||For the Goddess in You
A Quarterly Column
by Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
Creating New Connections:
How to Form a Woman’s Spirituality Group
“Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we
come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” --Starhawk, from Dreaming the Dark
We all enhance our lives and our power in the world when we learn how to bring together like-minded friends and acquaintances to partake in gatherings that offer a safe and sacred space in which women can be open and authentic, and where we can share
ritual, make declarations and make wishes.
Not since the heyday of feminism have we seen such a desire and need for women to come together for mutual support, empowerment, ceremony and celebration.
Unlike the consciousness raising groups of the women’s revolution, these are consciousness groups devoted to women’s evolution.
A landmark UCLA study of female friendships confirmed the healing power of women's friendships.” Female Responses To Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight," published in Psychological Review several years ago, said gathering with friends in a
nurturing way lowers the stress and strain of daily life. Rather that the typical "fight or flight" response believed to be triggered in people under stress, the study suggested women have a more expansive repertoire of behaviors. We release brain chemicals that urge us to
gather with other women, as well as tend children (or others). The more time spent with friends, the more oxytocin is released -- not just counter-acting stress but inspiring a sense of calm and well-being.
The biggest challenge is, if the group does not have a clear cut intention, and the leadership responsibilities are unclear, you risk having a sacred circle turn into a stressful circle. Whether you are planning on knitting together, or performing rituals
and candle lighting ceremonies, ground rules are important for any group. And it is important each member knows them. Otherwise, even the most conscious people can tend to slide into the behavior of acting out family dynamics. Eventually, you will feel like a bunch of kids in
a sandbox, all acting out to get needs met in the group.
Here are 13 tips for a smooth experience:
1. Clarify leadership roles. Makes sure there are a couple of people--preferably more--willing to do a little extra and keep it going and flowing.
2. Figure out logistics at the beginning. Decide to alternate homes and discuss how this will be handled each month. If you want a regular meeting place, be willing to chip in for a reliable location or give a love offering to the member who offers her
home all the time. If you want to plan trips, outings, events in the park, decide who is responsible for which aspect.
3. Set a group intention at the start. Be willing to change it as the group’s needs change.
4. Set the boundary of confidentiality. Create a safe space and maintain a safe space. Do not bring the stories and the glories heard in the group out into the world, unless you have permission from the individual or individuals involved.
5. Clarify your membership perimeters. Is it an opened group or a closed group? What must people do to join? Just show up? Demonstrate a commitment? Who decides? Is there a membership council or an open-door policy?
6. Be clear on the commitment expected from members--and be flexible. If the group is to serve them, how would they serve the group? What can everyone add to the group?
7. Is there a joint project that the group can take on together? An annual meeting where anyone can come and share? An international peace project? A project in your own backyard to help women in need?
8. Prepare for potential issues with people in the group. Know that groups breed group dynamics, no matter how spiritual people are. How will you handle it if you start treating your Goddess-sisters like your mother or acting your family patterns? How
will the group handle emotional outbursts--or avoid them? How will you stay clear of having the group turn to group therapy and stick with spirituality?
9. Keep it clean spiritually be refusing to gossip. The best way to handle a problem between members is to suggest up front that if these things arise members should work it out amongst themselves unless all parties involved feel they need the support of
the group. If you want to hold council to help members in sticky situation or with hurt feelings, make sure the group is aligned and committed. Unresolved problems between members dissipate good energy at an alarming rate.
10. Discuss money. Will people bring a food offering for a pot luck gathering, or will there even be food? Should people pay dues, or a little something to go toward mailings and phone calls? Or will member alternate the cost of stamps and calls, or even
food? Get a sense of the fairest way to handle this.
11. If you have special speakers, how will it be handled? Will you take up a collection or charge a small price to offer the speaker. Will you allow them to sell books, tapes, wares? What is your policy on special meetings?
12. What is the tone of your group and how open and honest will you be? Make sure you are aligned on how intimate a group your group will be so that everyone can have both feet in the room and feel safe about sharing themselves.
13. Address inappropriate behavior early on. Lateness, too much talking, disruption of rituals, creating disharmony, eating at inappropriate times during ceremonies and other inappropriate behavior should be pointed out with love. Hopefully the person
who is disruptive will be guided to look at their own behavior, but it does not always work that way. This is a very challenge part of being in a group. Make sure you have group support if ever you must call someone on their behavior.
