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Thursday Tidbits: Everyday Sheroism in Birth and Life

February 2016 005Do you know how many days have gone by in which I’ve said: “well, I didn’t write my dissertation today?”

This past Monday I got to say: I *DID* WRITE MY DISSERTATION TODAY!!!!!!!!!

It may be a first draft rather than a final submission, depending on suggestions from the reviewers, but there is a huge qualitative difference between someone who is writing a dissertation and someone who has submitted a dissertation and who might need to make revisions. It is 187 pages and 88,000 words and involves one year of original research with 100 pages of collated research results. Five years of classes, study, and contemplation, with also doubling my amount of offspring during this time. I grew this dissertation project at the same time I was growing Tanner from a tiny newborn to a walking, talking toddler. And, I feel like I just pushed out the biggest baby of my life. I cannot even describe the energy expenditure this required of me. I feel so satisfied and very, very proud of myself.

At Red Tent last week, when we passed the rattle, we each had a moment to share something we needed to be “compassionately witnessed.” After making a good effort at doing daily dissertation work throughout December, I’ve been semi-half-hearted on it since, averaging one “good” day of intensive work on it per week. I was hoping to have it finished before we go on a trip this month, but I was feeling so strained and drained and tense that adding it to my to-do list felt almost cruel and possibly ridiculous. When it was my turn for compassionate witness, I shared with the circle that I had reached a point in which I could no longer distinguish whether finishing my dissertation was self-care or self-harm.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

After making manifestation bracelets together at Red Tent.

Now, in hindsight, I recognize the “transition” stage. I’ve known for a while now that it is part of my personal process with big projects to have to be able to have a time and a place in which I am able to say, I don’t know if I can do this. And, to have that fear and self-doubt, and vulnerability simply witnessed. And, then, do that thing anyway. It is hard to find a space in which this is “allowed.” Very often well-meaning suggestions are to cut myself slack, to lower my expectations, or to give myself a break. I have discovered that just like these comments are not actually helpful to a woman in labor, they are not helpful to me in “labor” with other big projects either. In fact, I think there is a secret “dark” side to many popular self-care messages, primarily because what we sometimes might pass off as “self-care” is actually a “shadow comfort” (to borrow Jen Louden’s term) and is actually a meanings of inhibiting ourselves, holding ourselves back, or sabotaging ourselves (or those around us, when we offer the “out” of quitting or not following through…of letting ourselves down). When I was able to let out the fear and doubt, only for a few minutes, and have it simply received, it was as if something unlocked within me and suddenly I knew I had it in me after all. Only a few days later, after several focused bursts of intense writing, I submitted my completed project.

Anyway, a long story just to make this point: I felt SO good after submitting it. I may never have been so proud of myself. I was giddy, thrilled, exhilarated, excited, and exuberant. “What if I had QUIT?!” I yelled, “then I would never have gotten to feel like THIS!” When I lower expectations, sure, I might meet them, but when I keep my expectations high…and meet them. There is nothing that can replace that feeling. And, guess what, it keeps stretching me to reach just a little higher and a little higher. And yes, the self-harm shadow side of continuous life-stretching is that I can be trapped into “striving and striving and never arriving,” but the self-care amazing life side, is that I prove to myself that I can do incredible things and that I accomplish that which may have felt impossible for a time.

Bringing it back to birth, I read this post about ten things not to say to a woman in labor and the first reminded me of my own big “push” to finish the dissertation and how compassionate witness is infinitely more valuable than sympathetic shadow comfort enabling:

Scenario 1: If a woman is trying to make a rational and educated decision while in labor (a very difficult thing to do when in pain!) about whether or not to get an epidural (which is a big deal, by the way) by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” is playing to her emotions and vulnerability which isn’t fair. If she’s questioning this choice instead of immediately signing up for anesthesia, she likely has a reason for the hesitation. I guarantee she doesn’t want an unmedicated birth to become “a hero”. Maybe she was hoping for a natural birth, or wants to reduce the chance of further interventions like pitocin, or maybe she’s wanting the best start for her baby. I don’t know. But by saying “you don’t have to be a hero” to help her make a decision is basically blowing her off when she is in a very vulnerable position. It’s a low blow.

Source: 10 Things to NEVER Say to a Woman in Labor | Mother Rising

And, here’s the deal…women in labor and postpartum are heroes. They are incredible. They are amazing. We should never deny them that knowledge, particularly if all we are offering in return is a patronizing platitude masquerading as compassion. This “One Day Young” photo project captures that sheroism:

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor's office this week.

