What Happens at a Women’s Circle
by Sheri Byrd
The Women’s Circle meetings have possibly saved my sanity. In a year of unpredictability in our family and job situation, in a time when it was difficult for me to work and find social support at an office, and in a period when my husband was working and commuting longer than ever before, the women’s circle was the eye of my storm. It was a reliable, confidential safe haven from the pressures, responsibilities and worries of everyday life.
Meetings are hosted at members’ homes and, after the usual tea and snacks, begin with “check in.” Each woman checks in by sharing her thoughts on the question, “How are you feeling in mind, body and spirit?” This is often just a starter, and each woman is free to share about anything happening in her life, or she may chose not to share at all. Anything shared in the circle stays within the members present.
Each meeting revolves around a specific topic, decided and discussed at a previous meeting. Topics in the last six months have included travel, books, teachers, jobs, mothers, religious connections and regrets. The field of topics is as wide as the desire of the members. Nothing is out of bounds.
A curious custom of the women’s circle is “No cross-talk.” This means that when each woman is speaking, the others are not to respond, but simply listen attentively to each other’s words and feelings. This is a difficult adjustment for some who have not participated in such a group before, but after a while, it becomes a comfort to know you may speak your peace with the guarantee that no judgment will be passed back to you.
We officially Weave the Circle after check-in. This simple ritual involves grasping crossed hands and speaking the words to each other, “From hand to hand, the circle is woven.” The formality of the occasion seemed a bit out of place to me at first, with such a small, intimate group. (The circle currently has seven active members.) However, I found it has the psychological effect of creating a bubble in space and time, lifting us up from the cares of the rest of the our lives. My thoughts are focused exclusively on the topic at hand, the words of the others, and the points I wish to share.
We resume our seats and matches are passed for each member to light a candle on a central table. Often, members dedicate their candle lighting to a specific person, thought or memory. Based on the number of members present, a time limit is set for each, with a target end time of 9:30 p.m.
As with the check in, each woman shares when she feels comfortable, in no particular order, or not at all. After each woman has taken her individual turn, the formality usually relaxes and interactive conversation – on topic or off – ensues. Finally, the business of upcoming meetings is addressed, setting dates, topics and meeting sites.
At last, we Open the Circle, reversing the ritual begun earlier in the evening. Thoughts again turn to the drive home, the next day’s, week’s or month’s obligations, and the bubble of calm has burst.
The members of the circle are some of the most fascinating people, with life stories that have taken them to the heights and depths of their souls. They are loving, open, accepting and non-judgmental. I was privileged to have been granted a glimpse into intimate, vulnerable areas of their lives, and I thank them for giving me a safe place to open up those areas of my life, if only for a few hours a month.
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