It was my turn to share, and I immediately felt the tears begin to well up and my chest tighten with that familiar protective instinct.
It was if my body was asking me, “Is this a safe place to let go and cry? Can I really, truly share my deepest darkest truth in this moment?”
I’ve had years of practice navigating this moment, so I took a deep breath, looked into the eyes of every woman in the circle, and allowed the emotion to come through. With tears streaming down my face, pausing here and there to take a deep breath, I answered the most potent question asked of the circle:
How am I doing, really?
This question, as shared in Jean Shinoda Bolen’s The Millionth Circle, has been my guiding light in my work both being in and leading circles over the past several years. Its simplicity allows us to access the heart of the moment, cutting through all the surface level logistics and pleasantries that keep us from going deep with each other.
I hadn’t prepared my response at all. I simply opened my mouth and let the words and emotions come. In those ten potent minutes given to me by the circle, I shared things that surprised me, comforted me, and brought up shame and regret.
As I spoke, every woman in the circle stared lovingly at me, giving me her full presence and attention.
Not a single woman tried to comfort me or hand me a tissue. Not a single woman interrupted me to tell me how she could relate with her own story. I was the object of their pure witness, and in return, I could be and feel seen just as I am—in the loving gaze of my sisters.
As I completed my share, I could feel my whole body breathe a big sigh, relieved to no longer be carrying the weight of all that she was holding. What I shared in the circle was now out of my being, left to be composted back to the earth at the end of our evening together.
My journey with women’s circles hasn’t been easy.
I’ve been part of circles that have had conflict between sisters, that haven’t been committed enough to be consistent, that I’ve chosen to leave, and that have had disagreement about how to organize and run it.
Imperfect as it is, the medicine of circling with women keeps me coming back.
It is a space I believe all women need to truly come home to themselves and remember that they belong.
We women come from a long and painful history of oppression.
Many of our ancestors, just 20 generations ago, lived through a time of horror when women were encouraged to betray each other to avoid being burned at the stake just for being a woman with knowledge and wisdom.
The violence didn’t stop with the modernization of society and industry. For many of us, it has continued through the generations to today. These are the wounds of patriarchy that still live in our DNA.
When we circle together and remember how to sister each other, we are healing those ancestral wounds and creating a ripple effect around the world. We are stopping the patterns of harm and betrayal that have divided women for hundreds of years.
My gratitude to Katina Mercadante for introducing Jean Shinoda Bolen’s concepts into my life.
Continue on your journey:
- Belonging Episode #17: The Dark Side of Sisterhood
- Belonging Episode #6: The Importance of Intergenerational Sisterhood
- Belonging Episode #1: Sisterhood and Anxiety
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