Create a Vision and a Mission Statement for the Group
This will help create the space for the group and its members to evolve into it. This can be ANYTHING you want. Here’s an example:
To be here in peace, for the good of all and all for the good.
To utilize this gathering to increase our own well-being while supporting the well-being of the group and its members.
To allow our highest, most honorable selves to connect and work with sacred energies and the mysteries to assist us in creating that which did not exist before.
To Honor the Goddess(es) in all of us.
Learn as much as you can
I highly recommend theses books:
Sacred Circles: A Guide To Creating Your Own Women’s Spirituality Group, by Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig, Harper SanFrancisco, 1998. Best book on the market to support the spiritual gathering of women in many contacts
outside of religion.
Calling The Circle: The First and Future Culture, by Christina Baldwin, Bantam Books, 1994. Terrific book on how to create council and formulate ground rules and safe spiritual environments for groups.
Magickal Connections: Creating a Lasting and Healthy Spiritual Group, by Lisa McSherry, 2007. It’s just out from New Page Books and addresses the needs of the pagan community but is applicable for groups in general as well.
Remember the Goddess Within
When women come together in a safe, sacred community there’s immediate connection and comfort. Sharing our stories, baring witness to one another’s challenges and empowering each other we find spiritual strength that can be utilized in all of life. Most
importantly, when women honor one another, we begin to see our own divine nature--the Goddess within.
© Copyright 2006 Rev. Laurie Sue
Brockway. All Rights Reserved.
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway is an interfaith minister and non-denominational wedding officiant who helps people get ready for love and marriage, and who blesses the unions of couples in love in unique and loving ceremonies. She is also widely
known as a specialist in women's spirituality, empowerment and feminine wisdom. She is author of
Wedding Goddess: A Divine Guide to Transforming Wedding Stress Into Wedding Bliss (Perigee Books, Spring 2005),
A Goddess Is a Girl's Best Friend: A Divine Guide To Finding Love, Success and Happiness
(Perigee Books, December 2002). Visit Rev. Laurie Sue at www.weddinggoddess.com.
For some inspiration, please check out this moving Goddess Meditation,
http://www.selfhealingexpressions.com/goddess_meditation.html, as well as my new course, Discover the Goddess,
Reverend Laurie Sue's Past Columns:
Spring/Summer 2006 - "Call Forth Your Spiritual Warrior with Joan of Arc"
Oct-Dec 2005 - "Be Still, and Celebrate with The Goddess of Good Fortune"
July-September 2005 - "The Zen Way To Bridal Balance"
January-February 2005 - "Goddess Reflections"
2004 - "My Enduring Relationship with the Man of
August-September 2004 - "Move Forward … Make Change …"
2004 - "Meet the Amazing Alexander Kent Garrett"
2004 - "13 Steps for Making Your Romantic Dreams
2003 - Bring Light and Healing to Your Family
for the Holidays
2003 - "Even In Midlife,
We Can All Use A Fairy Godmother"
2003 - "The Secret to Serenity"
2003 - "A
Gathering of Goddesses: Our Girlfriends Keep Us Real"
2003 - "Love Has Its Own Schedule"
2003 - "A Spring Time Reawakening To Soulful Love
and Self Love"
2003 - "Marry Yourself First..."
2002 - "Who is the Goddess?" & "The
2002 - "How to Clear Your Love Clutter"
2002 - "How to Mourn a Broken Heart and Lost
2002 - "Relationships That Nurture and Inspire
Growth of the Soul
2002 - "Finding Peace in a Turbulent World"
2002 - "Sacred Sexuality For Modern Men and
2002 - "When Someone You Love Pushes Your Buttons"
2002 - "When Life Has You Down, Remember You Are
2002 - "Plan a Valentine's Day Team Date"
2002 - "Do I Hear Him Knocking … From the Other
2001 - "How Do We Make Our Love Dreams Come True?"
2001 - "What is the Future of Love?"
2001 - "Getting to Know
the Goddess of Good Fortune"
2001 - "Can't Hurry Love... It Will Happen in Its Right Moment"
2001 - "Family Rituals Help Us Grow Into Loving Beings"
2001 - "Dreams Warn It’s Time To Own Your Power"
2001 - "A Fun Visual of Your Favorite Romance"
May 2001 - "Someday
Your Mystical Soul Mate Will Come"
2001 - "Enjoy the Merriment and Fun of An Ancient Love
2001 - "Nourish Yourself On a Date for One"
2001 - "Get Ready for Soulful Love"
TO SOULFUL THOUGHTS