I love circles! Circles are without beginning or end–round and round we go in the circle of life. Reflecting on childhood, I realize many toys involved circles: rings; coins; balls; hula hoops … Even eyes, windows to the soul and the instruments of seeing, are circles. A circle is a universal symbol of unity, wholeness, and infinity without sides or corners. Some define it as a female power symbol, “Mother Earth-centered” and representing the feminine spirit, a sacred space.

For centuries, women’s circles have been built around the experience of connection, such as gathering to sew in community efforts that were far more than making quilts for warmth. Quilts can symbolize intimate stories often unspoken elsewhere, yet shared by women in the comfort of each other’s company. Resulting friendships and bonding reflect the uniting of individual patchwork squares. In this safe environment, held within the whole of the circle, each woman knows she is part of a community in which her presence adds value and is a unique component of the finished artistry.

Despite rumors of modern technology separating people, women routinely join together to share life’s richness. Whether discussing careers, changing bodies/health issues, relationships, children, joys, trials/tribulations, even spiritual interests, we yearn for connectedness, seeking answers in the comfort of women friends. My long-term friendships, and years of running events targeting boomer women and their issues, have inspired my belief that women value female friendships because emotionally intimate connection is essential to how we experience and understand ourselves. Women are natural nurturers and relationship is important to wholeness and balance.

For authentic friendship to grow, emotional intimacy is essential. The willingness to be totally open (“warts and all”) enables us to truly see and be seen. Everyone has at least one “skeleton” locked away. It is within the context of genuine friendship that we can relax, lower defenses and release demons. Mutually respectful sharing, really listening to each other and remaining open to hearing honest feelings, even if initially difficult, can ultimately serve as a pivotal awakening, offering freedom and ease.

In the early 2000’s, during an informal girls’ night out with a few friends, I asked everyone’s year-long goals. That led to idea-sharing and ongoing mutual support, which was the genesis of my inspirational workshops called The Idea Circle for Women. These programs, which now frequently number closer to 60 participants, are for women who want to enhance some part of their life while seeking connection. They feature various experts, with a local nonprofit receiving a percentage of the proceeds. As often happens when we reach out, in addition to inspiring others (including an aspiring author who manifested her vision with the ongoing support of circle members), the circles have been fulfilling to my soul, as well.

In 2008, after decades of working in corporate America and traveling throughout the country, I, like so many, became unemployed, in my mid-fifties and in search of my next chapter. Having defined myself by my job, recovery was difficult. After my husband, I turned to my circle of women friends for strength and comfort. They reminded and showed me it is essential to nurture my health and well-being. This experience illuminated my sense of purpose, cementing my belief in women’s need to gather, support and empower each other for following dreams and achieving wellness.

Circles can soften difficulties, helping us navigate life’s stages while enhancing the joys. Remember teen years fraught with fears of judgment and criticism? Projects such as the Washington State based Teen Talking Circles (Teentalkingcircles.org) offer a safe space for youth to find their voice and listen with compassion. Such environments transform participants and, by extension, everyone they encounter. The same happens for women’s gatherings from our 20’s through our senior years. I see women over 40 who, shaped by life experience, release ego and prioritize community (local and global), so gossip and back-stabbing diminish and nourishment and nurturing predominate. This results in deeper connection and balance. Women’s circles help participants heal while also considering the world’s well-being.

Anyone can start a circle to enhance meaning and purpose. Circles can be comprised of any number of women…50, 10, even 2. Every circle differs and is formed by each individual’s personal contribution and perspective. Exploration, candor, and withholding of judgment enable deep reflection and insights. Start with a goal/objective, such as a book club or “Girl’s Night Out.” Set a specific meeting time, perhaps weekly or monthly, keeping the schedule consistent to remind everyone this time is sacred to the group. Consider rotating locations, with the host picking the topic or sharing their area of expertise.

Instead of viewing running in circles as aimless, may this inspire you to join/create a circle of women with whom you can discover wholeness, direction and a renewed sense of self.

 

Anne Garland is Founder and Director of Anne Garland Enterprises and The Idea Circle for Women. Her upcoming events include Women Honoring Women, Sunday, May 20, and Women’s Empowerment 2012, October 2. She will host Natural Awakenings Networking event May 23 (details in news briefs) and is reachable at: 860-575-4970, anneg@annegarlandenterprises.com, annegarlandenterprises.com.