Because sometimes things happen for no real reason, and loss comes and unhinges the doors
and your heart is so filled with paper cuts that it turns into the wound that won't heal.

And you need to know there is a hand, reaching out to hold yours in the dark. Because sometimes it is the dark itself that wants your love and attention, the shadows coming and reminding you of what you once buried and abandoned long ago and now it wants to be unearthed and invited inside. 


Because we ache for the want to sit and feast on our life, to welcome all parts of self to the table, to commune.

Because grief takes everything we have, and we do not know who we will be when we swim to the other side and find ourselves standing on solid ground.

Because you are giving birth.


Because you are thrashing in the shadows left by the gods you once believed in.

Because sometimes illness comes and knocks you over and all the things you thought you would do or think or feel are not what you are actually choosing and you don’t know if you even know yourself anymore, or where to go when all the edges are rough to the touch.

Because sometimes things happen that are so inexplicably stunning, and life just keeps moving on and forward and what you really want is for the smallest stop, so you can stand and stomp in the utter wonder of your life’s mystery.
 

Because you are dying.


Because we wake up and look around and it is like we are in the middle of a story we don’t remember starting, all the vows we broke and all the wars we waged inside and all the questions that came when what we believed began to go up in smoke, and yet we lit the match with our hand.

Because we are close to the bone and members of the scar clan, pilgrims seeking the promised land of belonging in our bodies, restless to release and aching for attunement to the movement of the sacred and profane in our days, risking everything for the sake of our own wholeness.

Honoring your grief, your heartbeats of hurt, your awakening, your mad love.
I am here, with the sanctuary of Witness. To be seen.
I am here with the sanctuary of Listening. To find refuge in presence.
I am here with the sanctuary of a Midwife. For your transitions, your thresholds, your tangled knots and your great big beginnings, for the grief and the wrestling of birth,
for the mystery, which is Life.


For the past fifteen years I have worked as a birth doula and death midwife, walking with those crossing thresholds, wrestling with the unanswerable questions and seeking to find meaning in messy humanity and art and a living mythology. My life's work informs the presence I bring to Sanctuary Sessions: the experience of a doula; the devotion of a writer and the real life beauty and vulnerability of sex education; dance and movement workshop facilitation; medical anthropology and hospice work; activism and advocacy with the fervor of a radical; and the quiet of a Quaker tradition in spiritual discernment;  deep love for shadow work and reclaiming our once abandoned selves to live free and at home in our bodies. I also am one who has walked through many crossroads and unravelings of my own, and am intimately acquainted with the shadow lands, with adaptation, with the irrepressible movement toward life however comforting or terrifying that may feel, with the love it takes to die wise and well.

The Sanctuary offered comes both from the solid ground of a body of work that arises from walking the path that is my own, and from the intimacy of one who has entered into those experiences in life where you swear you won’t survive, except you do. And you come out the other side knowing both things are true - you made it through and you can’t ever be the same again. And so I offer, to you, safe landing, amnesty, refuge, revelation in radical love. This is not counseling, medical treatment or psychotherapy, all of which I support with a hearty yes and believe in. But that is not what I offer, or what Sanctuary is. This is different. It is spiritual midwifery and companionship in the crossing over, where we come together to sit in the space between the in-between, listening for the heartbeats of your life force.

The truth is that no one can walk for you, or have the sovereign authority as to what your own walk might be. No one can give birth for you or die for you or make the decisions that will change everything. No one can inhabit your body for you, live your life for you. And yet, what I am saying is: you don’t have to walk it all alone. I will come walk with you, alongside you, as you enter in, wrestle with angels and demons, fall in love and grieve true. I will walk with you, alongside you, as you ask your questions and show up present for your own life and find your way through to the other side.

"

Sanctuary is truly sacred to me, and the container Isabel holds is priceless. Her true presence in every single session never ceases to amaze me. I have told my nearest and dearest about her work in humble gratitude. If you are considering working with her, please do it. The enrichment offered will change you, your heart and your life in the best ways possible.
— Carla Matthews

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Sanctuary
by definition ( webster’s and mine)


It is a place of refuge.
It’s making an altar of your heart.
A holy (human) place (where sacred and profane get to come together and make out and make amends
and we start to understand
that they are not so separate)
It is protected. Which means, I have your back. You are safe here.
It is freedom for entering into the broken and completeness. Shadow work and celebration, honoring the places so momentous that everything changed and all you could do is build a memorial in remembrance, and listening for the presence of the numinous in the ordinary.
It is also a dwelling place, where we might come together and explore what it means to more fully inhabit our own bodies and lives.


you + me.
one on one.
together.


Threshold Sessions:

These are specifically for those who are in the place of beginnings and endings, birthing and dying into life, reckoning with your own shadow and light and what wants to be created in you and from you. It is for those in life transition: divorce and relationships ending and those entering into new relationship and all the beautiful loss and life that comes with such a thing, illness and coming to understand the relationship you want to have with your own embodiment, spiritual crisis of faith and the moment when you realize you are going to burn your whole life up and take the risk of a lifetime. It is for those who are going through menopause, and those who are in the aftermath of spiritual abuse, and those who are coming out, and those who just left. Meaning, life is life, brutal and achingly beautiful in what it takes and gives, and Sanctuary is for those who by choice or necessity,
walk into the fire that they might remain true
to their own Self, body and soul.

