The Magic of Women in Community

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“Every girl and every woman, has the potential to make this world a better place, and that potential lies in the act of thinking higher thoughts and feeling deeper things. When women and girls, everywhere, begin to see themselves as more than inanimate objects; but as beautiful beings capable of deep feelings and high thoughts, this has the capacity to create change all around. The kind of change that is for the better. Remember: High in the head and deep in the heart. Antlers on your mind and anchors in your heart.”
C. JoyBell C.

“What’s in hibernation?  What’s giving birth?”  These were the discussion prompts our hostess gave us for yesterday’s gathering. Our small community of six women (we’ve just lost the seventh who, sadly, is moving to another town) meets monthly to share the issues, concerns, challenges, joys, and blessings of this phase of our lives. We’re all still pursuing our passions in meaningful work, all but one is married (she has a boyfriend), all have adult children — some of whom have given us grandchildren — and we’re all interested in consciously exploring the mental, physical, and spiritual (three of us are Jewish and three, Christians) dimensions of our lives.

We’ve all led groups in our professional lives and are fully aware of the importance of listening well and taking turns. None of us wanted to be in charge of this group. Nor did we feel a strong need for a formal structure or specific subject matter. Mostly, we just wanted to take time out of our full and busy lives to be with other kind and interesting women with whom to engage in meaningful talk over hot tea and a simple snack. With no expectations, we have been living in the question and waiting to see what will happen.

So far our gatherings are very organic. At the first one we decided to meet at a different member’s home each month. It has deepened our appreciation and respect for each other’s uniqueness to experience the kind of environment each chooses to surround herself with.

One practice that has evolved is for the hostess to email a few questions about a relevant theme a few days in advance to give us time to think about it. Then after we make our tea, she opens the conversation with a centering practice like a meditation or conscious breathing and then restates the topic. We usually stay on that for a while, then veer off to follow fascinating threads that take us to new places before eventually returning to the topic with deepened insights. Occasionally someone brings a poem or written musings. Sometimes someone shares a dream and the insights they gained from it. Or a special, inspiring book. After two hours we usually close by going around the circle so everyone can share a final thought, feeling, or insight.

One of us will soon have a hip replaced, so yesterday’s discussion quickly zeroed in on the challenges of aging bodies that demand changes in lifestyle and attitude. What thoughts are germinating in her during this time of preparation? What feelings and new attitudes want to be born and listened to? How can the rest of us be of help during the recovery phase?

Another spoke of the fear she felt some years ago when she was about to undergo a difficult and complicated heart surgery. Before the operation she practiced several forms of inner work to dispel her fear, and eventually came to a deep sense of peace. Most surprising was the profound love she felt. Not for herself, her life, her family, or the doctors, but for her poor, struggling heart that was about to undergo such a stressful experience! That spurred a lively discussion about the importance of thinking about, talking to, and treating our bodies with kindness and love, especially in times of physical difficulties and pain.

One naturally independent woman had surgery on her shattered shoulder a few months ago in the midst of a stressful move to a new house. What did it take for her to admit she needed help? What did she learn when several friends volunteered to help her pack?

These days I think about the importance of community. Until about twelve years ago I was always in at least one group of wise and caring women who met my needs for meaningful female companionship. Then I went through a period of intense writing and hibernating and giving birth to a blog and two books that took up so much time that I dropped out of all of them. A natural introvert, I’ve always loved solitude, silence, and my own company. And writing about what is important to me is enormously fulfilling.

But last fall I noticed a nagging emptiness. I missed the friendship of women around my age who are linked by their desire to live their lives authentically and mindfully. Women who could never settle for a meaningless, purposeless life. Women who have  compassion for the suffering of people and our planet and take actions to alleviate it. Women with the strength and courage to ask the big questions and dig deep to bring out the unspoken words that still need to be said, the feelings that still want to be met. Open-hearted, generous-spirited, intelligent women who struggle to understand themselves, develop their skills, and give back to their communities.

Snake Goddesses from the Minoan civilization of Crete. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete

So I told a woman I admire for the same qualities what I needed and together we created it. I simply took the next step I needed to take, and what is emerging is magical: a community of wise, compassionate women who know how to comfort and heal. Do you have a special community of women? What kind of women would you like to know and be with? Who would you start with?

“Who is She? She is your power, your Feminine source. Big Mama. The Goddess. The Great Mystery. The web-weaver. The life force. The first time, the twentieth time you may not recognize her. Or pretend not to hear. As she fills your body with ripples of terror and delight.