These goddesses headed to a WIC peer counselor’s office this week.

“In those first 24 hours, it’s like this warrior comes out in women,” says Jenny. “They gain this inner strength to protect the child and you can see it in the photos. “They’re like those heroic pictures of soldiers on the battlefield or the footballer after the match, still full of the adrenaline of achievement. This moment isn’t often captured in women, but what they’ve just achieved is just as important as that goal or that battle, and that moment deserves to be recorded and celebrated in the public arena.”

Source: Empowering Photo Project ‘One Day Young’ Reassures Women That Childbirth Is Nothing To Fear

At the same time, birth can be very hard work and the recovery can be intense and long-lasting. Culturally, while we may minimize, invalidate or deny women’s power, strength, and amazingness in birth, we also often minimize, invalidate, and deny their vulnerability after birth.

We don’t talk about postpartum pain — bleeding, stitches, not being able to stand upright, or easily walk around. We don’t talk about the struggles of early breastfeeding: cracked and bleeding nipples, mastitis, and worries about producing enough milk. We are only beginning to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety. And it almost seems as if new fathers and adoptive parents don’t matter at all. The rhetoric from those who don’t want change paint a rosy picture of motherhood, but the realities of these anti-family policies are much more grim. In a recent TED talk, I share a number of heart-wrenching personal stories from women who have suffered as a result of having to return to work too soon.

Source: Maternity Leave Policy Postpartum Pain – Susan Crowe

After submitting my dissertation, I was heard to say that I felt like I needed a long nap and maybe several large gifts. After the intensity and unpredictability of giving birth, a ceremony might be in order, either a sealing ceremony like I experienced, or a birth reclaiming ceremony as is described in this article:

“I wasn’t at the birth, but it was super quick and the mother felt traumatised. I came in on a Monday, and the baby looked a little pinched. I asked the mother about feeding and she said she thought it was going okay. I offered to change the baby’s nappy – I took it off and it was bone dry. I asked how long it had been on and it was over 12 hours. The maternal health nurse was due over that day, so we had a bit of time to suss what was going on, since I was a breastfeeding counsellor as well. From chatting, we realised her milk had not come in and the baby was clearly not getting anything.

The mother was super stressed and her baby was about a week old — and clearly not in fabulous shape. I talked about a birth reclaiming ceremony and we ran her a lovely warm bath. It was daytime, so we closed the curtains and played soft music. As she climbed into the bath, I saw her high, tense shoulders drop right down and she let out a big sigh. When she was ready, I stripped her baby, and placed the baby on her chest. We sat quietly, not saying a word. The mother started to cry, then sob, totally overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent and not doing a good enough job. All the while, looking at her sleeping baby, holding her.

As the mother eventually finished crying… her milk started to roll down her breasts. She looked at me, so surprised, and said, “Is that what its meant to look like?”

Source: Birth Reclaiming Ceremony – Could It Help You Heal? | BellyBelly

Finally, I like to share this link. I haven’t actually watched any of these, but for people who like TED Talks, this sounds like an interesting round-up!

11 TED Talks for Pregnancy and Birth — Tulsa Birth Doula, Bethanie Verduzco, CD(DONA) – Hello Sunshine Birth Services

February 2016 022What else is up with me this week:

  • The etsy shop is on limited inventory until March 1.
  • I’ve been working on the materials kits for both the Red Tent Initiation and Womanspirit Initiation courses that I have coming up. They’re beautiful and I’m so proud of both of them. Every time I pack up a kit, I feel so thrilled. Both trainings begin March 21st and still have spaces available for registration if you’re interested!

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Thursday Tidbits: The Flow of Life

February 2016 045

This watery blue birthing mama sculpture is making her way to Alaska right now.

I recently got a copy of a new book, The Other Side of the River, to review. Written by Eila Carrico and published by the wonderful Womancraft Publishing, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that I’m going to like the book. Plus, that cover! Amirite?

January 2016 026A blog post Eila recently wrote about flow and yoga (and chaos) spoke to me this afternoon:

I learned how to let go of perfection and control by watching the traffic patterns of this small town in Tamil Nadu. There were no signs and rules about where and how to walk, drive, or ride through the streets. There was just an invisible feeling of one’s way and a trust that we will look out for one another. I walked at first, hesitant to enter into the hectic currents of auto rickshaws, massive lorries, herds of uniformed schoolchildren, bikers, bone-thin stray dogs, and shirtless, turbaned old men with ox drawn carts. They all co-existed in this little dirt road, with their diverse speeds, agility, and force. Somehow, they were all given space and flowed together to get where they were going.

