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womenGroup

Women’s Groups

Life is busy, time is precious, and for many women, making time to explore their femininity often gets shelved for more seemingly important matters. Whats more, this venture is often translated to an appointment at the gym or beauty spa or involves following some sort of sensible diet (not that theres anything wrong with that!). Increasingly however, many women are searching for something more profound and supportive in exploring their inner feminine world and the ancient notion of establishing a womens community is making a comeback. Welcome to the womens group.

Psychotherapist and womens group facilitator, Mim Bartlett, runs monthly womens groups in Melbourne and has recently published a manual for women to create their own monthly groups. She says for many, it”s this feeling that our internal and external worlds are out of kilter that is driving women to seek out a group. œOur culture is so focused on the outside world and materialism and gaining things and looking after ourselves on the physical side, but theres such a lack of focus or attention about our inner world and whats going on for us internally. Women just feel, Im doing all this on the outside but on the inside I just feel just lacking, life doesnt feel so meaningful.

Sharing the tough stuff

Though a lot of women have many good close relationships with other women, Mim says, we are more comfortable sharing our joys and the everyday life stuff but not necessarily the more private hardships. œNot many women feel comfortable really sharing their inner challenges, the things that theyre really struggling with and I think that to have an outlet where they dont necessarily know other women but they can go to a place thats very confidential and share that and also hear from other women and therefore not feel so isolated and alone in their challenges is very beneficial.

Being heard

In many womens groups, women are able to speak uninterrupted and without any counsel given by those listening. Mim says, often when we listen to someone we are already forming our response as the person speaks and giving someone feedback is many times a reflex action in conversation, as is, how we respond to the feedback. œTheres something very safe and healing about knowing that you can just say whatever you want and that youre not relying on peoples external cues to work out what youre going to say next because were very socialised to please people, says Mim. She says having limited feedback in a womens circle allows the person sharing to not have to consider these cues and speak freely. œWomen are invited to respond either by how what someone said impacted them or what it reminds them of in their life. This way they own their experience and dont just give advice.

You’re not alone

Listening to other peoples challenges and issues can also be very normalising, says Mim. œWhen you share your issues or challenges and then other women share theirs, you realise youre not alone, you just feel theres a sense of relief about it and then theres a feeling of being part of a bigger community.

Community

œParticipating in a womens group is a real commitment to the feminine and the feminine isnt a solitary creature, she lives in community, says Jutka Freiman, a psychotherapist, who has been running monthly womens groups in Sydney for 15 years. œMost of us were brought up not really understanding what the feminine is and thinking that its got something to do with pierced bellybuttons and a gyrating six pack and thats really not it, she says. Jutka notes other misunderstandings around the feminine, such as looking as young as we possibly can or attracting many men and then being competitive around this. œIts not about doing, because weve all become such human doing and its not about being the best or in anyway competitive but it really is about sitting in community and in a sense the collective and thats really what the feminine is.

Supportive network

After initially running one-off workshops, Jutka noticed the same women kept returning to repeat the workshop and recognised that these women felt bereft of a supportive network. œI think the nuclear family has a lot to answer for in terms of the alienation and isolation of women. Men are great solitary creatures but women are not and its not because were co-dependent its because we are relational and we do much better when we are in a group.

Belonging

The majority of women that join Jutkas womens groups are between the ages of 38 to 58, but some are in their mid 20s or late 60s and early 70s. œMy experience is that women neglect their feminine for another time later in their life or when they can retire. Or they put it somewhere on the backburner, dry out and start to feel resentful and a bit cranky and lonely and start to experience their longing in a way that’s a bit depressing. She says many women try to conceal this by becoming even busier. œThe big mistake we make so often is to do more of what doesnt work and eventually we realise that really we have to bring our being to our longing and find that belonging and our community is just that.

Aurora, 43, joined a women’s group in search of support during a particularly difficult time in her life. œI thought that the idea of a protective circle of women around me would help in my darkness and my aloneness. To her surprise, Aurora says she feels protection and the support and encouragement of the group around her at all times, not just when she meets with the group.

œI think that the women’s group filled that space for me, which is a deep yearning for a very deep connection with women. I think there are limited opportunities outside of intimate relationships in our society to have that. œWhat I really honour about the group is the lack of superficiality and small talk which I actually find really dilutes communication between women. I prefer that the group is more sacred than social, it’s very different to my friendships. Finding women who share similar hopes and are dedicated to a spiritual journey has also been valuable, says Aurora. œThats really healing for me to be around women like that because my childhood and previous years has been around women who sabotaged that. Aurora

Ancient wisdom

Womens group facilitator and spiritual therapist, Karima Hinterleitner has been running womens groups for 18 years in India, Australia, Finland, Russia and her birthplace Germany. After living in a commune for two decades in India and having facilitated regular womens groups there, Karima says, one of the clearest messages she had before she left was œgo out into the world, do womens groups and set up womens circles. Karima structures her groups around ˜remembering the feminine and runs an intensive weekend workshop in Sydney to initiate participants into a womens group. After this weekend, the women meet monthly as a group without facilitation but with some established rules, such as a talking stick and an adherence to strict confidentiality around whatever is shared within the group. Through this safe set up, Karima says women learn to be themselves more, and are able to share without judgment and without singling out certain personal characteristics and saying ˜I can only be accepted if I am this. œWhen women come together in that way, to just be together in the heart, it seems to create a magical space, a space for healing and a space of relaxation. My feeling is we connect with something there that is absolutely ancient and has for sure been practised for centuries in many different cultures. Womens groups allow our intrinsic wisdom to come to the surface, says Karima.

Regular ritual

Bianca, 34, joined one of Karimas workshops and though initially she was content with the workshop she soon realised she wanted that experience more often. œIt provided a space to process what was happening in my life and also to learn so much about other people in a really beautiful, gentle environment. I realised that in my daily life I didnt have a space like that to be in. Having a monthly ritual is also a significant benefit, says Bianca. œI don’t think people have many rituals in modern life and that is an essential part of the group, the group would be half of what it is without the ritual. The monthly meetings also allow women to check in each other on a regular basis, she says. œIts amazing the journey that weve chartered for each of us in the group and that were still there for each other six years later.

MIRIAM HECHTMAN

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Authors Website: http://movingtrainsproductions.wordpress.com

Profile: Miriam Hechtman is a writer, researcher and producer. She has covered diverse topics including workplace health, ethical investment, climate change, business, green buildings and travel. From methane digesters in San Francisco and lake salt discovery in Western Australia, to the inspiring tales of Holocaust survivors, she has had the privilege to give voice to a kaleidoscope of issues for an ever widening audience. An avid traveller, she has spent much time abroad on trains, planes and buses, meeting fascinating people with extraordinary stories. Her intention is to enquire into her subject matter with depth, curiosity and insight. Her Blog: http://movingtrainsproductions.wordpress.com

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