So there I was, in a candle-lit room full of flower petals and soft music dancing with other women hip-to-hip when I thought to myself, "OMG, I CAN'T BELIEVE I AM DOING THIS!"...but I also kind of liked it. Five years later, I was doing naked yoga with some of these same women on cliffs in on the South China Sea. How does even that happen, you ask? :)
Five years ago, I went to my first women's circle by accident... I had replied "yes" to an invitation for what I thought was a women's networking event, and to my surprise it was definitely NOT, but instead a full-on, feminine embodiment circle with women who were WAY MORE comfortable with sisterhood than I was.
But, about 35 minutes in, after first testing the room by making silly jokes to see if anyone else was not into it (stupid idea because everyone was into it), I surrendered to the session and actually began to like it. It cracked me open in a way I didn't know I was ready for.
Rewind to my pre-teen years: I was a 12 year old, flat-chested, brace-faced, acne-covered girl who was still adorably naive about the world, and extremely friendly and open to other girls. I had fallen in with a crowd of "faster" girls: they had good skin, good teeth, big(ger) breasts, and were already kissing boys. I hadn't realized how different we were because of the blissful naivete of young friendships. But then it all changed.
Suddenly I was "outed" as being uncool. All of my inadequacies were spotlighted and the girls who were once my "besties" became my "worsties". They not only bullied me by name-calling, but in an even more hurtful way (as girls do), they socially excluded me. I was passive-aggressively ignored, and not included in gatherings any more. I felt utterly alone. I felt my first case of depression. I felt extremely shameful that qualities in me that could not be changed were the ones perceived to be the least like-able.
This was a pivotal turning point in my life as a female.
It taught me to do two things: 1) Be an "includer" to other girls who feel lonely and isolated (because I knew how lonely it felt) and 2) Avoid big groups of women like the plague.
While that was working for me for awhile, soon I realized that I was actually unable to make genuine friendships because even though I was an "includer", I never fully allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to other girls (especially groups) for fear of a future social exclusion 'attack'.
But I went on to be a successful woman anyway. I excelled in the academic and professional world, I climbed every ladder and when I got to the top, I would look around and think "That's it?" Something was missing. I didn't know it at the time, but it was my relationship to the Feminine.
Fast forward to my accidental attendance in the women's circle... I was finishing up my PhD and was beginning to have a terrible time living "inside my head" every day as a result of writing a dissertation day and night. I would do yoga, meditation, swimming--but even these were not really quelling my brain's chatter. I didn't know how to be in my body anymore.
After my first night at the women's circle, I slept better than I had in months. We were introduced to Feminine embodiment practices of dance, feeling physical pleasure, and play. I hadn't ever considered these "feminine", but when I did them, I immediately felt reconnected to my inner-little girl and got out of the inner-father who was dictating my regimented writing life. I reignited my desire to connect with the Divine Feminine in all her forms.
It was then I began to recognize that early on in my life, I was mostly exposed to the shadow side of the Feminine. Qualities like jealousy, competition, gossip, and betrayal were the majority of my initial experiences with girls (and women). As a result of this, I felt extremely guarded and afraid of my own inner-Femininity (as well as other women's). I had never been exposed to how the Light side of the Feminine can operate when given the chance.
I began to take to heart The Awakening Women's Sisterhood Manifesto (see below) and used it daily in my interactions with men and women. I began to lean into my Feminine qualities of spontaneity, creativity, cooperativeness, and flow much more than I had before. I began feeling lighter, more heart-centered, whole, and HAPPIER than ever. Once I began to chart my menstrual cycle and understand how it influenced my social, career, and personal life, it was like I was a new woman.
I feel that women's circles gave me countless benefits, but if I had to list a few, they would be that they helped me:
Express myself honestly
Trust my intuition
Be in the moment with my emotions
Understand feminine archetypes in me and others
Trust other women
Give to others without obligation
Ask for what I need without guilt
Identify my boundaries
Practice self-compassion no matter how I am feeling
Combining women's circles with a thoughtful study of the divine Feminine, archetypal expressions of females, the Heroine's Journey, and the evolution of feminism (I did say I was academic!), I found an important aspect of my work that would come to fruition later.
Fast forward to the birth of GrowthQuests. I knew I wanted to help clients on their inner-journeys, but I hadn't anticipated how many of their journeys would mimic my own. It began to be very common for my female clients to describe similar scenarios: they had been bullied as girls, they had leaned into their masculine energy as a way to excel, they succeeded in the business or academic world, but soon they felt out of touch with other women and themselves. They too wanted to get back in touch with the Feminine, but most didn't know how.
I began to imagine ways to create women's circles of my own--ones that would take the principles I enjoyed from those I had attended, and combine them with Growth-Play to make them even more pragmatic (because we learn by doing).
I created She-Quest: A Heroine's Journey as a way to introduce a very common inner-journey that women take. Later, as a mother I recognized the transition to motherhood is also an invitation to reconnect to the Feminine, and created Mum-Quest. And now, I have created Her-Quest as a space for women who were like me five years ago: and would not normally like a women's circle, but are also still yearning for that something missing in their lives.
For those who are reading who are closer to "OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE I AM DOING THIS!" than Naked Yoga (!!) I want you to know I designed Her-Quest to be specifically for YOU (although the Naked Yogis would like it too!). Each session is carefully crafted for you to experience a wide variety of holistic Feminine embodiment practices in a transparent (I tell you why they are helpful), practical (you realize how to use them immediately), and enjoyable (fun!) way. You are introduced to Feminine energy in a safe, nourishing, and familiar way.
Regardless of your experience with the shadow Feminine, you will learn compassion for it, yourself and the best practices for you to highlight the LIGHT. And you just might leave liking women's circles... and other women for that matter. (I won't hold my breath for the naked yoga though...) :)