what brought you to the fire, to the Sacred Fire Community, and how did your relationship with fire and shamanism transform your life?
Cristian: I’ll answer that for me. I don’t know when or where this path started. I remember since I was a very young kid, I was motivated by curiosity to search the meaning of what we’re supposed to be doing in this planet. It took me to a path of many flavors and after many, many years of searching I came out into the Huichol tradition (of Mexico). As an artist, my motivation was to find a way that I can speak through my paintings to my people. And I discovered that conflict among us as humans can be a tremendous opportunity for learning, and when you add this sacredness aspect, in order to relate with other human beings, we can learn some ways of communicating and relating among each other that can empower us and get a sense of the sacredness of life, and the sacredness of who’s in front of us. And so in that way, it took to what we are doing today: these courses and workshops to help people to be together and have a rich relationship.
SFC: What drew you to offering guidance on relationships specifically and why is this an area of expertise of yours?
Karen: Well, the both of us met 25 years ago when we were both studying the philosophy of language and communication, and so we have a very strong background in how people produce relationship from the perspective of the mind, the perspective of language. When we found ourselves connected to the fire, we discovered a whole realm of relationship that we weren’t really dealing with in our communication, our mind world. So, really it was when we brought the heart aspect into the mind aspect and balanced it, we found we were still doing the same work and it’s really about relationship and how we communicate with one another. What’s different now is we have something much deeper and more fiery to bring to the whole discourse of human relationship.
SFC: Would you two mind giving me one or two tidbits of knowledge from your new Lifeways offering, “Getting Ready for Deep Relationship.”
Cristian: Yes. We have, through the years, identified a series of qualities and virtues that if you excel in them you will have tremendous capacity to be in relationship while having fun, respecting each other and growing. One of the declarations that we live by and that has been very powerful is to say to your partner “your concerns are my concerns.” To live with that declaration in daily life has tremendous implications for building something wonderful.
Karen: Let me see if I can add to or clarify that. When I declare, when I say to Cristian, “your concerns are my concerns,” what I’m saying is that I’m not giving up my concerns to take care of his, but that I hold his concerns as important for fulfillment as much as my own. Now, that can present some real challenges, especially when he has a concern to go to the beach, and I have a concern to go to the mountains. When I say that to him, our responsibility then is to find a way that we can both get satisfied.
SFC: And is this new offering, “Getting Ready for Deep Relationship,” is this designed for couples, singles, or both?
Karen: Yes, it’s for both. We had started working with couples in the regular “Deep Relationship” workshop, and what we found was there were so many singles longing to come and do some work that got them ready. So we modified it so that it works for both singles and couples.
SFC: What makes the program you offer and other programs in the Lifeways offerings from the Sacred Fire Community different from other relationship programs or offerings out there in the world?
Karen: Yeah, that’s a great question. What I’d say is that Lifeways, especially for people who don’t know what that is, is a set of programs that are designed to support all of life’s transitions. So there are programs in birthing, and programs in death and dying, in prayer, and in initiation for young men and women. And the program in relationship is, we feel, not your ordinary run of the mill “come and learn how to be in relationship,” but it is part of the circle of life and brings the sacred into relationship and into the inquiry of “how do we grow together” in a sacred way. So, relationship is one of those stages of life where we really need to learn how to continue to build together and how to fight together. What we are doing is we’re preparing people to use conflict as a sacred doorway. Breakdowns and disappointment and conflicts are inevitable. It’s really the way in which you approach it and honor the God in each other through it.
Cristian: What I can add is that we see different relationships as an area or domain of learning, like playing golf, or wanting to be a masterful tennis player, or a mathematician. We think that relationships are a way you can learn with distinctions and with certain tools that we bring into the program that can be learned by anybody.
SFC: What can people expect to gain from this program with you?
Karen: What we inevitably find for people who are leaving the program is that they walk away in a much greater level of satisfaction for the life they are living, appreciation for themselves and one another and a sense of peace and purpose in being able to make this relationship work. People come in with different levels of resignation about how they are and leave with a sense of confidence and faith in themselves.
Cristian: And also I can add that people who participate in our programs, they go away with a set of tools and practices that will help them after the course is done to continue learning.
Karen: There’s one other thing I’d like to say that comes up a lot. Sometimes people are a little hesitant to come to a workshop and talk about their relationship stuff, you know like it’s a private matter and there’s a certain sense of maybe embarrassment or shame: “I really don’t feel like I can talk about this intimate thing, this personal thing, around other people.” What happens is that there’s very quickly a shared understanding that the concerns I’m operating with are really common to everybody. And that the ways that I am foolish, or have made mistakes in the past are ways everybody has experienced. And there’s a tremendous amount of freedom in discovering there’s this commonality of breakdowns in relationships.
Cristian: And this program is good for everybody. Some people say, “Well, if I learn this, my partner will not be here therefore what’s the use of it?” Just learning the tools, the practices, the new interpretation of the discourse of conflict— independent if whether you arrive without your partner or don’t have one — you will be enriched with new perspective and better tools to bring to your relationship with your partner after the course is completed.
Karen: You don’t need a partner to receive the gifts of this program, and, if you have one, you also don’t need your partner to come with you. Coming alone, you have the opportunity to transform yourself and transform the relationship. We say this is a great opportunity for the entire couple if one person is willing to come and learn.
SFC: Thank you both for speaking with me today!