But when she calls you will know you’ve been called. Then it is up to you to decide if you will answer.”
Lucy H. Pearce, Burning Woman

Image credit:  Top: Google images, from thespacebetweentherapy.com. Bottom, author photo.

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8 Responses

    1. I thought we must have a lot in common the first time I read one of your blog posts. It’s good to know another like-minded sister. May your Christmas stocking be filled with everything you need this year. 🙂 Blessings, Jeanie

  1. Thanks Jeanie this is so lovely. I yearn for such a group of caring women who ask the big questions. Lately I’ve been wondering about a certain kind of emptiness I’m feeling and it may have to do with our relocation. Or, the natural course of attrition … or, even the mess the world is in right now, anti-semitism on the rise and much else that is awful. but I do know that as an introvert I have to put myself out there which I plan to do once the festive season winds down. Although as I write, I’m very blessed to have my two sons and daughter-in-law here at home right now. My one son and daughter in law leave again in the next few days but will be back in good time for Christmas.
    Have a wonderful Christmas Jeanie. All blessings to you and your family ❤️?

    1. Yes, the natural course of attrition, especially in the midst of our global mess…. The more one is exposed to the dark side of humanity, the harder it can be to maintain the Buddhist goal of “joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” It wears one down, eats away at hope, replaces it with angst and survivor guilt!
      Perhaps the empty feeling also has something to do with this time of year. For many of us, these holidays trigger nostalgia and painful memories. Yet, as you say, there are so many blessings in the midst of all this. I think staying aware of both without losing hope or giving up is what life is all about. Consciousness is a terrible burden to our species but it’s also a gift that offers solace if we choose to put ourselves out there and ask for what we need.
      I’m realizing that what I need now is to be with people who inspire me and lift me up. They won’t make me forget the darkness, but they will help me make my way through it.
      Dear Susan, I wish you a joyful and blessed Christmas surrounded by people you trust and love. Stay conscious.
      Love, Jeanie

  2. Dear Jeanie, I love that you share with others some of the rich ways in which your women’s group works. Why, by sending questions in advance you’re gifting each other a shared, collective theme to contemplate on for your next gathering. Oh my Goddess! There is so much feminine wisdom and compassion with such a practice! And what great questions too, “what is hibernation and what is birth?” Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in your magick women’s circle!
    Despite many determined and violent attempts by men throughout her-story to ban, block and prohibit women’s groups from setting up and meeting, thankfully many exist throughout the world today … although it can take a very long time to find your own sister-tribe! I say this having tried a few women’s groups where being a gay woman was not welcome at all, even amongst women themselves, however I did persist and eventually found a wonderful Jungian women’s group 12 years ago.
    Sadly that group, for many reasons this year, dispersed and so I’m at present without my magick circle of women, nonetheless, the soul-work attained within our twelve years together has been life-changing! Following my own winter hibernation, I hope to venture out and find a new group of like-minded sisters-souls because even though I too, am a natural introvert, I’ve learnt how inspiring and supportive being a member of a women’s group can be. Warm & wild blessings, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah, Yes, it can be difficult to find your sister tribe. Some differences and prejudices, as you mention, are too entrenched to overcome and there’s nothing to be gained by staying where you’re not welcome. Moreover, our lives change so much that all groups eventually come to an end. Most of my groups over the years ended after about 10 years. But they were great while they lasted. Wishing you luck finding a new group of women to grow with, and a beautiful, meaningful, and love-filled holiday season. Jeanie

  3. Thank you for sharing the format of your women’s group. There are so many ways they can be conducted.
    One thing I forgot to mention about the ones I’ve been in is that we’ve often had original, sometimes spontaneous, rituals based on the voiced needs of members. I used to love creating those, but not all the women in groups I’ve been in have been open to them. Some women only like the formal and familiar rituals that have been sanctioned by their places of worship and don’t see the need for new ones.
    Others have found great comfort and meaning in things like house blessings, prayers for healing, and wedding and baby showers in which all the invitees bring words of wisdom, sometimes written, for the women being showered. In a goddess archetype class I taught, all the women were over 50, so I conducted a crone ritual with blessings, readings, and an altar with meaningful objects, etc. We also made crone bracelets for ourselves with colored beads and objects.
    I know you have an altar in your house that you change from time to time to reflect changes in the seasons of your life. And, of course, there was that beautiful altar with palm branches and lapis lazuli beads and candles that you and I created for our Inanna workshop. We could both go on about how special these moments were for us and the participants.
    I look forward to hearing about your return to your women’s group and where it sails next. 🙂

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