November 28, 2011
By Rebecca Tolin
After being bucked off, Jordan Stanton didn’t just get back on her horse, she rode off into the sunrise. And she didn’t need someone in shining armor to swoop her up into this new dawn. She knows how to listen to her deepest stirrings and she knows how to follow them, for this 33-year-old wise woman had been living and teaching self-empowerment at Shakti Rising for more than a decade.
To so many, Jordan is an inspired role model for the teachings of this social change organization. Its mission is to empower young women to rediscover and reclaim their whole selves – and Shakti has helped more than a thousand women coping with mental and physical health issues, addictions and trauma.
“Jordan had dedicated her life to Shakti. I mean everything,” says Kelley Cohill, who co-directs Shakti Rising’s Education & Community Wellness Program. “She really contributed so much to the organization.”
In October, after nearly 15 years with Shakti Rising, Jordan and her beloved steed Kona trotted off to the Pacific Northwest where grass is a lucid green, the kind you find in picture books and fairy tales, where rivers flow over their banks and horses run free. She dreams of integrating a deep love of horses with her wellspring of knowledge on holistic healing, possibly through equine therapy.
The move is a leap of faith for the beloved leader who was serving as regional director of Shakti Rising San Diego. Through residential and community programs, this dynamic organization is doing nothing short of birthing a new paradigm of the feminine – one that is strategic, sustainable, community-based, leadership-oriented, trauma-informed and ultimately holistic.
“It was hard to imagine Shakti without Jordan,” Kelley says. “But she really listened deeply and took a risk despite the fact that a lot of people would be sad with her leaving and I’m sure she had her own internal questioning. Her deep knowing and trusting that call to do something different is what we ask women to do here everyday at Shakti.”
Jordan came to Shakti when it was first forming. She was only 19 and in a very fragile place. Nothing else, including medication, therapy or in-patient programs, lifted her out of a deep depression. But at Shakti, Jordan’s entire world turned around. She blossomed and her bright light shone out. In 2001, she graduated from Shakti’s live-in apprentice program and went on to teach classes like Living the Seasons and Transformation 101. Jordan helped pilot and create a host of new programs, including Education and Community Wellness, and took the director’s reins last summer.
“She can really connect with people and a circle of women in a way I’ve never seen anyone do,” Kelley Cohill says. “She just has a talent and natural gift in that and is extremely generous and really joyful and loving and really really smart.”
After leading countless healing circles at Shakti – a signature piece within their programs – little did Jordan know last spring, she would become the center of another circle of women, the Sophia Circle.
Jordan had questioned whether she could make it to that Sophia gathering on a bright April day. She’d taken a bad fall off Kona and was gripped with pain. Amanda Collins, her friend who also happened to be in Sophia Circle, urged her to come anyway. Amanda isn’t usually so insistent, thought Jordan, so she arrived at what initially seemed like a simple lunch.
There’s always an air of magic and a wisp of mystery unfolding at a Sophia gathering. Women uniting to uplift each other. Love expressing herself.
At our spring meeting, we introduced ourselves to each other and our special guests, Jordan Stanton and Kelley Cohill, by proclaiming what we love. Nicole, days when it’s breezy and beautiful; Amy, her open heart since the journey to India; Paige reminds us of the joy of touching the mother, the earth, in the form of life-giving dirt; Laura of blue sky and stars, cooing doves and French tulips; Amanda, well, she so clearly loves to love and Jordan, the women in her life, the sun, her horse Kona.
In the sweetness of sharing, each woman offers to the river of Sophia. Laura Plumb, whom you could call our Goddess of Ceremonies, has brought us together through vision, grace and layered action. We started as a founding group of 12 members and have grown into a collective of open-hearted women, most Deep Yoga Teacher Training graduates, who serve the community with a Sophia touch. As Laura explains in her gentle powerful eloquence, Sophia embodies a stream of the sacred feminine, a body of living wisdom, the holy waters that keep us alive. Sophia is a mother to all and keeper of the knowledge of what is just. She leads us to wisdom inside of ourselves.
Our Circle meets seasonally. In summer, we bless the water, often assembling along the banks of the San Diego River. Our autumnal gathering is The Sophia Conference, a bountiful retreat held this year at Dianne Cook’s luscious Sacred Journey Yoga studio in Temecula.
We gather around the fireplace in winter, setting our year’s intentions and drawing sacred contracts. And that brings us to Spring, a time of blossoming, springing forth and sharing our own carefully cultivated splendor with a very special recipient – someone whose acts are so great they cry out to be returned with kindness.
I always love this part, the giving of the Sophia Gift, because the recipient doesn’t know what she’s about to receive. There’s an undercurrent of excitement, as if invisible butterflies are circling the room.
This year, it was utterly apparent why Jordan Stanton was chosen, even before Laura made the announcement. This brown-eyed beauty carries an essence of pure loveliness that you just yearn to bask in. She’s a true peace warrior.
