Posted by: ginalazenby | July 25, 2013

Women’s Gathering in Canada – wisdom shared

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I have had the most wonderful opportunity to host one of my Women’s Gatherings as an afternoon workshop option during a Social Change Leadership Invitational Gathering at Canada’s famous Lifelong Learning Centre, Hollyhock. What a privilege … such an amazing community of open-hearted people who come together annually on Cortes Island for the most precious conversations about the important issues facing humanity. Each day is more life-affirming and life-changing than one before. I can’t quite imagine who I will have become by the time I leave after my week among this pioneering tribe.  In fact, some folks never leave while others buy homes here and spend their summers hanging out in, or near, the Centre’s magnetic atmosphere.

Our women’s circle convened in the special atmosphere of a round yoga building: ten of us spanning four decades all with a very rich life experience and a willingness to share and learn from each other.

As is often the case now, it feels right to share the wisdom that is emerging from these conversations but as it is a Circle of Trust I summarise the insights general to the group and keep stories private. I have also added in commentary gathered from other women who I have spent time with at this event and who would have joined us in the Circle had there not been a conflict of other opportunities to explore.

Rites of Passage would be useful to support us on our journeys
We don’t have rites of passages left in our western culture, particularly for women in later years. The time after child-rearing as we move into our 50s and beyond when we are still young-thinking and vital (what Marianne Williamson refers to as our second puberty) is a rich and fertile time for us. Perhaps this is our greatest time for growth and contribution yet it is a time when many women can feel invisible, not seen by society and even isolated. We are great in number and it would be helpful to have more of a vocabulary and a language to enunciate this time for us. Naming it and claiming it would empower this life phase. Gathering in women’s circles is very helpful for us to witness each other and see we are not alone on these journeys.

The special qualities that women bring
A recollection of an exchange where a business employer discouraged a woman from bringing her identity as a mother to work (it was deemed to be a factor that would hold her back). This woman turned the conversation around and pointed out that the very qualities of nurturing that supported her children would be useful, nay vital, in supporting teams and building community at work. We can’t separate our roles and business needs to leverage our full range of caring skills … not just our business ones. Feminine energy is exactly what is missing in the workplace.

The Voice of Women needs to be heard but there are barriers
As a young girl brought up in a household with a feminist mother there was always encouragement to be authentic and speak the truth – something many of us only learn to do several decades into our lives. Even in this supportive family, when she was vocal, feedback and truth-speaking was not always welcomed in practice. Men can find an authentic female voice uncomfortable … truth can hurt but we still need to express it. Even other women don’t always support us. It is not easy to speak about how we really feel, or hear it from others, but we need to do so, with compassion, in order to live an authentic life.

It is important that we speak with confidence and integrity. Let our inner voice be the guidance that steers us rather than external approval or acceptance.

The strong link between women and home-making
we recalled the fond memories of traditional societies with women working in the homes where all healing begins. Women have sung together over household tasks or made the communal clothes-washing a joyful meditation. Yet, the shadow side of that is where choice was removed from the women and those contributions of providing hearty food is often significantly under-valued. The grinding routines of house-work has, over the centuries, enslaved women. One woman recalled the gift for poetry that her grandmother had in her youth which she never expressed after her marriage. Society expected big sacrifices of many of the women who have gone before us.

Not all mothers are motherly
Sometimes the female role models around us as we have grown up have not been as soft and nurturing and feminine as we might have wished. Some women can draw more from their masculine power. There is a learning for us to bring power into the world in a soft way that is tender but strong. Tenderness and compassion are not weakness.

Reconnect with the wisdom of our bodies
Our bodies carry so much wisdom and we are served well when we truly listen to them and our inner intuitive world. That has not previously been supported in our culture so we can find ourselves caught in a way of being where our mind power and intellect reigns supreme .. to our detriment. We are at our most healthy when we tune in to the wisdom of our hearts and wombs.

Finding partnerships that allow us to flourish
It is hard for us when we find ourselves in a relationship that dominates us…without a strong sense of self we can get lost. Who am I? in this relationship. When one person in the relationship has a strong character then we have to make sure that force does not get out of balance and grow to being too strong, drowning us out and ultimately becoming abusive. Finding that inner strength is a journey and sometimes we have to “crawl out from the shadows” and leave.

Silencing the unfriendly inner critic
While discernment is good we must be wary of judgement. That judgemental critic of others in our head soon turns on us and we feel its harsh criticism can hold us back and stop us from speaking out. For all our experience and accomplishments and confidence, sometimes we can get caught out by giving our power away to men who we can put on a pedestal, and feel are judging us. It is important to remember that that is only a story in our head, it’s rarely true and we do not need their approval.

Walking the Talk is important
We know we are role models for other women and girls. There’s an old adage …teachers teach what they need to learn. We are often reminded to walk our talk and it takes humility and compassion for ourselves to look and see where we need to work on ourselves.

Exploring the values that sustain us:
Several of the same values were shared and the ones we shared that we live by are:
family, connection, community, love, nurturing, nourishment, respect and compassion.

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