When one of my local red tent sisters called a wise women council in response to Brexit, I knew immediately that I had to be there. I wasn’t sure why. In fact, I doubted how sitting in circle, with women I perhaps didn’t know, sharing our personal responses to the collective experience of Brexit, could lead to any actual useful outcome for my community and my nation. I knew I always enjoyed circles, and I was certain that taking time to tune in, listen to and share our truths, would be cathartic and perhaps allow a deeper understanding of our experiences. But was that useful? Or, given the scale of what had just happened, useful enough?!
Many of my friends seemed to be feeling the same as I about one thing: that the vote to leave was a massive wake up call to the fact that our peaceful lives of introspection, centred around a desire for ‘personal growth’, could go on no longer. Enjoyable as it had been, it was now shown to be inadequate and based on a complacency now revealed as unjustified. I wondered what the circle would bring to this mix. This is some of what I learned.
I knew I had been caught up in my mind for days, going nowhere but round and round circuits of increasing anxiety and worry. Listening to friends and the media had got me all wound up, and feeling utterly powerless. But, that night it circle with the women, simply taking the time to connect to the infinite wisdom and caring of the earth through our wombs, an immediate sense of perspective made itself clear to me. From my place of connection I clearly saw in my mind’s eye a circle of women, sitting in shadows around a fire, wrapped in brown blankets. It was us, the very same women of the council. I understood that we had sat together many, many times over many, many generations, witnessing, sharing counsel and responding appropriately to the conflict and polarisation now appearing in our societies. Brexit was yet one more occasion on which the sisterhood had been called to convene. And there would be many, many more times to come. Each time called for us to dig deep to find out what the right response for the moment was. And, although it seemed almost too easy, this was best done through sitting in circle: honestly sharing our personal responses and being deeply heard and witnessed, non judgementally. The kind of deep personal sharing and listening that never seem to happen in the chambers of power. No blame, no judgement. No need to impress or win. In a country in which political decision are made by people sitting opposite each other, shouting each other down like schoolboys, to hold each other in witnessing each other’s truths felt revolutionary, brave and, in itself, a way forward. Another thing revealed to me that night was that more factors unite people than divide us. This is one of those things that has been said many times, but that night I really saw it: that the people who voted differently than me, and who I have judged, did so for the very same reasons as me- for peace, security, a life with opportunities, meaning, a sense of belonging. We just had different ideas about her to get there. And I could see this unity, clearly for the first time, because of the deep and safely contained listening that happens in a circle. The use of a talking stick (or ‘listening stick’ as we like to call it, as it helps one listen to oneself first and foremost) ensures a fair, open approach where all opinions are held as valid. This safe container actually allowed me to discover some rather nasty and divisive feelings I had deep inside myself, which I hadn’t been aware of. The very same feelings I had thought ‘other people’ had and had felt judgemental of. In circle, rooted, with the listening stick to help me stay tuned, it was safe for me to discover, acknowledge and share those feelings. And thus see that some of the work I had to do lay inside me. More than ever I became aware how rare it is nowadays to associate with people with different opinions than ones own- and how dangerous this is. The circle seems such a brilliant way to share non-judgemental listening space with people who think differently to oneself.
With sadness I noted that I could think of only a handful of non-British women I had ever come across at a women’s circles or red tent events. Why was this the case, I was now asking myself. How much richer it would be to circle with women of different backgrounds and opinions? How much we could all learn? How much less fear there might be?
I had a vision of a touring Red Tent council that popped up all over the UK in the wake of Brexit, giving women of all communities a chance to share what was going on for them in the light of recent events. On village greens, in community centres, homes, libraries, shops, wherever women gathered. In fact, perhaps this was a case where it would be most appropriate to share the tools of the women’s circle movement with men- to show our brothers how non-hierarchical, non-divisive communication can help solve issues arising today. And I knew then that those years of introspection were not a selfish waste of time. It turned out that several of the women at the circle that night shared with me a long-gone activist past- one from which we had all retired, burnt out and feeling unsuccesful despite our sincere hopes for a better future for people and planet and attempts to make this so.
