Creating your own Red Tent Women’s Circle

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Red Tent Day is a modern day movement that shares it’s roots with the Suffragettes, second wave feminism and all the places women have been meeting together since the beginning of time. We also call the Red Tent a “Women’s Circle,” as it is a place for women to meet, share and heal together.

Deanna Lam, founder of Red Tents In Every Neighbourhood founded International Red Tent Day to bring more awareness to this work. On November 8th, attend a Red Tent in your area OR invite a group of women together and create your own circle.

Creating a Red Tent Circle

A Women’s Circle is simply a space for women to come together, meeting in a space of equality, where the important work of talking and Being together happens.

Red Tent Women’s Circles are characterised by this same space that has also been decorated with luscious red drapery. Women’s Circles don’t actually require decoration, yet it does make it feel all the more juicy! The most important requirement of a Women’s Circle is that the participants feel safe and have a willingness to be there.

Some Circles will have one or two women who are facilitating the space and any activities. Meeting in a circle has the symbolism of being without hierarchy. Everyone is equal in a circle. Aligned with this idea, some groups will choose to have no facilitator, and simply go with the flow…

It’s my experience that Circles with a facilitator do flow better, because the focus is held more securely. When women get talking, they could end up anywhere! The main thing that differentiates a Women’s Circle from a Girls’ Night Out is that the Circle has an intention. Some women will prefer to attend a session with a theme or at the least, where they know the facilitator has experience in holding space. Circles usually have a clear start, intentional content and closure.

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For the most part, there are two types of Circles :
1. Professional Circles
2. Circles With Friends

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1. Professional Circles

Within the modern Red Tent Movement, it is most common for the Circles to be facilitated by a woman who has experience with group therapy or self-help retreat-style work. Women pay to attend, and the facilitator will provide a professional service that blends many therapeutic modalities/activities into one space.

When women come together with the intention of speaking about the Things We Don’t Talk About, ‘stuff’ can come up. It is important that the facilitator can hold the space for the ‘stuff’ and gently direct the group if the territory gets difficult.

Facilitating a Women’s Circle is akin to facilitating a group therapy session. It’s no surprise that many of the women who end up in this role are also often psychotherapists, counsellors or healing professionals. For a Circle to feel safe for the participants a facilitator needs to be; confident with boundaries (internal and external fences), be unconditional in her rapport with each participant, and be without judgment of the stories that may arise. This is not a simple task and requires practice.

If you are thinking of holding a Red Tent Circle, check in with your motivation. Facilitating this type of space requires deep self reflection, more often than you think it will. This is not the position for being in charge, or teaching lessons. If that’s your jam, offer a class instead. Certainly, people who make good leaders also make good Circle facilitators, and many do offer both – AND it’s important to recognise when one is being offered over the other. Many of the same personality and behavioural traits are shared between people in both roles.

Themes in the Red Tent will be whatever is relevant to your community. I’ve been facilitating Women’s Circles since 2003, where we’ve covered everything from fairy tales to grief, abortion to birth, wellness to death, feminism to relationships, prostitution to mothering, literature to art….. There is no end to the possibilities, as long as it is relevant to your group.

2. Circles With Friends

This type of Circle is usually less formal, unpaid and can be with or without specific intention. It may be held at one friend’s house or even in a public outdoor space.

Some groups will choose to continue with a group facilitator yet they will swap facilitators each time they meet. In this way, there is still a focus held, yet everyone gets to take a turn. There are no leaders in this sense, AND everyone is able to choose a theme that interests them.

In groups of friends, the requirements of the facilitator may be different to that of a Professional. It is also generally accepted that each woman will look after her own needs. If ‘stuff’ comes up, the group works through it together, in the way of friends. Difficulties may arise, like any friendship group, but the women commit to sorting out problems together.

There are many benefits to creating Circles With Friends. The first Women’s Circle I was ever involved with was a group of 6 women with varied interests within a common framework of earth based spirituality. We met every two weeks and shared many special moments together, including births, miscarriages, marriage break ups and new romances. Each week a different woman would host the Circle at her house, introducing a topic for discussion, which ended in food sharing and chit chat.

If you intend to create a Circle With Friends, it can be beneficial to attend to housekeeping needs in the first meet-up, where a shared intention can be defined and ways to deal with conflict resolution agreed on from the get go.

Other thoughts :

Age group – if you decide to bring children and women together, will you be able to keep the content age appropriate? Will the adult women have ample space to explore adult needs if there are girls included. Defining your intention here may be helpful.

Herstory – my mentor thea Gaia often spoke to me about the importance of women changing the future by knowing our herstory. Although there are many resources on the internet, it is important if you are going to introduce information to women, that it comes from reliable sources. Please don’t simply quote a blog as factual feminist herstory. Do your research, learn what has been, and interpret what you Know in ways that are relevant and appropriate to the further understanding of your community.

Healing – Women’s Circles heal by women being together. A facilitator is not a healer. Each woman in a Circle is her own Wise Healer. Trust the process. Notice your tendencies to save women. Facilitators are not saving the world. Faciliators are supportive mentors who have the role of holding space for whatever comes up.

Possibilities are endless – thea Gaia described Women’s Circles as spot fires, little places being lit by the women who attend. Those women go away from the space, lighting fires wherever they go next. Some women will meet in other spaces, they will cross paths with women from other Circles.. eventually all the spot fires will join and we will have one power-full bonfire of women’s wisdom, lighting the way for future generations. You don’t know how what happens in your Circle will be used to light future spot fires. So trust the process, and trust your gifts, and trust the women to Be exactly what they need, now and later.

Women’s Circles come in many shapes and sizes. In this photo there are 13 girls/teens, 12 mamas/grandmamas and one dog, all Circling together in a Schoolie Bus converted into a luscious Red Tent Space.

 

Circle decorations can help focus the intention and direct the theme of the Circle.

 

It is a tradition in my Circles to end with a shared red thread ceremony (taught to me by Katherine Cunningham in a Starfire workshop many years ago). Each woman leaves with a length of yarn which is often tied around her wrist and worn to remember her Sistars.

 

Women’s Circles are healing spaces. Simply by bringing women together in authentic connection, where there is space for self reflection and acknowledging inner awareness, miracles happen.

 

At The Place in The Wilde we’ve converted an old Schoolie for our Circle space. When the weather is fine we use the round open-air lodge built by women from natural materials of the forest.
Women’s Circles can happen anywhere. This pic from a Red Tent I facilitated at the local public school for Girls’ Night.

 

Interested in reading more about the Red Tent?

Love you,

The article Creating your own Red Tent Women’s Circle was published by Hollie B., for the Institute for Self Crafting.

Feel free to share this article with your friends, by using the url : http://instituteforselfcrafting.com/redtentday/.

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