Here’s a blog of a different color from my others so far…
I just returned from a “retreat” with 12 out of 14 women in my old women’s spiritual support group, a group we fondly call WOW, or Women of Wisdom. Since we stopped meeting regularly around 1996, we have met twice for a formal gathering, one of our members died and two (including me) have moved out of Atlanta, Georgia, where we all lived when we began meeting every Monday for three consecutive years. Now, thirteen years later, we are still very much “family” and pick up where we left off when we see each other.
Well, pick up where we left off might be an exaggeration. After many hours of sharing what has happened for us over the many years that have passed, we feel “caught up.” But we wouldn’t need to catch up to feel connected. Indeed, many of us shared this past weekend that we know that if we needed something, if disaster hit, the group would assemble and run to our side to help. Historically, this has been true. What a wonderful thing, to know that across time and distance, we are always connected and always care about and for each other.
I traveled across the country to see my dear friends. As we “circled up” on Saturday night with all but three people present, the room became a sacred space. We placed symbolic representation of those missing and departed in the center, and began to pass along a talking stick. We would break between “stories,” each person having a chance to share what had been happing in their lives over the past few years, to go to the bathroom or stretch, but each time we sat back down in the circle, something amazing happened. We entered sacred space and were transported back to a time eleven, twelve, thirteen years ago when we met each week. The faces were familiar and well love, if a bit more creased with both laugh and worry lines, the hair was different in length and color, the shapes had shifted a bit, but we were the same women and the connection remained the same.
Without even trying, we created a sacred space, a space set aside as different and special, a place where our Divinity could shine through. Each one of us opened to the Spirit and Soul of the other and acknowledged the Divine within the other. One even wore a shirt with the word Namste on it…the Divinity within me honors the Divinity within you, is the translation I was once given of this Sanskrit word. How fitting.
In fact, our sacred space was created simply by the fact that we had joined together in the circle. Like entering a Native American ritual circle or an ancient temple or church, the vortex of Divine energy was already prepared and ready for us to access simply by the fact that we had met there so many times before. In this case, it didn’t matter that we were in Asheville, NC, at the home of a friend, and not in one of our homes in Atlanta. The mere fact that we were together recreated that vortex of energy and our physical bodies created the boundaries of the circle itself within which our sanctuary existed.
Indeed, we became priestesses in that sacred circle without even performing one prayer or ritual. Actually, it strikes me as odd now, in retrospect, that we didn’t bless the space or our time together. There was no need for rituals or prayers. Our act of getting to that place and sitting down in the circle was all that was needed.
It seems to me that the repetition of any ritual or prayer, like the repetition of morning prayers, lighting Shabbat candles, reading the bible or receiving communion – or, in this case, creating a circle of women – creates a sacred space wherever we begin the next repetition. It matters little where we are when we don a prayer shawl and tefillin, sit down with a well-studied holy book, light Sabbath candles, or offer up a simple heart-felt prayer. If we have repeated our actions or words many times before, we create for ourselves a vortex of Divine energy that automatically forms a circle around us, a sacred space. Maybe that’s why we have “spiritual practice.”
I felt so honored to be in sacred space with my “family” of women. Our wisdom was apparent as was our tremendous growth and our ability to hold space for each other. I suppose that, even though I’m not always aware of it, we hold that space continually for each other and for the group, just as a prayer circle, a temple or a church holds space, whether together or alone.
I believe that, just as when we call on our guides or our ancestors to help us when we feel the need for guidance, my women’s group can do the same. When we can’t physically step into the circle, we can step into it metaphorically or using our active imagination and possibly achieve similar – if not the same – affect. By simply picturing all the faces around us and slowly turning to gaze into the loving eyes of each, we can step into the sacred, access the energy of the vortex, reform the circle of women. And then we don’t have to feel so alone. We don’t have to feel disconnected from each other. We can even reach out through our minds and ask the wisdom of the group to be channeled to us. We can ask, “What would so-and-so say if told them my story?” Or “What would the group tell me if they know what was going on with me this very moment?”
The Jewish mystics had a tradition of doing just that – calling upon their ancestors and the angels as guides. They found this practice meaningful and helpful. I remember hearing Napoleon Hill, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” speak on a tape about the council with which he met each day or week, but none of them were alive any longer. He simply imagined himself meeting with them, called upon their energy and wisdom and found they could counsel him from the other side.
I feel so blessed to have a circle of women. They have been my best friends, my family, my largest supporters, and my spiritual and creative partners for 13 years. I would wish for everyone such a blessing. This weekend was just that – a true blessing.