Source: Chaos: The Cure for the Common Practice — Annapurna Living

I then enjoyed this blog post about the flow of a Red Tent:

…We might sing a chant like ‘A River is Flowing’, or ‘Mother I feel you under my feet’. There is a time of breathing out before we look forward to the new moon, and write down our positive intentions, changes we plan to make for the month ahead. We share these with the group, which again leads to open discussion. A lot of the themes are about self development, and giving ourselves the time to look at how we are, and how we move forward with renewed strength and courage. The evening flows on, and we end with a song like ‘Evening Breeze, Spirit Song’

Source: [guest post] My Red Tent – Moon Times Moon Blog

Speaking of Red Tents, I recently wrote a FAQ post about the differences between Red Tents and Women’s Circles (and my own two programs about the same): What is the difference between a Red Tent and a Women’s Circle?

This article looks at the increase in Red Tents around the world and the role they play as a safe container for women’s multifaceted experiences:

But while these huts may have been used to restrict, control and keep tabs on women, the modern-day equivalent is an altogether more empowering experience. Like the women in Diamant’s mythical Red Tent, members of modern groups are finding support, sanctity and solace in sisterhood. And because women aren’t all menstruating at the same time anymore, Red Tents are usually held around the New Moon so there is a regularity to the meetings and every woman is welcome.

Source: Why women are gathering in ‘Red Tents’ across the UK

As a homebody introvert type of person, I’ve still been feeling a call for “adventure” lately. My life seems drawn in and “small” somehow lately and I want to go somewhere different and do something different. We are going on a special trip to the ocean this month and I’m really excited about it. I also am reasonably confident that I have the gene for “bloom where you’re planted” rather than the gene for frequent travel: The Genetic Reason Why Some People Are Born To Travel All Over The World – Living Outdoor

I’m not really known for my “flowing” personality, but I have maintained a dedicated daily yoga practice since 2000. I recently laughed until I cried while trying to do a Brigid’s Cross yoga pose suggested by one of my Womanrunes Immersion students:

February 2016 138

So comfy! So flowing! So serene!

February 2016 145

This is the picture I laughed hysterically over. My “perfect” alignment. My serene atmosphere. It’s a thing of beauty!

I wrote about the messiness of living a creative life with children in a post at SageWoman: Claypriestess

And, about the everyday underworld descents of parenting (featuring fondant pandas) at Brigid’s Grove: Everyday Inanna – Brigid’s Grove

And, I returned to an older post about listening to the soul of art:

“I will be gentle with myself.
I will be tender with my heart.
I will hold my heart like a newborn baby child.”

This song by Karen Drucker replayed in my mind as I sculpted. The baby woke, the watermelon got dragged along the floor collecting dust, and it was time for our collaborative dinner, so I had to put her away unfinished. When we got back to our own home, I was compelled to finish her, working feverishly as the baby pulled on my legs and I said, “just a few more minutes!” to the older kids who were trying to play with him to let me work. Again and again I re-rolled the clay baby’s head, trying to make it “perfect,” and worked to lay down the strands of her hair, against of the backdrop of this often-chaotic, noisy, home-based life we’ve consciously and intentionally created together. She was created to represent holding my own center in the midst of motherhood. I will be tender with my heart. I don’t create sculptures like this because I AM so “zen” and have life all figured out, I make them to remind me what is possible if I listen to my soul.

Source: Listening to the Soul of Art – Brigid’s Grove

If you’re looking for pockets of joyous creation on your life, you might enjoy this Creative Joy playbook from the beautiful Jen Louden: CreativeJoyPDF.pdf

In other tiny, creative tidbits from life, Mark originally drew this mandala for one of our free goddess greeting cards bundle for the holidays. We then started using it as the logo for the Creative Spirit Circle and for our new Womanspirit Initiation program. I decided to get a print of it made to hang in my tiny temple (kids’ clubhouse turned personal work space) and I’m so very pleased with how it turned out!

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Free Mini Course: Womanspirit Wisdom

I’ve developed three new free mini courses to offer this year. The first is ready to roll and begins on February 1!

Here are the details…

Womanspirit Wisdom

IMG_0173This three-week ecourse is designed to offer you a gently nourishing daily “sacred pause.” Beginning February 1, each day for 21 days, take a moment and simply receive. There is nothing to do, just enjoy taking a daily minute to connect with yourself.

