“I had a Red Tent shaped hole in me and I didn’t even know it” were the words that struck me when I was on the phone coaching a woman called Zoe about starting a Red Tent. When I asked her about her experience of Red Tents, she said, “It felt like coming home.”
This got me thinking about the feeling of being welcome and how powerful it is. The power of coming home to how you are in the moment. The power of the Red Tent. So we thought we’d explore it as our theme this month. We will be hearing more from Zoe in our Sitting in Circle piece.
So what is it about Red Tents that makes them powerful and not the same as a catch up with friends? For me, an aspect which is unique and critical to Red Tents, is also fundamental to how we build lasting community. It is the act of welcoming strangers into our homes to share time together. I have not long moved house and realised the point in a friendship where you stop meeting up in cafes and invite the new mate round to your house. It is a moment where you welcome them more firmly into your life.
With Red Tents the preamble is shorter perhaps, an email exchange or phone call and then a new person you haven’t met before is welcomed through your door. What is more startling is that after spending time in circle The sizzle and crackle of connection is made and that new person leaves as a friend. And that, my sisters, is how community is born. A bit of hesitancy, the seeds of empathy, the roots of connection, A shared experience, and ultimately the framing of this wider context of Red Tents in every community lights the fuse of the exchange.
I mean let’s be honest. Who hasn’t felt scared of meeting new people, the pause before you enter a room, the numbers that never get dialled. It is a big deal trying something new. Particularly in a society which values individual thinking, even self-help books tell you that only you have the power to change your life. Hang on a minute… didn’t we evolve in community, didn’t we grow through passing on what we’d learnt, didn’t our shared stories create our collective identity?
That is why I believe that the feeling of coming home that you can experience through going to a Red Tent, by dialling that number and knocking on that door is a powerful act. It is an act of rebellion from the rectoric of isolation. It is looking head on at loneliness, addressing the hunger for connection and trusting that a stranger can love you. By stepping through that door, by entering a Red Tent you honour our collective history of being women in the world and all those that walked this earth before us.
Sitting in Circle with Zoe
“I can’t remember how or when I heard about Red Tents but I’d recently moved to a nearby city and found myself looking at the directory for the first time to find my nearest one. With this in mind I phoned the number of an advertised circle to get to experience what a red tent means and I recall the lady on the end of the line explaining what I could expect. ‘Just come along’ she said, it’s just one of those things you have to feel’.
The following month I drove to my nearest venue with a copy of the Red Tent ‘toolkit’ so I could know more as I was sure I’d have to setup the Tent where I lived. There was a sign on the entry door and after making my way upstairs I took my shoes off, adding them to the pile on the landing. I could already hear women laughing and the burble of chatting, sounding soft, warm and gentle. This was something I hadn’t realised I’d missed before this moment, being embraced so affectionately and at that moment I realised time tends to stand still in a Red tent.
I was touched as the evening went on to watch women of all ages, honestly and genuinely relax as they listened, mindfully curled up, sprawled out, generally free. This judgement free space reconnected me to me and in doing so connected me with others.
When the evening ends the party atmosphere rises again. Maybe it’s the collective excitement for the next circle. I leave on a high, like I’ve been changed, like I’ve been restored, like I’ve got the strength of all the ancestral women there’s ever been before me.
Being a witness to women’s personal journeys is a privilege and while words are spoken we’re speaking to the universe, our ancestors and to our futures. It feels sacred to watch a woman let go and be part of that space for her. I can’t remember a word that is spoken once I leave the circle. I’m so focused on the moment that nothing stays with me apart from the feeling.
I’ve got the reassurance that I’m up to the job of creating a Red Tent and I trust in the universal force that if I book the venue, the women will come…”
If you want to join Zoe in setting up a Red Tent in Salisbury then contact us and we will link you up.