The ‘birth’ of my first women’s circle

Purple Flower

Read about Karima’s first women’s circle in India and how it taught her a new way of sharing with her girlfriends.

Karima Hinterleitner

It was 1993 or 1994, I had been living in India for a few years in a spiritual commune learning how to meditate and live consciously. During lunch with two of my girlfriends, a crucial moment happened when one of them spoke:

“I would love to find a new way of sharing with my female friends. I am tired of sharing something and then having the other person immediately respond with their own experience without fully listening to me. It really frustrates me. I feel I don’t have enough space and don’t feel heard or understood.”

And so a discussion between the three of us began on how to do it differently. We were brainstorming for a couple of days on what would feel more respectful or honouring. This is what we came up with:

We would meet once a week at a set time in the evening. We were about 10 to 12 women. After one or two meetings we decided to close the door at an agreed time and whoever was late couldn’t come in anymore. It felt more respectful that way. We also decided on a closing time so we would all get enough sleep. We would sit in a circle with a ‘talking stick’ in the center. This could be any object like a feather or a crystal or anything that can be held.

The format was very simple:

Whoever wanted to speak would take the talking stick. Once someone held the talking stick it was her time to speak for as long as she wanted to. We didn’t time it and there were no restrictions on content. The invitation was to speak truthfully and honestly about whatever was going on for each of us.

Everybody else would simply be present and listen attentively, resting in their hearts. The atmosphere was accepting and non-judgmental. Nobody else was allowed to speak except the woman with the talking stick. There was no cross talk, no feedback, no advice giving, just pure, respectful space for each woman to share. Once one of us was complete we would put the talking stick back into the center and whoever wanted to go next would take it. Not every woman shared at every meeting.

I remember how powerful this experience was. It felt like we had remembered something ancient that had probably existed in many cultures and we were bringing back a sacred way of sharing amongst women.

The power of these circles kept revealing itself.

Just sitting in the circle would allow me to connect deeply with myself. Feelings, memories and insights would surface.

I remember one circle where I didn’t speak yet cried the whole time because I was going through a relationship break-up. I had a big pile of tissues sitting in front of me by the end and I felt relieved and unburdened. I didn’t have to explain why I was crying and nobody ‘saved’ me or gave advice. I could just be with my pain and I felt so much better.

Week after week, circle after circle, we could feel that this worked. What we were longing for was happening. We felt listened to, understood, respected and all this without dialogue.

One interesting discovery really surprised us – it seemed that the moment we were only women in the room something changed in us and between us. A space was created and we were aware that even if only one man would be in the room, the energy would change. I call this phenomenon now ‘female medicine’.

It just felt really good, relaxing, supportive, and it was creating more space and depth internally. It allowed me to be real and remember myself. From that experience I have come to call the women’s groups that I facilitate ‘Women Remembering’.

We had many circles and each time I felt nourished at the end, whether I had spoken or not. Listening to other women gave me insights and helped me to accept myself more, especially my struggles. My heart grew bigger and I felt more acceptance and compassion in general.

Now women’s circles are wide spread and this timeless ritual is being remembered again worldwide. What a blessing!

I have been facilitating women’s groups for more than 20 years now. The groups are two or three days with rituals designed to allow the women to bond. After the group the women are invited to meet at least once a month for their circle. It is so heart-warming that some of these circles are still meeting after 10 years.

A participant from one of these weekends recently told me:

“I was 28 years of age when I did the women’s group 10 years ago. I felt I actually became a woman that weekend. It changed the way I related with women from then on.  For the first time in my life I felt I could truly trust women. These feelings have continued and deepened since then and I still relish my monthly circles with my women’s group”.