What I'm Learning About Myself and Others by Hosting Women's Circles
My simple intention in hosting a regular women's circle was to bring women together and, as a byproduct, I hoped our time together would potentially be healing. At that time, I didn't have ideas for the circle beyond that, and I certainly wasn't prepared for how illuminating the circle would be for me.
The second women's circle I hosted in March occurred a few days before International Women's Day. Before we met, I asked the group to consider what it feels like to be a woman today—intentionally leaving the question broad enough to allow space for an expansive discussion.
Somehow, the conversation among the nine women who participated in the circle that evening centered around family dynamics. Ideas and comments pin-balled organically from our relationships between our parents, siblings and in-laws to how those relationships impact how we show up in the world. The conversation was charged, and, unlike most circle work, I encouraged women to chime in, even across the circle, when they felt called. It was a dynamic evening with varying thoughts and opinions traveling through the space.
My only goal was to allow the conversation to flow, for the circle to be a small example for us to move out of our sometimes rigid structure of our daily lives and expectations of how events and conversations should unfold.
Hosting regular women's circles at my apartment also happened rather organically. In fact, the idea hadn't even crossed my mind until after I organized two all-women events at my home in January. My underlying assumption was that women don't need to intentionally "circle" to hear each other's voices. It was only after my events in January, as I heard each woman share parts of her story and witnessed the emotional release by simply talking, that I recognized the need for more spaces where women could feel safe to be completely open. Only then did it hit me that all-women gatherings were necessary.
When the first circle came around in February, coinciding with the first day of the Lunar New Year, I wasn't prepared, having allowed other activities to take precedence. I casually threw out the theme of abundance to the group of women. I asked them to think about how they defined an abundant life without simply focusing on financial abundance. I imagined we'd begin by sharing an intention about why we'd showed up, as a way of getting to know one another, and then the rest would simply flow.
When my friend—a coach with a strong, take-charge personality—arrived that evening, I grabbed her immediately and asked her to facilitate. I felt fatigued from the weekend but also I honestly believed she was a stronger facilitator than me. While she agreed, she commented that typically she liked to be more prepared when facilitating a group and she would've liked to have more notice.
Two points were mirrored back to me in this example: if I was honest with myself, I recognized my insecurities in being able to facilitate on my own. I wanted to simply be the hostess, the person providing space for the event, rather than the facilitator. In my friend, I saw the need to justify to other women why it might seem like she wasn't fully prepared. Her desire for perfection and potential to be viewed as ill-prepared is the possible reason for her disclaimer of not having time to prepare.
I also saw how difficult it was for the women to simply 'hold' people's stories without jumping in and advising (I view this as a more masculine approach to problem-solving). When I noticed that we spent a large portion of the time advising one woman in particular related to a family issue, I saw that the circle wasn't flowing in the right direction. Collectively, we'd become a group of women offering 'shoulds' based on our own experience, rather than holding a safe space where we could just listen to one another.
After the first circle, I invited more women to participate and, soon, noticed how difficult it was for women to simply listen to their intuition and to stay open to the unfamiliar. When I reached out to women and said, "I'm hosting a women's circle, do you want to join?" I received so many questions from my dear sisters.
What's the purpose of the group? What's your intention in gathering women together? You need a mission. You should structure it. How many people are in the group? What do you talk about in a women's circle?
There was quite simply an inability for some of the women to sit with the unknown, to participate in something unfamiliar.
The circle, as a project, continued to show me more about myself, particularly as it related to all creative projects that I was undertaking. At the end of last year, I rigidly wanted to fashion all my creative projects into a business. Like many others, I desire to immediately "know" where it will lead. We do this with relationships as well. On some level it's great to hold our visions high, take charge and grow projects into something larger. On the other hand, it's sometimes nice to do things simply because we want to do them and because, in the moment, the act of doing is sufficient for us.
For a brief moment, I reflected on the initial feedback I received: maybe it was true. Maybe the circle needs to be a bit more rigid and structured. A few days Iater, I realized that I still wanted to keep the circle loose and organic, without a formal structure. The women who could flow with that would be there; those who couldn't go with that format would sit out.
Afterwards, one of the women who attended contacted our mutual friend, and told him that she loved the circle. "It was really chaotic," she said. But she also claimed that realized that women's brains sometimes work that way—chaotic but beautiful.
At the end of the circle, what struck me was this beautiful example of flow in our lives, how we as a group of nine women allowed for that conversation to unfold without an agenda. I hope more women can show up to one of my circles and be okay with the nature of my unplanned circle, without rigid plans or set ideas of what we should be. I'm recognizing that this circle work does mirror life for me: a delicate balance of intention and allowing.