Includes:

Story Woman

September 2015 123Yesterday, I went searching for a quote for one of my Red Tent Initiation students. She had shared some powerful reflections about the vulnerability required to reveal our personal stories—there is a lot of risk, sometimes shame, and more, bound up in our ability to uncover ourselves and speak our truth. What I wanted to communicate with her was the idea that in sharing our stories, including the painful pieces, we free other women to do the same. Our courage to be vulnerable, to be naked, to be flawed, to experiment with ideas, concepts, or ways of being gives permission for other women to do the same. I went to a workshop at Gaea Goddess Gathering in 2012 that was about dancing and the facilitator said that when facilitating ritual, you have to be willing to look a little ridiculous yourself, have to be willing to risk going a little “over the top” yourself, because in so doing you liberate the other participants—“if she can take that risk and look a little goofy doing so, maybe it is okay for me to do it too.”

After a lot of digging through old posts on my blog, I found the quote! It is from one of my favorite authors, Carol Christ, who said:

“When one woman puts her experiences into words, another woman who has kept silent, afraid of what others will think, can find validation. And when the second woman says aloud, ‘yes, that was my experience too,’ the first woman loses some of her fear.”

This is part of what makes Red Tent Circles so powerful! It is also part of what makes the Red Tent course itself powerful—when the women in the course are willing to dig into the journal questions, assignments, and processes, to turn them over, to explore how they work in their own lives…they lose some of the fear and they encourage others to lose their fear too.

As I was mining my blog for quotes about the power of story, I came across my older post: I am a Story Woman. In this post, I describe how I was preparing a ritual for New Year’s Eve and planning to include the chant: I am a strong woman, I am a story woman. My husband raised a question about it…

 “I’m not sure about this,” he said, “what is a story woman anyway?” I wasn’t able to give him a solid answer at that moment, but guess what, I am one.

In fact, didn’t I just write earlier this week that story holds the key to the reclamation of power for women? How and why does this work?

Because of these two things:

“The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

–Hopi Indian Proverb

“We feel nameless and empty when we forget our stories, leave our heroes unsung, and ignore the rites of our passage from one stage of life to another.”

–Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox

We need to hear women’s stories. We need to hear each other into speech. We need to witness and be witnessed. We need to be heard…

Source: I am a Story Woman | Talk Birth

Over the summer, I was interviewed by Lucy Pearce for her Be Your Publisher Author Interview series. My interview came out today. Since months have passed since we talked, the details of our conversation have dimmed in my memory. (I’m also noticing that I need to get over my own fear and vulnerability that listening to me talk can somehow be perceived as a “bonus” to anyone!) So, imagine the delight I felt when I saw some of the words she chose to describe our interview conversation:

  • Learn to mine your blog
  • The importance of sharing our stories as we navigate the challenging parts of life.
  • Turning a blog into a book and very wise advice … Don’t die with your music still in you.

Just yesterday, I was mining my own blog as well as musing on the importance and power of sharing our stories.

I am a story woman.

The other quote she mentions, don’t die with your music still in you, has been a guiding philosophy in my life and work for at least twelve years. It comes from the work of Wayne Dyer, who passed away last month. I used this quote to describe my relationship to writing, identity, and wholeness as a person, in a vulnerable post about the power of story in my life in early motherhood:

…I’ve finally realized that maybe it was literally my words dying in me that gave me that feeling and that fretfulness. They needed to get out. I’ve spent a lifetime writing various essays in my head, nearly every day, but those words always “died” in me before they ever got out onto paper. After spending a full three years letting other women’s voices reach me through books and essays, and then six more years birthing the mother-writer within, I continue to feel an almost physical sense of relief and release whenever I sit down to write and to let my own voice be heard.

Source: Birthing the Mother-Writer (or: Playing My Music, or: Postpartum Feelings, Part 1) | Talk Birth

Just this year, we’ve ordered printings of our Womanrunes books four times, published our Red Tent Resource Kit manual then added twenty pages to the second printing and re-released it, and published my new Earthprayer, Birthprayer poetry book. I’m working on my dissertation: 275 pages of past writing (much mined from older blog posts) and 145 pages of data collected from others, as well as a companion book project. I am getting ready to publish a miscarriage support group manual that I wrote for The Amethyst Network a few years ago and I have big plans to significantly expand my Ritual Recipe Kit ebook into a much longer, print, resource manual in 2016.

I am a story woman.

