For International Women's Day this year, I wanted to share the story of how I ended up leading women's circles, along with some tips on how you can start one of your own. I hope this inspires you to find ways to connect more deeply to your fellow sisters.
I love an opportunity to have deep, meaningful, and HONEST conversations, but those opportunities seem few and far between. I had the idea to start a meetup group with other women to talk about how we were REALLY doing in life - to have these deeper conversations on a regular basis. This was 3 or 4 years ago, but my longings for this type of gathering were immediately followed by thoughts like "who am I to do this?", "maybe someone else will start this", "no one will want to come to this", "I'm not ready, I need to learn how to ___ first". So I let the idea die.
Fast forward to mid-2018 with a 9 month old on my hip and a heart that longed for deeper connection more than ever. I pulled up Google and started researching until I discovered "women's circles". So many results! These were happening EVERYWHERE and I didn't even know it! I found a basic template of how to start one of these groups, and I invited several of my closest friends, the ones who I thought might be interested and who I felt most comfortable around. My friend at Shakti and Free Yoga studio let me host it in her beautiful space.
The day came, and I was nervous as hell, but I showed up. And so did all of my friends. I followed the notes I brought with me on what I wanted to say and what order I wanted things to happen in. AND OH MY GOODNESS did magic happen. Tears were shed, laughter was shared, and I learned things about some of my very best friends that I had no idea was going on. The overwhelming realization from that first circle: WE ALL NEEDED THIS (and we didn't even know it).
I've led about a dozen women's circles as of this post, with a new one every month. They are donation based. I've also incorporated circle into art classes I've taught. It has never failed. I have never been disappointed. Every circle seems to have it's own magic which can never be recreated, and I believe that is because of the unique energy created by the combination of women who attend and what they have going on in their lives at that time.
Here are some insights I've had after leading a dozen women's circles:
- I am not alone in how I feel.
- That thing that happened to me also happened to her.
- That thing I'm ashamed of, she's ashamed of too.
- There is a completely different way to view this that I didn't know was possible.
- I judged her initially, but now I really understand her and have complete compassion.
- Oh, I didn't know we could say that out loud!
- Wow, if she can do it, I can too.
- I bet we could work together. I'm going to contact her after this.
- I had no idea she was going through that.
- That felt really good to say.
- They just need me to listen. That's all.
If you are interested in attending a women's circle, I hope you can find one in your area (see resources below to start your search). If not, or you have your own vision for a circle, here is a basic outline of how I lead my circles.
Basic outline of my women's circles:
- Set up a central focal point/alter in the middle of the circle. Usually includes candles, gemstones, and other items that relate to our topic or the season
- Set up cozy seats (yoga mats/blankets/pillows) for each woman
- Set out hot tea
- Once everyone has arrived and is seated, I ring a bell to signify circle has begun and I lead a brief centering/grounding meditation to get us into our bodies. This really helps to calm our nerves from being in a new place with new people, and to begin to leave our busy day behind us so we can be more present.
- I thank everyone for coming and tell them a little about why we gather. I also lay out the Agreements we make by sitting in circle:
1. Stories shared in circle stay in circle
2. No verbal feedback given to the person speaking. We are not here to "fix" each other
3. Practice non-judgement and listening with compassion
4. Practice not apologizing for who we are (if we cry, ramble, don't know what to say, etc.)
- Passing a talking stick around the circle, we each say our name & how we are feeling in the moment (I begin). I encourage my sisters to be honest here.
- I then introduce the topic and say a little about why I chose this topic
- Passing the talking stick around again, we do a round of sharing on the topic or on anything else we need to speak out loud
- After the first round of sharing, I offer a short break if anyone needs it. I then use my intuition for what comes next. Sometimes I have an activity planned of what I might do if it feels right - like play a song, get into partners and share more one on one, do a ritual to clear the energy of the first share, movement, etc. Sometimes we just do another round of sharing.
- I like to end with a few words of gratitude and some type of shared experience (like a big deep breath together or an activity where we hold hands). Something to connect us before we part ways. I ring the bell to signify circle is over.
- Announcements: Next circle, other events, donations welcomed, etc.
Make this your own. There is no right or wrong way to lead a women's circle. When women gather (with loving intention), magic happens. If you are into astrology, tarot cards, crafts, essential oils, crystals, yoga, or whatever.. add it in!
You do not have to play the role of teacher to lead circle. In circle, everyone is a teacher. We all share our own wisdom and can learn from each other. Your job is to create a safe container for vulnerable sharing to occur.
If you have a topic, let it be general. We come to circle to have a safe space held for us to share what has been heavy on our hearts and minds. That may have nothing to do with the topic, and that should be okay.
Your energy and depth of sharing sets the tone. This doesn't mean you have to be 100% confident and high energy. You just need to be honest, gentle, and loving with the other women and with yourself. Model what it looks like to be vulnerable, kind, and brave.
For additional resources in leading your own circle, I recommend the following.
https://sistershipcircle.com - great blogs, podcasts, and educational programs to go deeper
https://www.facebook.com/sistershipcircle/ - checkout their live videos!
https://www.globalsisterhood.org - sign up for free monthly topic guides, meditations, rituals, and other resources
https://www.globalsisterhood.org/sister-circles/ - search for a circle near you
https://sistershipcircle.com/events/category/gatherings/ - search for a circle near you (or a virtual one)