I have recently found myself in several gatherings of women. It has felt like a coming home to a larger family that I have been absent from for too long. As I look back over the course simply of a week, I am left with the sense that we, the women, are coming back together. As Arundhati Roy so eloquently said, ‘another world is not only possible, she is on her way, and on a quiet day if you really listen, you can hear her coming.’ Perhaps we are coming together to listen her forth.
Most recently I went to join an old friend who had invited a group of us to her place to re-engage with a practice called the four-fold way. It works with the four energies and archetypes of the directions – the Warrior, Visionary, Healer, and the Teacher. We went through different movements to connect us to earth, sky, fire and water. These simple practices may be hard to explain, but they have a simple power as they ground and connect and expand us – all at the same time. After our session we had a circle sharing why we had accepted the invitation to this group, which would be meeting weekly. I surprised myself by finding myself moved to tears as I listened to each woman, and finally spoke myself.
I am one of those people – and I know there are many of you out there ☺ - who in my work in particular, has allowed myself to become the strong one, the one that keeps going (even when she is exhausted), the one that others can rely on and come to. Sitting in the circle I realized how lonely that is, and how hard it is to keep going, trying to make my little piece of the earth a better place, in many ways on my own. I need a community of peers. Trying to be strong for others all the time is a very tiring place to be.
Sitting with those women I viscerally felt that we can find strength in community.
I realized just how I had missed such a circle of women and the experience of community that they bring. We can be, for each other, a waterhole, and a place to come to for nourishment and sustenance. In community, we the weavers of many webs, reminded each other that we can come together and strengthen our capacity for the work we are each doing in a myriad of ways.
No offence to the wonderful men in our lives, but it felt soooo good to be in a group of women holding a sense of reverence for the sacred and for each other. What becomes possible as women learn to support each other in slowing down, and reconnecting with our inner quiet, truth and our wisdom? My sense is that as we take time out, together, from the madness, we can create moments of alternative possibility. Small but critical openings.
This leads me to my other recent gathering of women. I think it can best be summarized as a ceremony hosted by another friend last week on February 2. As she described it in her invite:
February two is one of the great cross-quarter days that make up the wheel of the year. In the north Feb 2 is Candlemas (halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox). Being in the south it is called Lammas – the time for the first harvest. It is a time to traditionally give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives. By celebrating Lammas, we honor our ancestors, acknowledge and give thanks for what we have inherited, where we come from, and where we are today.
We gathered as women to give thanks. We each brought a harvest (from our gardens, or a bread baked in our homes). Again I found myself in a place honouring the sacred cycle of life. So simple and yet so gratifying – to connect ourselves to the web of life and to each other. We went one step further and learnt a simple but potent practice of giving blessing – not just as an appreciation of our bounty, but to bless all – the good and the bad. And so we learnt to bless those who have caused harm in different ways to this beautiful country, to hold them in love and to bless them fully. In that we also blessed those who have suffered most, and those of us whose only role may have been to bear witness.
It was incredibly powerful. In that moment of offering blessing to those who have caused harm to others, we create a ‘clean’ moment. We access a 'space of emptiness', where reality can unfold differently and from which everything is possible. In blessing them we also release ourselves from their hold over us, which in a large part comes from our clinigng to them with anger, blame and judgement. In that moment, and only then a different future becomes possible because we have ended the blame game, that keeps us in the role of victim, a victim which does not – cannot – take responsibility for herself.
I could viscerally feel the freedom that came from opening my heart to them and sending love, in that brief but potent moment.
It was surprising how little awareness we give to the witness, and how in blessing the witness, there was a sense of acknowledging a role that is often held with guilt for not doing more, perhaps even giving more potency to this role in future.
As our host reminded us, blessings are not an act of doing, it is about staying: Staying open-heartedly with what is... connecting to our feelings as opposed to running away from them, like we all generally do.
This I realize may sound like a cop-out to the activist soul, but as we keep reacting, working to right wrongs and injustices, I am beginning to realize that we are in fact contributing to creating more of the same. If we can release ourselves entirely from ‘reaction’ and act from a place of genuine blessing of what is, that is a clean pure place that allows for something entirely new to emerge, though this is not why we do it. We do it simply because it is the right thing to do, and it connects us with the full cycle that we are a part of. We had women there from Europe, a German and a Russian German woman in particular who spoke of the scars of their wars, scars that have not been released, in part because we cannot bless the perpetrator, and so the victim and perpetrator remain bound up with each other, prisoners of the part.
It felt like a sacred gathering of women learning a new language to begin to release some of the pain and suffering that is in our lineages and in our country.
The women are gathering.
Another friend of mine is engaging me in conversation to begin a circle of young Zimbabwean women, many of whom have returned home from years abroad, eager to be here, but returning to a land which the time away has meant that we return to, in part, as strangers. The circle will be one of exploring questions of identity. What does it mean to be Zimbabwean today, and what is my role here as someone who has returned with a different perspective?
I guess there could be men in all of these circles, and yet the women are naturally gathering. We spoke of who might the men be, were we to invite them to the group on identity, but then realized that it would be forced – the women were literally popping up on our radar, whereas the men remained invisible. And I believe that the fact that we are all women will bring different answers and insights, than if we had been a mixed group. Insights that are needed at this time. I believe that we will find courage to listen to the little dissonant voice (dissonant to the broader society), and to give her more space to grow and to inform how we show up in our world, and how we therefore affect our world.
The women are gathering. Perhaps we will be a part of a great turning in this beautiful country. In fact I know we will – and men it is up to you to step up and join us, for now we begin the journey.