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Tuesday Tidbits: Women’s Circles and Cycles

11890947_1658752111003671_3875428907499186114_nOne of the things I notice in Red Tent work is how little information women had about their own fertility cycles as girls and young women. I feel like my own mother was more attentive than many in preparing me for my body’s changes with puberty, but I only really learned about my own fertility (vs. just periods and how to cope with them) after having my first baby. I am convinced that how girls learn to relate to their bodies during menstruation has a big impact on how they relate to their bodies during birth and breastfeeding. I don’t find it coincidental that our culture expresses an overall avoidance of menstruation and fertility (other than “don’t get pregnant” and “here’s all the ways to pretend that you’re not a cyclical being, but instead are always the same and no one should ever know that you’re menstruating”) AND also medicates women during childbirth and considers breastfeeding a “private matter” and “personal choice.” These events, the reproductive transitions of the female body, are largely supposed to remain culturally invisible.

Here is an interesting article about what we need to teach young women about their bodies:

At the clinic I rarely met women, young or old, who understand their fertility and what happens during the menstrual cycle. They all know about the blood, although not always why they bleed. But few know anything about what happens between periods. No one has told them. Why have we kept this information from young women? Why do we tell them they can get pregnant any time of the month? If it’s to encourage young people to use protection when they have sex, it doesn’t seem to work.

Source: What We Need to Teach Young Women About Their Bodies | Ruth Miller

It also turns out that the age of first menstruation can have a lifelong impact on many areas of a woman’s life:

From academic success to cancer risk, research increasingly shows that the age at which a girl gets her period—called “menarche”—can have a significant impact on her life. These findings are especially notable given that, around the world, the average age of menarche has dropped steadily since the 1950s. With new studies coming out regularly about girls going through puberty earlier, we were curious: What’s causing this global decline—and what are the potential long-term consequences?

Source: Why the age you get your period can matter forever | Fusion

In my own local Red Tent Circle, we’ve been talking about having a “Pink Tent” event for girls this fall or early next year. My little girl desperately wants to go to a red tent with me! She asks every month if she can come with me. So, I’m hoping to plan and priestess a mother-daughter based event soon in addition to my women-only events. I enjoyed this article recently about planning a mother-daughter body-gratitude ritual:

​Break the generational cycle of body shame and body dissatisfaction, and enjoy special intimate time with your daughter. This is a beautiful way to start the day or to seed your dreams before bed. Ideally, meet in the same spot at about the same time each day…

Source: Mother-Daughter Body Gratitude Ritual – Journey Of Young Women

Speaking of Women’s Circle work, here is a good resource on The Twelve Tenets of Circle Work.

And, speaking of circles + teenage girls + women’s friendships, here is an article on The Art of Loving and Losing Female Friends.

First Moon Blessing Pocket Altar (mini altar, medicine bundle, blessing bundle, menarche, moontime, red tent)

First Moon blessing bundles in our Etsy shop

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Red Tent Initiation Program Launch

Mollyblessingway 372Following the spiral path of maiden, mother, and crone…

Do you want to take a journey into a deeper understanding of yourself? Do you wish to unlock insight and understanding? Do you want to reach out to other women in sisterhood and co-create a powerful circle experience?

This new online program is both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. You will listen to your deep self, access your inner wisdom and prepare to step into circle as guardian and guide for other women who are hungering for depth, connection, restoration, and renewal in today’s busy world.

This intensive course is limited to 15 women, to allow for deep connection and dedicated attention.

August 29-October 12, 2015

Your online experience includes…

  • Asix week immersive journey over the course of the spiral path
    • Knowing Self (Maiden Unit)
    • Might of Creation (Mother Unit)
    • Gathering the Women (Crone Unit)
  • Each unit includes a ceremony, meditations, discussion questions, journaling exercises, projects, and prompts designed to take you deep into the Red Tent process.
  • Live interaction, support, feedback, and conversation via a private Facebook group

With your registration, you will also receive an incredible resource package valued at more than $100 including:

  • 58 page manual: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for our Red Tent redtentkitKit and Initiation Program. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: used throughout the program for personal guidance and self-development. And, perfect for ongoing use in an inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Altar Candle
  • Head wreath kit and tutorial
  • Special Red Tent Circle Leader initiation gift (to be opened only upon program completion!)
  • Red silken cord
  • Moon or spiral goddess pendant

After your process is complete you will also receive:

  • Certificate of Completion
  • Ritual Recipe Kit e-book
  • Circle-ready digital files of the rich meditations and insightful readings used in the program
  • Ongoing support and guidance through continued participation in our private Facebook group

Mollyblessingway 238For inspiration on your own path, feel free to listen our local Red Tent Circle singing the beautiful chant Dance in a Circle of Women during our May Circle

Register via our website or check out via Etsy here.

