the medicine of being together
I had the pleasure of being immersed in the sacred medicine of gatherings of women this past weekend. I had the full range of human experience – joy, rage, gratitude, fear, play, seriousness, connection, numbness, deep conversation, a trauma flashback, laughter, tears of grief, tears of acceptance, tears of understanding, and so much more.
Through two events, a full day retreat with Tanya Gillies where I co-facilitated and also participated, and the closing circle and ceremony for The Space, I had so many conversations with different women from different backgrounds with different levels of experience with gathering in this way.
Within these conversations, two themes emerged. And these two things are what I have been wanting to shout from the mountaintops for the past few years because I believe so deeply and passionately in them, as I have seen the truth of them play out again and again for myself and for so many other women. (Instead, I am generally gently offering an invitation as I am hyper sensitive to a world that is constantly telling us what we need instead of creating the space and showing us the way to figure that out for ourselves.)
The first thing that emerged was that no matter the quantity or quality of the women’s relationships – friendships, partners, family – so many expressed that they have never had an experience where they felt completely safe to show up without any masks and to be fully themselves and be seen, heard, held, accepted and loved.
For some, this weekend offered their very first glimpse into what that was like. For others, they have continued to return to circles and gatherings for the last few years after recognizing the potent medicine and healing that was available in them.
I want to add a side note to this that not all women show up for the first time and can take off all the masks. It is a process and takes each woman a different amount of time. As we reflected on our journeys at The Space last night, many women shared that they were scared shitless the first time they showed up. Some decided after the first one that they were never going to come back, but something kept calling them in (spoiler alert – it was their own inner being, often in disguise.) Some have come consistently, some take breaks at times. But being surrounded and supported by other women who are experiencing the same thing, or have experienced it in the past and have moved through it, acts as an anchor, a reminder, an inspiration.
This weaves into the second theme, consistent in all the experiences:
The medicine of knowing that she is not alone, and not the only one who doesn’t have her shit fully together at all times, and that she doesn’t have to do it alone (this also includes the joy, pleasure and celebratory times as well.)
We have the wonderful tool of social media to connect us globally, but this false sense of connection has contributed hugely to digital isolation and the trauma that occurs through this isolation. Perfectly coifed and branded accounts can be momentarily beautiful and inspiring, but have us feeling alone in our life challenges, and perpetuates any shame we are already feeling around our not so perfect or not enough selves and lives. Shame is the program that says there is something wrong with me, I am innately bad and I need to be fixed.
Social media is not the place where we go to have deeply personal connections and conversations or to process our stuff, and if we fall into the trap of thinking the hits of dopamine we get through online interactions are enough to sustain our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health long term, we are only going to see more rapid declines in health. Chronic loneliness is one of the leading causes of a reduced lifespan, as found in recent studies:
“Former U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, has written about work and what he refers to as the loneliness epidemic. An AARP survey found that 40 percent of adults in the U.S report feeling lonely. Dr. Murthy writes that, “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.” Dr. Murthy reminded us that addressing loneliness for the individuals we work with and for ourselves can not only improve our health but our productivity.” – https://www.prainc.com/braving-loneliness/
(I need to point out here that the use of the word obesity is dehumanizing and pathologized and in the body positivity movement, the appropriate and preferred word to use is fat.)
I have seen, and experienced myself, time and time again the medicine of feeling not alone creating space for incredible amounts of immediate healing and relief.
Because shame and loneliness are deeply rooted programs, it takes time and repetition for them to be fully repaired. However, this is not something that is to be healed and then move onto something else, because we as humans are wired for connection. We need to continue to come back to safe spaces where we can take off the masks, peel back the layers, be seen, held, heard, loved and accepted exactly as we are, and witness others doing the same.
It is in these moments and experiences that I am able to most deeply connect with Spirit, God, the Universe, Source (enter your preferred word here). I can sit in meditation, prayer, or contemplation or commune with nature and find this connection, but when humans come together in their raw and vulnerable state, this is where I most wholly experience the truth of the beauty and unconditional love of that which we are all a part of and that weaves us all together.
Women continue to share with me the ripple effects they experience in their personal life through their healing in circles.
These things, above all else, is why I believe so passionately in us being together and am shouting from the mountaintops that you deserve this! Deep connections through being together in a safe space is our birthright.
Your fear around it is holy.
Your resistance to it is holy.
Your defensiveness towards it is holy.
Your shame around being seen is holy.
Your reasons why not are holy.
The real life obstacles that come up around it are holy.
It is all holy.
I will never say that you NEED this. Because, while I do wholeheartedly believes that this form of connection is a fundamental need, everyone has their own unique journey that unfolds differently than everyone else’s and a circle or retreat might not be exactly what you need RIGHT NOW.
But just know, that when you are ready, or maybe just a little bit before you feel ready, there is a group of women here ready to receive you, to see, hear, hold, embrace and accept you for exactly who you are.
Arms and hearts wide open.
Your invitation awaits.
For those who are ready, perhaps there is a gathering or event that calls to you. If you resonate with me and my work, you can check out any upcoming events here.