- Gender and Relationships
How to Create a Women's Group-- Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women's Spirituality Group
Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women's Spirituality Group
Self Discovery and Friendship
Cooking meals, loading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, taking kids to activities, preparing for the next day at work and the next and the next……a woman’s daily routine can dull her mind and often leave her without much time for self-development, personal exploration or just plain fun. We all need intellectual stimulation and the companionship of others like ourselves. Women, especially those who stay at home or have jobs that require little thought, need to talk about more than just what happened at work, breastfeeding, weaning or growth spurts. We like to dig deeper into human nature than the he said/she said conversations that are so common with friends and family. Most days, our partners are too tired to be excited about delving into thinking about anything beyond what’s on the TV. So what’s a girl who really doesn’t want her mind to shrivel into a walnut to do? The answer is simple—start a women’s circle. “Oh,” you exclaim. “Great idea, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin….” Well, beginning is as simple as starting with one book.
Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women’s Spirituality Group by Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig is a great place for novices to women’s circles to begin. Written with beginners in mind, this text covers the basics needed to start your own women’s circle. First, you must be willing to take a risk and hold in your heart the desire to create a trustworthy place for women like you to share ideas in a safe environment. As they explore the beginning of their own women’s circle that led to the creation of this primer the author’s write, “we wanted a chance to speak plainly, a place to be intimately known, a setting to create ritual, to sing, to dance, a collective forum where we could ask for and receive Spirit’s guidance. So we set our circle…” Chapters on Circle Basics, Creating the Circle, First Meetings and even Juicy Themes for Drawing Closer, provide clear guidelines for anyone who has never created a group to begin.
Don’t be put off by the word “spirituality” in the title. The authors have a broad based definition of the word. They write “Our definition of ‘spirituality,’ will be, of necessity, an in-process one. In process because we find that our understanding of spirituality is always evolving…..Spirituality in our view is the practice of staying consciously connected with what makes us alive, with our own selves, with one another and the Great Other.”
Circles are round and all inclusive and in this book, Craig and Carnes offer several examples of different types and approaches to creating a women’s circle. This isn’t a text suited to women of one particular faith, nor is it a book just for new agers. It is a collection of essays, exercises and rituals that can be valuable to any circle of women interested in joining together to explore their spiritual side. Sections on rotating leadership, confidentiality, responsibility and focus make setting group guidelines easy and help create an atmosphere that is free from competition and dominance. The authors wisely take into account the shyness one might feel on first entering a new group of people. Exercises and questions are designed first for new groups in which the women don’t know each other well and then for circles that grow and become closer and are willing to be more intimate with each other.
I’ve belonged to several women’s groups, and one of my favorites was my circle in New Jersey which was created using Carnes’ and Craig’s book. Our group was birthed by two friends who wanted to meet other women interested in exploring their spirituality together. Using this Sacred Circles text, they created a group open to women of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds by advertising in a community newspaper. Every group I had belonged to previously always consisted of women who knew each other and so my first visit to this circle I was a little unsure about what I would find. On that first night, our group leader showed us her copy of the Sacred Circles book and confessed that she was a novice to creating a women’s group. She hoped that we would agree to buy the book and use it as starting point for our circle. Six of us agreed and in the coming months, as we shared the exercises and ideas offered in the book, strangers became good friends, and in the process I had several opportunities for rich experiences of self-discovery as I explored with other women the questions and themes presented in this text.
We began in my group with a suggested discussion question about how our childhood religion (or lack of) had shaped our adult lives. Hearing the other women’s stories of struggle with their faith, their explorations in other areas and their joys was a deeply rich experience. As the months progressed in my group, we explored other themes suggested by Craig and Carnes like “Awakening to the Natural World,” “Creativity as a Practice,” “ A Long Lineage: Our Spiritual Foremothers,”(my personal favorite discussion) and more. As we began to explore these issues together, not only did our friendships grow and blossom, synchronicities related to our topics began to spring up in our day to day lives. It was as if we had all touched into some deeper communal spirit by sharing with each other.
Women have been bonding together in groups for centuries. In ancient tribes it was often a council of women who ruled the community. Coming together with other women brings fresh ideas and a wealth of wisdom and insight. Craig and Carnes remind us “At their essence, women’s circles are a tool for discovering how spirit is meant to manifest in your unique life, that is in the particular form within which you are to channel love and light into this world. Are you a teacher, a healer, a writer, a mother, an artist, a businesswoman, an activist, a civic leader? What is your contribution, your voice? The speaking, the listening, the ritual, the intimate relationships with women so alike and do different within the container of the circle combine to create an alchemical reaction that transforms and purifies, bringing you closer to your true self.” Don’t miss the opportunity. Consider starting your own women’s circle now.