 

From Mother Blessings to Red Tent Circles: What comes after a Sacred Pregnancy?

IMG_5745In 2008, a small postcard at the local Unitarian Universalist church caught my eye. It was for a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator training at Eliot Chapel in St. Louis. I registered for the training and went, driving alone into an unknown neighborhood. There, I circled in ceremony and sisterhood with women I’d never met, exploring an area that was new for me, and yet that felt so right and so familiar. I’d left my two young sons home for the day with my husband and it was the first time in what felt like a long time that I’d been on my own, as a woman and not someone’s mother. At the end of the day, each of us draped in beautiful fabric and sitting in a circle around a lovely altar covered with goddess art and symbols of personal empowerment, I looked around at the circle of women and I knew: THIS is what else there is for me.

My work following the birth of my first son came to center heavily around pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding, Mollyblessingway 156the stage of life in which I was currently immersed. I’d wondered several times what I would do when those issues no longer formed the core of my interest and personal experience. How could I ever stop working with pregnant and birthing women? How could I stop experiencing the vibrance and power of pregnancy and birth? Would I become irrelevant in this field as my own childbearing years passed me by? Looking around the room at Eliot at this circle of women, only two of whom were also of childbearing age, I knew: my future purpose would be to hold circles like this one. I found something in Cakes that I needed, the recognition that I wanted to celebrate and honor the totality of the female life cycle, not just pregnancy. As a girl, I loved the mother blessing ceremonies my mom and her friends held to honor each other during pregnancy. They hosted a coming of age blessingway for all of their early-teen daughters as well and I helped to plan a subsequent maiden ceremony for my younger sister several years later. Locally, we carried that tradition forward into the current generation of young mothers, holding mother blessings for each other and enjoying the time to celebrate and share authentically and deeply. After my training, I facilitated a series of Cakes classes locally, attended a women’s retreat at Eliot Chapel, and began to facilitate quarterly women’s retreats for my friends. One of my stated purposes was to honor and celebrate one another without anyone needing to be pregnant. Somehow, even though our own local mother blessing traditions were beautiful, we had accepted that the only time we had ceremonies with one another was when someone was pregnant. I wanted to change that!

This year, my offerings has expanded from the women’s spirituality retreats and classes I held in my own home, to a Red Tent Circle held at WomanSpace in my nearby town. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s life cycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a Mollyblessingway 215topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling together is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. As I noted, I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences for many women, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives through gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I developed an online Red Tent Initiation Program. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. These circles bring the sense of celebration and power we may have experienced during our pregnancies and from our Mother Blessing ceremonies more fully into our lives as the honor the fullness and completeness of women-in-themselves, not just of value while pregnant.

I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.” –Ruth Benedict

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

I am inspired by the everyday women surrounding me in this world. Brave, strong, vibrant, wild, intelligent, complicated women. Women who are also sometimes frightened, depressed, discouraged, hurt, angry, petty, or jealous. Real, multifaceted, dynamic women. Women who keep putting one foot in the front of the other and continue picking themselves back up again when the need arises.

I feel like my interest in social justice, women’s rights, and human services are intimately entwined with my spiritual life. Indeed, I almost cannot separate the two. I believe it is possible for us to have a truly loving world—a world in which the inherent dignity and worth of girls and women is not in question–and there is much good work that needs to be done in order for this world to be a reality.

This work I am now doing, both in person and online, represents an integration of something I feel with my mind, heart, and spirit. My whole being. At that Cakes training years ago, I glimpsed the multifaceted totality of women’s lives and I longed to reach out and serve the whole woman. My range of passion has extended from pregnancy and birth to include the full woman’s life cycle, rather than focusing exclusively on the maternal aspect of the wheel of life as I did for ten years. I create rituals that nourish, plan ceremonies that honor, facilitate workshops that uncover, write articles that inform, and teach classes that inspire the women in my personal life, my community, and the world. This is what else there was for me.

So, after you’ve experienced a sacred pregnancy filled with ceremony and ritual and celebration, what else is there for you? After you’ve worked for years with pregnant and birthing women to honor and celebrate them in their tenderness and strength, how might you branch out to hold space for all of women’s experiences and the many transitions of their life cycle? Like me, you might find your answer in holding a monthly women’s circle.

Learn more about our Red Tent Initiation Program, this in-depth online class is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

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