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When Women Gather In Circles

when women gather in circlesImagine a fire glowing brightly, flames leaping into a darkened star scattered sky as if the sparks had transmuted into the celestial objects themselves. Drumming, chanting, dancing, praying, honoring the changing of the seasons and the forces of nature, and setting intention for what it is you want to call into your life may take place.

Sound too strange for modern life?  These practices are ancient, yet carry with them current sensibilities that have practical application for women in the 21st century.

For eons, women have come together in this geometric configuration that has no beginning or end, no linear head or foot and where all are equal. In an article by Sharon Mijares, PhD, a researcher in the field of the feminine and global change, entitled, “A Brief History of Circles,” she explains, “When we meet in circle we join to hold everyone in sacred space and purpose. We are bringing forth an ancient way of connecting into modern times. We gather to share stories, to deepen our identities individually and in group—often with the intention to enable and shape a postpatriarchal way of being. We also gather to heal life. We can meet in circle to share our joy, we can meet in circle to work on projects or join in ritual at various levels of depth and purpose, and we can meet in circle to help to change our world.”

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of being in the presence of women from all parts of the globe, all ages, various cultural backgrounds, spiritual orientation and life experience as we sat in circle in homes on tapestry covered floors or on the earth itself.

Some focus was body centered as well, such as The Red Tent, based on a best selling book by Anita Diament which harkens back to biblical times in which Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah tells the tale of women gathering to celebrate their ‘moon time’.  Although, at nearly 58, I am several years passed having my period, I am considered a ‘crone,’ whose age brings with it a deeper sense of wisdom and value to the circle as much as those who are in their childbearing years. At each of them, we have also called into the gathering our female lineage as well as women who have made a difference in our lives.

Others were to celebrate the new moon and full moon. In wisdom traditions, it is explained that

  • New Moon: creates a new cycle, bringing with it renewed possibilities and setting intention for what you want to bring into your life.
  • Waxing Moon: heralds new growth, continued action and seeing results coming about.
  • Full Moon: awash with the high tide of power, amplifying and creative. It is a time to release that which no longer serves your highest good, what you no longer want or need in your life or an aspect of yourself that you have outgrown. It may also mean releasing dysfucntional relationships and unhealthy patterns or habits.
  • Waning Moon: a stepping back and withdrawing into silence to contemplate where you are and where you want to be.
  • Dark Moon: A time to turn within, with a sense of solitude. When in this state, long hidden or repressed ideas can become visible and available. It is comparable to hibernating in the winter so that new growth can burst forth in the spring.

Last night, that was one of the reasons I trekked into Philadelphia to be with 15 other women in a gathering led by Christine Arylo who is a self love advocate. The author of three books (Reform Your Inner Mean Girl, Madly In Love with Me, and Choosing Me Before We), Arylo ardently expresses that before we can fully embrace another, we are called on to open our minds, arms and hearts to ourselves. Nothing new there. It comes from the idea that we can’t fill someone else’s cup if ours is empty. A few times she used the phrase, “You can’t serve from your reserves.” As one who used to state that I was “running on adrenalin and fumes,” I can vouch for that. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue that I learned it was far more than a metaphor.

She encouraged those who were sitting in this circle, which was not in a wilderness environment, but in an urban yoga studio, called Yoga on Main, with a sculpted in the shape of women holding hands candle with rose petals scattered around it, to transform from being The Energizer Bunny to a wise owl. I nodded knowingly, since for years I had embodied that long earred, pink hued drum beating critter, much to my own detriment.

It came as no surprise to me that as the evening played out, I came face to face with the hyper-fueled performance addict aspect of myself who felt she needed to keep proving herself over and over.  We were reminded that,  “A wise woman pauses, first to illuminate the path she has traveled these past nine months,” before taking action steps to draw the desired life experiences.

Part of the focus of the salon, as Arylo referred to it, was to acknowlege how far each of us had come in the previous nine months, as we approached the Fall Equinox that is a week hence. I dutifully made my list that included all of the tasks I have completed, the writing and teaching I have done, the trips I have taken, the relationships I have created, the health routine in which I am engaged, as well as the risks I have leapt into. Sure, when I look at the accounting of what I have done, I feel accomplished. That’s never been a problem. It is when I tell myself that I am not where I want to be in my career, that it seems inconsequential and the words, “If you are all that and a bag of chips, then you would be far more financially successful,” harangue me. During the workshop, I reminded myself that I have indeed been able to support myself by using my marketable skills and that it speaks volumes about the ingenuity and dedication it has taken to do so.

She then asked us to consider what we were ready to call in to our lives in the final few months of the calendar. Encouragement came in the form of allowing for spaciousness, rather than attempting to cram  as much as possible into my days and squeeze the juice out of my remaining years, as I am wont to do. I have told myself, especially as a result of a heart attack a bit more than two years ago, that I want to engage in life full out, not wasting a moment. The paradox is that I sometimes take on more than I can handle and end up feeling depleted physically and emotionally.

Arylo invited us to take a look at the areas in which we feel an imbalance. As I see astrological influences as another tool to help me understand my patterns and choices, this Libra craves balance. When asked to inquire, I have admitted that I don’t always walk the talk. Although I present as confident, self assured and masterful in most areas of my life, beneath the facade is a doubting woman who feels limited and lacking, witholding her truest sense of self at bay so as not to experience loss. As a therapist, I know how common it is and simultaneously futile. Loss occurs, no matter what we do to stave it off.

Another realm in which I need to attain balance is that of giving and receiving. There are literally times when I feel ‘all gived out,’ and what is termed in the mental health field ‘compassion fatigue’. Lately I have been allowing for self nurturing as well as for others to take care of me and do things for me that would have been unthinkable before.

Lastly, I have become acutely aware in the past few years, that I have a dichotomous relationship with food. I grew up with the idea that it is more than physical sustenance, but in addition, an expression of love and emotional nourishment. These days, it has become a way of self-medicating uncomfortable feelings. Although I wouldn’t say it comes close to an eating disorder, I know I need to have mindful conversations with myself about why I reach for certain foods at particular times. Arylo suggested that for herself, when she has cravings, she places it on a 1-10 scale and if something is a 7 or lower, she says no to it. I will use that measure as well to assist me in changing my interactions with food.

By the end of the evening, I found myself with a renewed sense of motivation to allow for myself to be witnessed and understood by  these women (some younger, some older) who are going through their own life transformation in a safe and sacred circle.

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When Women Gather In Circles

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

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APA Reference
Weinstein, E. (2019). When Women Gather In Circles. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2019
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