Jordan started as a participant in Shakti’s early pilot program in 1999. A group of women living atop Mount Helix with visionary founder Shannon Thompson experienced remarkable healing from drug addiction, sex abuse and childhood trauma. People said it couldn’t be done, especially with women who had been through so much. But, in time, through their core programs, focused on recovery, wellness and service, over a thousand women healed, transformed and became whole once again.
Now, it was time for the joy of circling Jordan in the OM Home garden, with each member offering a gift. Many of us had just met Jordan but her bright smile slipped right inside our hearts. The Sophia women offered massage, acupuncture, Ayurveda, Feng Shui, home-cooked meals, retreats, whatever gifts sprang from their individual craft and ultimately the heart.
“We are offering you the Sophia Gift because of your amazing gifts to our community,” overflowed Laura.
Jordan took it all in graciously, with alacrity and poise.
“I’m so grateful for what you have to give and I will be sure to pay it forward,” Jordan said after each woman made her offering.
Of course, that spirit is what landed Jordan in the center of the circle in the first place. “I think you’ve already paid it forward!” Laura chimed in.
Several months later, I had the joy of meeting Jordan at Shakti’s charming Golden Heights headquarters in a 1906 Victorian. She seemed to float around in a bubble of happiness while leading me through the homey, wood-paneled living room where Shakti holds healing circles and Yoga classes. She beamed like a proud parent at the stalks of corn and buds of lavender in their backyard vegetable, flower and herb gardens, home to horticultural therapy and community workdays. Shakti Rising has even created it’s own line of organic elixirs, a seasonal blend of homegrown herbs fittingly called Shak-TEAS, which benefit their various programs for women in recovery.
“It’s about priestessing these women,” Jordan says of the live-in Transformational Recovery Program, which helps participants address substance abuse, body image, interpersonal violence, depression and low self esteem. Through counseling, education and leadership development, Shakti defines transformational healing as recovery of the whole self within each woman.
“It’s a spiritual apprenticeship program. And it’s very much about doing it from the feminine, really truly from the Sophia,” Jordan says.
Jordan feels a deep alignment between Sophia Circle and Shakti Rising, both committed to birthing the divine feminine consciousness in their own way. Even so, she never expected to be the recipient of a Sophia gift.
“I was deeply touched and pretty shocked and pretty speechless,” Jordan says. “I’m not a person who is beyond words very often but I really felt that way. I felt really seen and just loved, so deeply loved.”
Even upon first meeting, it’s easy to love Jordan, with her vibrant warmth and passion. Those who have had the privilege to work with Jordan revel in her rich hues. Founding staff member Tina Scaccio told me that Jordan has inspired her and hundreds of other woman to be free, intuitive and gracefully feminine.
“If I had to chose just one thing to honor her legacy here at Shakti, it would be her dedication to the wild woman,” says Tina, currently Shakti’s Co-Director of Transformational Recovery. “Jordan has a fervor and a flare for the true essence of magic in this world. She provokes that which cannot be seen, to come alive; whether this unseen is in people, in organizations, in horses or herbs.”
Maybe it’s Jordan’s communion with the unseen that emboldened her to leave the beloved Shakti sisters she had lived and worked with for more than thirteen years. Even last spring, Jordan knew something fresh was calling her and Kona. But first, she needed to get back on her “sensitive giant” after that bruising fall.
“Amanda came out with me to help me get back on him because she grew up with horses in Ireland and she said ‘the longer you wait the more fear will grow so you need to get back on him,’” Jordan explains. “It made such a big difference. It ended up being a really positive experience for he and I that we grew from.”
Jordan marvels at the timing of the Sophia gift. She was so in need of the massages from Sharyn Greenberg and Liscia Di Giacomo, a chiropractic adjustment from Michelle Ross, an Ayurvedic consultation with Laura Plumb, who Jordan says “has such an elegance in how she lives her life and how she practices her craft.”
The Sophia outpouring gave Jordan unexpected, unadulterated support as she prepared for a fresh and mysterious chapter of her life. With her Feng Shui wisdom, Amanda also helped Jordan sort through and purge her life’s belongings for the move ahead.
“It was a huge surprise and it came at a really significant time for her because she was at the end of this really intensive life cycle with Shakti,” Kelley says. “She felt extremely grateful that out of the blue, women would honor her and honor Shakti.”
It was a physically and emotionally nourishing yoking, as this dynamic, intuitive leader followed her true North to a farm in the wild and green Pacific Northwest.
“There’s nothing more beautiful than women supporting each other, the experience of being so supported and loved unconditionally – because a lot of people didn’t know me – was really remarkable,” Jordan says, with her characteristic sparkly flair.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the end for Jordan and Shakti Rising. From Vancouver, Washington, she’s still engaged with Shakti’s “sky vision planning” and its cultivation committee – and of course, Jordan can’t help but cultivate Shakti and Sophia wherever life’s long and winding road take her and Kona.