Art Sanctuary Sessions:

These are for artists, writers, creators of all kinds. For those who are grappling with myth and meaning, rough housing with words and seeking to unearth the sound of their own voice. For those who want sanctuary, a safe space, to wander deep into the why of their creating, to ask questions of where the words and vision and uprising wants to take you. Those who feel the doubt and the desire, how sometimes it is a tangled thing to know what we will create and release into the world, because life herself is messy and so are we.  What will I do with the shadows of my own stories, and the glory, with the part of me that wants to write the body true, in all its profane pleasure and knotted knowing? Where does my resistance live, and how does it inform my art? Together, we enter into Sanctuary, an hour at time. We explore. We excavate. We ask questions. We listen. We walk through your words one by one. Or we enter into the unknowns and see what sits there in the silent spaces, asking us to not look away.


What happens in a Sanctuary Session?

  • As a contemplative non-theistic Quaker, I sit in the sublime silence of meetings, alone while with others. The Quaker tradition from which the silence rests, sometimes speaks of the idea of spiritual discernment. In this you will often hear the phrase, “Listening to Your Life.”  In so many ways, this is the Sanctuary we find safe landing within. We come together to listen to your life and your creating. The art of listening is the foundation from which we begin to make meaning of the shatter and mending of transitions inevitable in being human.
  • We meet in person or via Skype or phone for one hour sessions.
  • These times involve listening together, and each session arises from the source of your own contemplation and life, your seeking and your grieving and your creative acts. We explore and ask questions, sit in the spaces between and feel the full range of motion in the feelings that accompany being human and alive. We seek to listen to the voice of your own innate knowing, and to find sanctuary in the solid ground of full presence. I will show up present, for you, with love.
  • While we remain fully open to the unexpected and unknowns, the great Mystery and the surprise visitors, we also enter into a clear agreement before we begin working together as to the life transition for which you are seeking a midwife, and how Sanctuary will best serve you in the sometimes hard work of dying and being born. Clarity is a beautiful thing, and allows for surrender to the grace when it shows up and changes what we thought we knew.
  • Between sessions I am available via email, if you want or need to reach out and share your process. I will respond and hold you in the light and can offer back questions for reflection and your own innate knowing. We may enter into the maps made from this correspondence during our times together, or they may serve as a source of contemplation separate from our weekly time together.
  • I work with individuals for months and even years, and sometimes for brief periods of time, offering support in a life transition.  I do ask for a commitment to a minimum of four sessions. This allows for connection and cohesiveness, the chance to sink into the sanctuary of listening and seeing what meaning wants to be made in the thresholds we cross together. After four weeks, we connect and explore what comes next and how I can support you in that process.

Details

  • Sanctuary Sessions are $75 for the hour session.
  • A deposit is required for the first two sessions, and the remainder can be paid any time before the third session.
  • Each session is one hour and can take place in person, by Skype, or good old fashion telephone.
  •  If you are unable to make a session, you can re-schedule 48 hours before we are scheduled to meet. Cancellations or reschedules less than 48 hours before the scheduled sessions are charged at half payment, and I will work to find another time with you as soon as possible.
  • By registering for Sanctuary sessions you understand that I am not a licensed clinical psychologist and this is not therapy, nor is it a substitute for therapy or medical treatment of any kind.
  • While I am a scholar and seeker in a diversity of religious and spiritual traditions and come from an inter-faith of model of service, honoring your own seeking, I am not representing a particular religion, denomination or belief system.
  • Sessions are scheduled upon payment and I will send you a form with a few questions that will support us in gaining clarity before we begin our work together. And then, we dive in.

If you know you would like to begin, you can register right now here:

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Sanctuary Sessions are a safe place. You are safe to be fully human. You are safe to come as you are. you are safe to sit beside Isabel with whatever it is that brought you here. If you are crawling, crawl to these sanctuary session. If you are falling, fall, fall even if it is a crash landing into the sanctuary sessions. If your heart is hurting and you are weighted from so much grief and loss that you can barely move, barely get out of bed, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you are confused and you are exhausted, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you don't know and you aren't sure, come to the sanctuary sessions. If you are on fire and burning with strength and passion, or heartache and pain, come to the sanctuary sessions. However you come, come. Just as you are. You will be met, held, loved and welcomed by Isabel. You will experience the softest place to fall, the safest place to land, the safest place to come apart, come undone, the safest place to mend, the safest place to have all of what brought you here and all of you held. Isabel offers all of this in a way that feels like being held by love and healed by love and made alive again by love.


-Ashley Hoffman

I have worked as a birth doula for over fifteen years, and have trained and been certified with D.O.N.A. and Birthing from Within.  In addition to working as a birth doula, I have been a childbirth educator, trained and mentored new doulas and educators, and created community organizations to serve those who have been marginalized in the medical system, advocating for rights and reproductive justice, bringing unwavering presence to human dignity and worth. I have experience supporting birth in all its many places and ways of being, it’s unexpected and unknowns. What matters is presence, and I am here, to be with you while you stay with yourself, moment by moment, breath by breath, birthing.

Contact me for Death Doula Sanctuary:
A death doula, or death midwife, is a one who offers a continuum of direct presence and integrated support to the dying and their family throughout a personalized and participatory death process. A death midwife accepts death, dying and grief as part of life and what it is be human, and in this offers the sanctuary of bringing presence to those areas that this profoundly death denying culture seeks to ignore or keep quiet in the corner. I hold the entirety of the death experience: the individual, family, and the larger social contexts that inform how we live and die. I will be here. With you.