Vicki Woodard is a Shadow Work® Mentor, Trainer, Coach and Group Facilitator in Boulder, Colorado. After teaching in elementary schools for 29 years, Vicki became a part-time office administrator for Shadow Work Seminars and currently leads facilitator trainings with Cliff Barry, whom she married in 2005. Vicki and I spoke over my kitchen table about Shadow Work, Boulder, and her passionate interest in women’s spirituality.
AB: How did you come across Shadow Work®?
Vicki: I probably started hearing about it in the early 1990s when I was doing body work with Tom Daly. At the time, Tom was a massage therapist and was also doing what I now know as Voice Dialogue; he was always connecting the body and psychological aspects of things.
Then, in 1995 or 1996, at a getting-dark-early time of year, Tom and Jude ran a series of six Shadow Work sessions, every other Sunday evening. I went because they happened to be the evenings when I wouldn’t have the kids — the luck of the draw. So I went and watched, and I was just totally fascinated. I had never seen psychodrama or any kind of process work like that.
AB: Had you done more traditional kinds of therapy?
Vicki: Yes, I’d seen five or six different therapists for different reasons over the years, three of which involved marriage counseling. I’d also done a lot of spiritual weekends, meditation, affirmations, that kind of thing. But I’d never done anything where you could see the patterns in your life. I don’t even think I got it all.
I really liked playing parts in people’s processes, but there was no way I was going to volunteer to do a piece of my own. I didn’t know anyone there but Tom and Jude, and I wasn’t in a place of total trust at that point.
I was so impressed, that in November of 1997, I went to the Inner Sovereign Training (IST). I was still teaching and took this plunge, took off work for four days and paid all this money. I’d never paid that much money for something. If you remember, the flyer advertising the IST is huge, and it lists all sorts of things you can expect to have happen. That list was all perfectly aligned with changes I wanted to make in my life at that time.
I was just blown away by that weekend. Even the question they ask in Shadow Work, “What do you want to have happen” — certainly that’s not how they talk in cognitive therapy at all. In therapy, I’d had incredible insights into patterns in my life, or where a pattern came from, but not necessarily the shift that says, Oh, I don’t need to do this any more, I can do it in a different way. I had never experienced that level of clarity and understanding about my behavior, and the patterns I had set up in my life, as I did that weekend. It was like this huge burden was lifted off my shoulders.
AB: Was that the first time you met Cliff and Mary Ellen?
Vicki: Yes. They had just moved to Colorado from Wisconsin a few months earlier.
Then, at some point, I got a flyer for the Basic Facilitator Training (BFT), and I thought, I could really sink my teeth into this. Shadow Work had brought me such relief physically and emotionally and spiritually that I needed to know more about it. So I took the BFT the summer of 1998.
AB: What was your BFT experience like?
Vicki: It was very expanding for me to start learning the Shadow Work Model, because I hadn’t really had that in my head at all. I just liked watching the facilitation and how people treated other people. As I came to understand the Model more, there were so many “ah-has” about how I had been wounded in this or that way. It explained a lot of things about myself; it was like a map for my psyche that I’d never been given before. All of a sudden I could see how things had come about and were working in my life.
I liked the connection between all of us in the training, too. It felt deeper than in other groups I’d been in.
As a facilitator, though, I thought, There is no way I’m ever going to learn this. I was really scared. Of course, and this is exactly how it should be, there were people who could memorize the steps to the processes easily, and I was in total awe of them. Once I was around it more, though — when I started working for Shadow Work as the office administrator — I felt more comfortable.
AB: Were any of the techniques or concepts useful to you as a teacher?
Vicki: Yes, especially when meeting with parents. I could see their woundedness and how they treated their children or had fear up about me being the establishment. With each training, I could see a whole lot more. With the kids, it was much easier to see and make it okay for them to be doing what they were doing. I’d think, Here’s self-building, and they need to be doing this, and I need to put a boundary around it so they don’t hurt themselves or somebody else.
