This post originally appeared on my personal blog, Fumbling for Words, in October 2010 when I was imagining Sophia Leadership into existence.
As life and time take me further and further away from that incredible circle of women who met by a lake last weekend, I continue to reflect back on the powerful things that can emerge when we sit together and imagine “what transformation can we birth if we share our hearts in circle and story?”
Let me share one of the stories I’ve brought with me from that weekend…
In the middle of the afternoon on our third day together, we had free time to replenish ourselves in whatever ways we needed to. Two beautiful older women (“crones”, we came to call them, and not in a negative way) who brought the wisdom of the labyrinth into our circle invited me to join them in creating a labyrinth out of the fallen leaves outside our meeting room. I was eager to join them, but knew that first I needed some time to myself to wander in the woods.
The golden energy of so much wisdom and authenticity and yearning and love that had been shared around the circle that afternoon carried me off into the woods on a cloud of peace and fullness. Or perhaps, to use a more personal analogy – carried me off on a horse named Sophia. We had been sharing that afternoon about how much we yearned for more feminine wisdom and energy in our workplaces, our halls of learning, and our communities.
Punctuated throughout our circle time that weekend, and again as I headed into the woods for some personal time with God and Gaia, were the sounds of gunshots from the other side of the lake. Geese hunters, we presumed.
The sharp contrast of the circular, gentle, feminine energy on one side of the lake and the violent, loud, masculine energy on the other side of the lake was a constant reminder of the tensions that exist for all of us. Not only in society as a whole, but within each of us individually, there exists both masculine energy (animus, from Jungian psychology – rational, direct, practical, assertive qualities) and feminine (anima – creative, intuitive, feeling, visionary qualities). Both have beauty and yet both have the possibility of becoming corrupt or too all-encompassing.
As I followed the path through the woods, and listened to the rustling of the leaves, the honking of the geese flying overhead, and the occasional gunshot across the lake, I found myself yearning to (figuratively) row into the middle of the lake to meet the men for a pow wow. To move past the tensions and find a way for the masculine and feminine energy to co-exist without either swallowing the other up. To encourage both men and women to embrace their feminine side along with their masculine side. Yin and yang together in a circle.
Despite the gunshots, the walk through the woods replenished me as I knew it would, but then something happened to deplete my energy once again. Near the end of the trail, someone had dumped a lot of big household garbage – an old couch, old appliances, etc. Standing there with the tranquility of the woods behind me, and the jarring presence of garbage in front of me, I found the sadness welling up within me. This garbage suddenly represented oil spills, the plastic island floating in the middle of the ocean, and all of the other travesties humans are causing all over the world (including, shamefully, the garbage that comes from my own household.)
What blights we allow to appear all around us when we stop caring about the way we treat our earth!
Carrying on down the path, I spotted a path marker – a weathered old wooden sign standing with its back to me. When I reached it, and read what was written on the front, I stopped short. Just one word – “Lifeline.”
In that moment, God whispered in my ear “You are called to offer a lifeline. All of those things that saddened you back there – the tension with the (distorted) masculine energy across the lake, the garbage marring the face of Mother Earth – they represent a lot of lost and hurting hearts. They need a lifeline. Badly. And it’s you. And your circle of powerful women.”
Wow. That’s a pretty huge calling! I felt a little shaky. I had to stand there for a moment before I was ready to move on.
As I got closer to the retreat centre, I paused for a few more photos in the woods. On the ground, half buried in dry leaves, I spotted something white that was clearly not organic. Moving the leaves away, I realized it was a bowl.
I almost ignored it, but then the voice came again “you can’t do anything about the couch or all of that big garbage, but you CAN do something about this bowl.” Right. Just do my small piece.
So I picked up the bowl and carried on. As I fingered it, though, it became more than just a ceramic bowl someone had discarded. It became a begging bowl, like the ones the Buddhist monks carry into the village every day, trusting that it will be filled with just enough food to sustain them for that day. It was a reminder that, if I am called to offer a lifeline, I also need to trust that God and my village will sustain me with the energy and hope that I need every day.
Back at the retreat centre, I found the women near completion of the labyrinth. I rejoiced with them as they swept the last of the leaves into their designated circles.
And then, because it seemed like the right thing to do, I walked to the centre of the labyrinth and danced with my begging bowl, honouring the labyrinth, and honouring this incredible circle of women who were filling my bowl with so much goodness to sustain me for my journey away from the circle and into my future.
Note: it is never my intention to point blame when I talk about “masculine energy” or to imply that men have it wrong (gunshots) and women have it right (circles). That would be far too simplistic and not at all what I believe. I do, however, believe that we have not sufficiently learned to blend the feminine in with the masculine when it comes to leadership and organizational structures in our politics, communities, businesses, and homes, which is why I am working on launching my Sophia Leadership site soon.