So what would an appropriate response to Brexit be, now, for the once-activist-turned-introspective-women’s-circler? Surely a new activism that learned from both. One that took the burning desire for a better world, the passion and desperation this engendered, and sent it deep into the earth, to find therein clear visions of an effective response. My previous activism had been to heady, too hearty, not womby enough. My recent womb-centred focus had been too womby, a bit hearty but not heady enough. And I now has another amazing discovery. In the weeks leading up to the referendum an ‘inexplicable’ sense of disconnection had come upon me. You have to understand that I live a life incredibly free of interaction with the media or mainstream society. I am surrounded by lovely people. I believe in the greater good. However, over those weeks my rather lovely and carefree life seemed to be crumbling. Old patterns from long-gone depressive episodes had surfaced, and I really couldn’t fathom why. All that was left was for me to conclude that I was pathetic, a failure, a useless excuse for someone supposedly committed to personal growth. My positive self regard vanished. But now I saw something else entirely: that these behaviours- not being able to get out of bed and compulsive eating, to name the strongest- were not proof my failure as a human and disconnectedness, they were in fact proof of my incredible sensitivity to the world I lived. My wonderful and awe-inspiring connectedness. That I was a living, breathing, sensing part of something so much bigger than myself.
I recalled how capitalism takes individual women’s insecurities about how they look and makes a trillion bucks a day at their expense. Here was something similar happening on a collective scale, but one I had been hitherto totally unaware of. I wondered how many other people had been moping about in their houses feeling isolated, lonely, and ‘at fault’ personally, struggling with their own selves, locked into thinking we are all separate individuals, each in pain, when really we are all experiencing the same pain, caused by the same experience. And rather than to look within and to blame, the answer was to understand just how deeply our individual selves are in fact integrally part of something so much bigger than ourselves. What a night it had been! Just a few hours, and such clear understanding. I had been shown visions, felt a clear sense of continuity with past and future, heard a strong voice come from my own mouth declaring ‘may the channels be open’. And they were. But who was this wise woman, taking up space within my own body? With wonder I had to conclude that it was me, the very same me who had recently felt so confused, failing and disconnected. She was amazing, she is amazing. The easiest thing for me to do was to look a upon her as a mysterious interloper that seemed to come to and go through me out of nowhere. But, having been witnessed in circle by my sisters, I had to conclude that this wise woman was, in fact, a part of me. At the end of what had proved to be a very powerful and useful session we declared our intentions for the future. One of mine was to get to know this ancient, powerful, wise and crystal clear part of the-woman-who-is-me better. She has a lot to give in this post-Brexit world of ours.
Following the Brexit result I found myself overwhelmingly and exhaustingly caught between huge fear in my head, deep grief in my heart and intermittent rage in between. I danced the grief for more than 2 hours solid at Live Rhythms on the third day but the wells of my grief did not dry up. I sobbed for fear with my closed women’s circle of Shakti Sisters on the fourth day and then, miraculously, discovered that when we dropped into our wombs together, there was calm strength deep inside my womb which allowed me to connect with deep love in my heart as we Shakti danced allowing my head to perceive a bigger picture where perhaps some good could come out of what my fear had perceived to be an entirely evil situation. But on the fifth day I awoke again at dawn to rage and fury whirling inside me. I knew I needed more sister womb time and I needed it to be a circle specifically about Brexit where we started with the intention of coming into our womb wisdom, allowing our heads and hearts to be heard in their grief, anger, fear and confusion, but finding that deep inner knowing that connects us as women when we sit in wise council listening to our wombs. So on the eighth day a council of women gathered at my house for this precise purpose (only five of us for it was short notice, but 5 wombs are immensely powerful in circle together). I led a long meditation to take us deeply into ourselves, our roots, our anchor in Mother Earth, our connection with the light in Father Sky, and then gently down through the body, noticing what was going on in our heads, then feeling into the emotional weather of our hearts, and finally coming to land on the floor of our womb cave from where we could be fully ourselves and speak our deepest truth.
The wisdom which came forth deeply healed me and gave me the hope that I had desperately been grasping for all week in the inner and outer chaos and not finding on Facebook nor in the news nor in all the petitions I’d been signing nor from my friends and neighbours who had voted Leave. I left that circle with the new hope that this was a personal, communal, national and international healing crisis. I am a healer, this was my language, I could understand this when one of my sisters channelled from deep womb wisdom that this is a massive healing crisis on a national scale. That all that was unconscious and hidden is being brought into consciousness to be seen and potentially healed. I know that healing crises are rough, that they can last for years and be hugely difficult, but I also know that they lead to profound healing and deeper wisdom and compassion for the human condition. This steadies my being, grounds me, evaporates fear, and diffuses all rage. Even those deep wells of grief seem to have finished flowing through. Thank you to my tribe of sisters for answering my call.