For me also, there was a comfort level as I came to understand my personality and the reactions I had internally. I have always been very aware of things going on inside my body, like feeling anxious or scared or whatever. I became so much more relaxed, and I could present things to parents in a way that would calm them down and help them not feel ashamed and see that this was just a learning process in parenting. I was grateful for that. I had a lot of skills already, but this made them that much more clear for me so I could articulate those things better.
AB: How did you come to start working for the Shadow Work office?
Vicki: I knew that when I retired from teaching, I would need to work part-time to make enough money to pay my bills. Brad Gallup and I were having lunch with Susan DeGenring and Cliff, right around Christmastime in 2000. I was saying I was going to retire and needed a part-time job, and Cliff immediately said, “Why don’t you work for Shadow Work? I’m looking for someone to work part-time in the office.”
So I started working on Saturdays for about four hours. For me, it was a dream come true because I dreaded figuring out where I would work. Most of the time was spent getting the database caught up. Cliff was living on Buckhorn Road in Loveland at that time and trying to run the whole business by himself. He found keeping up with the paperwork really hard. I knew absolutely I didn’t want to substitute teach. Some people were saying, Cliff had better be nice to me, because everybody saw me as Little Vicki. How on earth could she hold her own?
AB: I was in Illinois at that time, and in regular contact with Cliff by phone. I remember him telling me how badly it was going, running the business by himself. He hired different people, but some of them didn’t stay long and others didn’t work out. After you started working for him, I remember him saying, “If Vicki ever leaves, I’m going to put a gun in my mouth.” [Laughs]
Vicki: So much of the busywork was just like teaching: collating manuals and stuff like that, which I could do with my eyes closed. At that time, the manuals weren’t in one document; I had to run off sections within sections and put them together. It became a job of mine to put each manual into a single document. It seemed like a miracle to Cliff that things could be caught up.
I worked two days a week and had a day off in the middle of the week and a four-day weekend every week. I kept saying, Thank you, God! You don’t get that in teaching so much. [Laughs.] It seemed so little to me, but it was so huge to him. There is so much to running a business.
Then we moved the office from Buckhorn Road to Susan’s house on County Road 29, and that made things a lot easier because there was more space. The house on Buckhorn Road was so cramped. Plus, if it was icy, you could only go 15 miles an hour on that road. Oh, the adventures of driving to Shadow Work.
AB: I guess historians will remember the Buckhorn Road house as Cliff’s bubble light period.
Vicki: I came in one day and there was red everywhere. One of those little bubble lights had exploded, and the red dye inside had gone all over the computers.
Another job of mine was to attend a facilitator training when they were one person short. I started feeling more comfortable with the Model and how I facilitated. I thought, I, too, one day could do this! In the advanced processes taught in the AFT, there were so many steps that it was really scary for me. I many times don’t give myself enough of a break, and sitting in on the trainings helped with that.
AB: Now the office is in your home in Boulder, what’s that like?
Vicki: I usually spend two days a week on administrative stuff. Sometimes there’s a little more than that, getting CD orders off the web and shipping them out.
AB: What kinds of phone calls do you get?
Vicki: When I first worked for Shadow Work, people called and asked me, “What is this 9/11 CD?” “I’ve heard of Shadow Work but I’m not sure what it is.” People who had been in a Shadow Work seminar in the early days had come across the website and wanted to find out about it again.
These days, email is the way people communicate. Sometimes I get a pretty vague email, like, “Will ya ever come to Texas to do this?” A lot of times, if I look at the time the person sent the email, it was 11:30 at night.
AB: When did you become interested in feminine spirituality?
Vicki: I had been interested in it since my early twenties, being a little hippie-dippie girl. I had somehow, by the grace of the Divine, been introduced to Wiccan traditions and read different things. I can’t even tell you what they were now. My first introduction into spirituality beyond what I would call basic Christianity was Edgar Cayce’s work, where I first became aware of the idea of reincarnation. That made so much sense to me.
