I just adjourned the 2013 women’s writing retreat, a five-day immersion into Self in a beautiful, simple retreat setting. This year I did the “Women’s Circle, Women’s Story” format that I’ve used over time. It’s pretty timeless — circle and story are two ancient forms of knowing, and writing is a more contemporary one.
One of the members stated a simple truth as we began the closing process: “This particular circle of women, having this particular experience, is unique in all of time. It will never be this again.”
So true. And so extraordinary, in its simplicity and its complexity. This particular circle will never be recreated, but the process is recreated endlessly — the gathering, the deep breath of hope and fear, the plunge into authenticity, the rawness, the vulnerability, the strength, the breakdown, the breakthrough. The laughter, the tears, the kleenex boxes shoved across radius and circumference. The poetry. The art. The spontaneity. The vision. The spirals, loops, echoes. The deep knowing, the deep trust, the deep process, the deep dive. These circles are happening everywhere. Some of the most effective are writing circles.
I do this for a living. It surprises me still, that my work in the world is to be a transformer. Twenty-seven years ago, when I was a second-year counseling graduate student, I sat in the back yard, in a lawn chair, drinking sun tea with fresh mint from the garden, reading a textbook by Jacquelyn Small called Transformers: Therapists of the Future and experiencing an undeniable awakening. My spine was pulsing with electricity; my hair felt as if it were standing straight out from my head. I felt like my finger was in a socket of cosmic announcement: She’s talking about you. You’re a transformer. Off you go.
The work ten women did in circle last week was transformational. Many of them said that they believe the experience over time will represent, in Progoff’s language, a steppingstone. Something fundamental shifted. The past changed, because the present understanding of it changed. Years, decades, sometimes a whole lifetime of struggle cracked open and there was room in the heartspace for something new and fresh: Lightness, joy, gratitude, expansiveness, release, forgiveness, delight, surrender. Transformation.
I learned long ago that while I’m actually quite good at facilitating group process, the smartest and most important thing I do in any circle is get myself out of the way. When I step aside, I make room for the ineffable. Call it grace, Spirit, magic, Mystery, synchronicity — it answers to many names. When it is present, I become the hollow reed through which Spirit whistles, the flute of the Divine.