Being in a women’s circle is more than a chat over dinner with friends. It takes some setting up, but once you’ve done that, you create a safe, sacred space that can support you to become the woman you want to be.
Picture a group of women meeting each month. My favourite number for a circle is five, but many circles have more or less members than this. The women who meet feel connected to each other from their shared, regular experience.
During the circle together we may meditate, sing, explore a creative process, cackle like mad women or release tears over grief long held back, surprise ourselves with an emotion or idea we didn’t know was there underneath our daily commitments.
The safety and integrity of the circle are important; as we honour the circle and other women, we honour ourselves, so turning up on time and not missing circle is part of the journey, unless we are interstate, overseas or so unwell it’s dangerous to travel. (We plan our dates for the year, so it’s easier to plan trips around circle dates.) Often we find that when we are resisting coming to circle, we really need to be there; an underlying truth we’ve been avoiding is waiting to be unveiled in this safe space.
The space where we meet is selected with thought – you need somewhere you won’t be interrupted or distracted. We were lucky enough to meet in my friend’s yurt, a circular single room Mongolian structure, for many years, but any room or space in nature that is free from passers-by, phones or screens will work.
There is always a clear opening and clear closing. Not like a party, where people wander in and drift into and out of conversation. Opening with clear intention means we consciously bring ourselves to the present, sloughing off the distractions of chatter and daily details. The ceremony of opening is up to you. How would you create a sacred centre that brings you all into focus? For us, we welcome the elements around us; earth, air, fire, water and spirit. We often follow that with a sounding, sharing tones together, a meditation and breath work before we check in.
Checking in is another element of women’s circles – that is, hearing each sister’s voice. What is said in circle stays in circle, so we don’t fear gossip. We listen actively as each of us checks in, honouring her space to speak her truth. It’s a time to speak, and be witnessed, and then witness others in turn. To indicate it’s our turn to speak, at times we have used a tiara, a crystal wand or a necklace to show that we have the ‘talking stick’. So often, we find a part of our story told through another.
It’s not a space to give advice or dismissive soothing that everything will be fine. The magic of knowing that you can express what is going on for you, without being judged, is precious. If we feel moved to share, it needs to come from a place of sharing our own experience, rather advising.
I sometimes find that as I speak, I come to realizations that hadn’t crystallised before. Simply allowing myself the space to reflect, in the safety of my sisters’ presence, brings me back to myself.
How do you find the other women? You just need two of you who want to create a circle to start. If the women you invite love the idea and then invite another, the circle grows without one person being at the centre. Despite the fact that you may only know one other when you join the circle, the process means that your connection runs deep very quickly. I couldn’t do the calculations, but I’d say you can bypass months of casual social interactions it would normally take to get to the love we feel for one another.
This leads me to another question people ask me: Who leads? Some circles have a clear leader, with the other women secure in her leadership. This can be a great place to develop your experience of women’s circles. My preference is for a circle where the roles are shared; I enjoy leading, but I also cherish the leadership of my sisters; I gain so much from their shared wisdom.
Consciously closing the circle offers opportunity to feel gratitude and ensure there’s no unfinished business. Or if there is, it’s acknowledged, and a resolution to respond to it is worked out.
In a circle, you feel held, supported, inspired as you give yourself and your sisters space to reflect on what has gone before and what will come.
Respect each other and the space, and the magic will come, every time. Just like magic.
-Janoel Liddy is passionate about girls and women recognizing and acting on their needs to lead a satisfying life. She teaches puberty and wellbeing to girls and boys in schools, facilitates workshops and retreats and works with groups in TAFE, university and community organisations in training and events. She is a mother of two with her partner of over two decades and dances, cooks, reads and writes when she can and must.