Then, when Ms. Magazine first came out, one of its first issues ran an article on how to run a consciousness-raising group. So a group of about six of my women friends got together every week for months and months, and spirituality was one of the things we talked about. That’s how I got introduced into the pagan traditions, with a Wiccan twist. I read a lot about the different holidays and sabbats, and practiced that with some of those women for a while. This was before I left Texas. I lived in a college town, where there was a Buddhist ashram with a vegetarian restaurant — I was a vegetarian at the time. I started hearing about a much wider array of spirituality and religions around the world.
I moved to Colorado when I was 23, and from then on, I had discussions with different women at different times about the feminine side of spirituality, and the whole idea of goddesses. My realm was still pretty limited to Greek and Roman goddesses. I didn’t recognize at that time that Goddess religions went back much further than that.
Then, life intervened. When I get focused on something — in this case, being in relationship and learning to be a better teacher — I let that part of myself go, even though inside it’s always operating. I went away from it for a while.
AB: This would have been the 1970s. Would it have been a risky thing, even in Boulder, Colorado, to “come out” as a pagan or Wiccan?
Vicki: No. In Boulder there was a bookstore called the Pentagram which sold these homemade incenses that were just lovely. It had lots of books on pagan and Wiccan traditions, and I would go up there when I could afford it. It was quite normal for Boulder.
Then, when my first husband and I were looking for a place to get married, we found Unity Church in Boulder. It was the first time I’d experienced Christianity from a metaphorical perspective, and it made so much sense to me. It plugged in the holes that were the reasons I left Christianity originally. It worked for me, although it still didn’t have enough of the feminine piece in it. When my marriage went on the rocks, I started pursuing other spiritual practices, too.
AB: I remember, about three years ago, looking at your bookcase, and I was struck with the wide variety of books on different faith traditions and personal growth methodologies represented there.
Vicki: I was always looking. One idea that made sense to me was that what you believe in, happens. That seemed so magical to me, that there was something about the power of our thoughts that was helpful. When I could be really focused, and have a goal, it would come true. It was the beginning of creating my own reality, but I didn’t have those words for it yet. That belief also made me believe that I could change my world any time I wanted.
I certainly didn’t grow up with those ideas. Once I was on my own, that’s what kept coming up, that I needed to be more in touch with that feminine side. I started seeking out classes and workshops and started getting involved in women’s circles on a regular basis.
Right now, I’m taking care of my daughter and my grandson, and I’ve let that spiritual practice go. When that happens, I feel really out of balance, and there’s a sadness to it for me. The world lacks the feminine nurturing energy, and the feminine belief in the power of creation, that life is about connection and communication and community, as opposed to power and things and stuff. I feel great sadness because it’s out of balance in me and out of balance in the world. It’s hard in this culture, because it’s not a church on the corner you can go to. It’s something in my life that I’ve had to seek out and/or make.
Actually I am kind of leading a women’s group right now. I’ve found that people often have trouble committing to certain times. My friend Marnie and I are committing to being together for Solstice, for example, even if it’s just the two of us. Right now that’s working for me.
For me, what brings the deepest satisfaction in my spirituality is women being in circle and being grounded in that feminine energy. I want to feel grounded in knowing that I don’t have to put it aside and get my masculine energy online to get through something. Feeling that energy makes me feel more in touch with what I would call the Divine.
There’s a part of me that believes at some point Cliff will have a church or something where people gather regularly. Not just to do Shadow Work, but to use Shadow Work as a vehicle to spirituality. Maybe there will be a place in that for women’s spirituality and a way that we can grow as women together and then bring that to men and let them incorporate that, if they want, into their spirituality.
I have a lot of questions about why there are all these books — the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita. Where is the women’s book? Maybe it’s not about having words to follow but being so in touch with ourselves and our feelings that that’s what leads us. But I know I get really pissed off that there’s not a book. [Laughs]
AB: The closest thing I’ve come to it, which isn’t really spiritual, is the work of Clarissa Estes, and sometimes Marion Woodman’s books, though they’re rather intellectual.
