Building The Culture

Women’s Retreat

Finally the gathering of my dreams happened. For years I’ve been craving a weekend with the women in my life who share a common vision and who are called to do similar work. On January 28-30, eight of us gathered in Westmoreland, New Hampshire to spend the weekend dreaming and visioning together. We varied in age from mid-20’s to mid-60’s and a bit of everything in between. How grateful I was to share the weekend with sisters, aunties and elders.

I had conceived of such a weekend early on in my vision for this school year. I had spoken about it with Dhyana Miller and Laina Gallen. They completely took leadership and made the weekend happen without any more than an initial conversation and touching in about dates. They too have been craving this gathering for some time as well.

I was able to just show up – with nothing more than an overnight bag and a bag full of food. A rough sketch of the weekend had been planned, the overarching theme – Girls Rites of Passage. However, something very beautiful happened. They had left the weekend open enough that those who arrived could take part in shaping it too. Not a surprise for a women led event. However the beauty happened in that the space was safe and open enough that the women present were empowered to indeed step up and take leadership. This made me think about a piece of women’s shadow culture that I have spoken about with my mentor Mark Morey of The Institute for Natural Learning. The shadow is that in these situations no one steps up. There is the illusion that it’s completely collaborative and we’re all equal but nothing gets done because no one makes the courageous step of taking leadership for a period of time before passing it to someone else.

This weekend was different. However, in the morning on Saturday I was aware of the tension. We were all asking questions, beginning to shape the day, but the movement was sluggish and we were talking in circles, asking only questions. The question that I brought forth –

What Do I Need to do to Prepare Myself to Facilitate Rites of Passage?

…was one question that everyone in the room was excited about. In that moment I realized that there was an opportunity for me to take leadership and I took it. I had a clear idea of how to facilitate a morning geared toward this question and so we began.

As a starting point the question got rephrased by one of the elders in the room –

What Have You Done Already to Prepare Yourself to Facilitate Rites of Passage?

A wonderful inspirational way to start! Rather than starting with the grief and the unknown, start with the confidence and the clarity. I had everyone spend five minutes journaling about this question. Then we took some time to share in as I mind mapped the whole thing. What emerged was beautiful, rich and inspiring!

Here is a photo of the Map:

And here is the list of what was on that map:

Deep listening skills/communication skills
30 years of wiccan ritual
self reliance journey (danger)
sharing our experience of the divine feminine
understanding of service
I can ask for help
vision quest
solo time in nature/time alone
20 years at moonfire mystery school
practice of being freely human
having had a formal coming of age initiation
support of my community
many life trials/gifts of healing from abuse
exposure to diversity
understanding/surrendering of self importance
relationship with women to hold me in my integrity
navigating change
building relationship with girls families/good parent communications-supporting them
claiming personal medicine
intimate relationship with heroic /heroine journey
multi-generational network of women
finding and surrendering to teachers ahead of us
commitment to personal healing
being a good collaborator
relationship with girls
experience leading groups
choosing passion over safety
transformational journey of pain &/or fear
regular spiritual practice
trust in my relationship with Spirit/Ability to be still-quiet
developing relationship with prayer

By the end of this session I was totally taken by surprise. My bubble had been burst. I remembered that I didn’t need to have it all in order to be ready. What a patriarchal trap to think that I need to have it all! Having seen the list that emerged I realized that together we had so much! We can really lean on each other. I also felt really good about the list that I had generated, realizing that I had so much already! How beautiful that this sacred question that I have been carrying that resonated so deeply with the women there had been that easily blasted open through my own facilitation! Even if we had gone home after that session I would have been satisfied. But that was only our first morning together!

The rest of the day flowed beautifully. By the end of Saturday we were engrossed in a juicy conversation. We were all feeling drawn to multiple common elements of doing Girls Rites of Passage:

~ The ceremony is one that is gifted to us – not one that we make up.

~ We work together regionally on facilitating rites of passage. This way the programs hosted in various places throughout the northeast are Rites of Passage prep programs. At the end of the year we funnel our girls that are ready to be initiated to the once per year Rite of Passage that the various regional women leaders hold together.

~ This style of doing things would build connection and unity among girls from different regions based on common experience and common languages.

We were all in such strong unity about this. It was clear to us all what needed to be done next.

Sunday morning we all gathered and went into a ceremonial space. Our intention was to craft a unified prayer that we would all speak to the universe on a daily basis. We knew that this was the way that we were going to manifest the next phase of a regionally based girls rites of passage culture. After bringing our minds and hearts together, diving in, getting stuck and reopening ourselves by running barefoot into the snow our prayer emerged.

“All our relations, we open to you to weave through us the Basket of ceremonial initiation for young women and girls of our communities.”

We imbued stones with the prayer so that each of us could carry home a physical object representing the work that we had done. Now we have our work cut out for us. Surrendering to the power of prayer and intention is something new in my life. Trusting that we are guided allows for incredible movement. So here we are, a multi-generational group of women all surrendering to the power of the group mind and heart. I can’t wait to see what emerges!

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