Vicki: Hard to read. I always rush out and buy her books and read about four pages, and go, Oh! [Chokes]
AB: Her titles are so interesting. The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter.
Vicki: Yes. The Pregnant Virgin. I guess Jung was not an easy guy to read either.
AB: Has Shadow Work changed your view of life in general?
Vicki: I think that I’ve held a belief for a long time that all the things that happened in my life had a purpose. Painful or not, there’s a reason they happened, and usually the painful things are the biggest teachers. Without those, we wouldn’t be who we are. Shadow Work has helped me see the gold in all these hard things, thus moving me closer to my connection with the Divine. Hopefully our wounds will ultimately lead us to a higher view of ourself and the world and get us in touch with the Divine, because maybe it is in those wounds that we even have a reason to look for the Divine.
AB: When you talk about the Divine, it sounds as if it’s playing a very active role in your life.
Vicki: Yes. What I’m missing is scheduled time to be in that energy and call it forth. I need time just being in that energy in order to feel fed. It’s a huge pattern that I get away from it when I’m overwhelmed in my helping Twoness. Somebody turn it off! [Laughs] Or down, or something!
AB: You’re leading facilitator trainings now with Cliff and did three of them this fall within about six weeks. How is that going?
Vicki: I know that I’m capable of holding a lot in a container and a lot in general, and I think that’s the sign of a leader. That you can hold that level of pain for people and let them transform it, is a spiritual event, in my opinion.
I am becoming more comfortable with being a trainer. My cutting edge is to find my place, as opposed to trying to be like Mary Ellen. I have different things to offer. That’s my M.O.: I learn somebody else’s way of doing it, then I Vicki Woodardize it. I like being on that edge where I learn something. And there are days you feel totally retarded because you can’t.
I think there’s a mystique that I’ve always held about “the guru.” To be married to him is an incredible adventure, for sure. But there’s also an incredible amount of comfort for me, I think, in Cliff’s calmness and tenderness and wanting Shadow Work to be such an incredibly safe way to do personal growth work. I take comfort just in being around him and knowing that it’s okay to just be me as opposed to being scared of the guru. Not that you’d marry him if you were scared of him. It makes me understand even more why this work is the way it is. One of the draws to Shadow Work is that it’s a place where your shadows are welcome. In this relationship I have with Cliff, my shadows are welcome there, too. So it’s no surprise that this work is as safe as it is and that it continues to unfold. I like that part, always having something new on the horizon.
AB: You’re living with a guy who’s almost always coming up with some new idea for the world. That would be perfect for someone who likes something new on the horizon.
Vicki: Works pretty well. I get confused about why Shadow Work isn’t more widely known. It’s helped my world, why wouldn’t it help everybody else’s world? I guess we have to be ready to come to it. Maybe as the consciousness, at least in our culture, begins to change, more people will see that.
AB: I take comfort in what Jung wrote, that the portion of an individual that’s conscious is like a tiny island in a huge ocean. And my parallel is that the portion of the world that’s conscious is like a tiny island in a huge ocean. My daughter occasionally asks me, Wouldn’t it be easier to be like everybody else? To not be aware? And then one of her friends’ families goes through something horrible, and I say to her, That’s what I believe can happen when you’re not conscious. When you haven’t been conscious all along, and life comes knocking, it can have something pretty awful to bring to your door.
Vicki: I go unconscious sometimes, as we all do, and that’s when life comes knockin’. I would rather be conscious and suffer the consequences than be unconscious and suffer the consequences. At least I have a little bit of control of this side of it.
Luckily, the world never fails us. It always provides us another chance to learn. We can learn it with the balsa wood or with the two-by-four. That’s always been my experience. It whispers first, then it knocks, then it starts bringing out the big boards. [Laughs]
You can reach Vicki by at (303) 442-7989 and read more about her here.
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