Lauren Tatarsky is the facilitator of Ann Arbor’s Women’s Circle, a private practice Spiritual Guide at Inspired Life Counseling. Here she shares her first person perspective of joining Woman Within International.
What need attracts women there? What outcome?
My experience was that a lot of women came because they had a desire to connect with other women. Many shared that they struggled in their relationships with women and wanted to pursue more supportive connections. Many were also drawn because they desire a space for personal growth among a tribe of women. I remember a number of voices about personal healing in the company of wise and loving women. I also know a number of women who had friends or family members who had gone and so came almost solely based on the high recommendation.
Personal healing and connection to a community of women. I’m thinking this question and the first question, though different, actually have the same answer. I think women receive exactly what they come for. It is a powerful weekend that does in fact accomplish the desires shared above in amazing ways.
Does the retreat space meet the goals in your experience?
Yes, beautifully. I went to the retreat in Julian, California, outside of San Diego. The retreat space was in a beautiful setting, meals were delicious, spaces were supportive of the process. Some women may have been surprised that we slept in large rooms with many bunk beds and shared bathrooms. I found them quite comfortable.
When in life is this coming into focus for many women? Are there common times of life like menopause or healing from divorce that this experience uplifts for people in your experience?
I think a lot of women felt themselves to be in a time of transition and in need of new inspiration, direction, healing from the past, a supportive and loving environment (many had so little of this in their own lives). Since the retreat is open to all women over 18, the details of these transitions varied. Yes, I do think many came after a divorce and/or empty nest situation. Some came, like me, out of college and looking for personal growth and community. Others because they were of an age where they wanted to share their wisdom with younger women and be honored as an elder. Still others because they felt lost and needed to find themselves again, or something painful had occurred in their lives and they needed to find a way back home to themselves.
Why is it transformative?
Great question. I think it’s transformative first and foremost because it creates a sacred container for women, in a way that has been lost in our culture for too long now. It brings back the essence of red tent times, of times when women knew how to be with one another in our journeys. The rituals, conversations, and activities are all conducted in a very sacred way. There is a lot of space for internal connection and exploration as well as deep sharing and support. There is significant emphasis on women supporting women and powerful rituals that allow this to occur in an embodied way. It is an experiential retreat, where one experiences being held by other women, being seen and understood, engaging in deeply healing rituals and conversations that allow women to release old wounds and open to new life.
Why does it work?
Aha, the mystery. The energy exchange between women that occurs in a sacred container? The power of ritual? The power of holding sacred space for each other’s healing? The safety and permission? The acceptance and love? The sacred setting? It’s a mixture of factors that come together to create transformation, both a science and an un-nameable thing.
How did you feel in it and after it?
At first I felt nervous, not knowing any women or what was about to happen. This is to be expected. It didn’t take long for the experience to ease us and welcome us in. I felt like it was a transcendent experience. Otherworldly. It was like a craving deep in my bones had been wholly satisfied. I also had a deeply healing experience that created a sense of profound connection to myself, to other women, and to the ultimate sacred. It has represented a home-base for my experience of who I really am and what our human existence is really about.
Given the rise in consciousness around female empowerment in recent events, what need do you see Woman Within responding to? Do you see it growing?
I really imagine it growing, but I am always surprised by how few women know about the organization. More men know about ManKind Project than women know about Woman Within. I’m really not sure why. I find myself thinking that Woman Within created a powerful foundation for the rise of women we are seeing today. Perhaps, in an unseen way, they were part of making what we see now more possible. I see that they are evolving a bit with the times and adding new kinds of retreats. It will be interesting to see how it evolves.
What are E Circles? How do women continue this work together?
E Circles are groups of women who meet regularly after having attended a Woman Within weekend. After your retreat, the agency will connect you with other women in your area who either have an E Circle already operating that is open to new members, or they will connect you with other women who have attended the retreat and are looking to start a circle. More experienced women in your area will train your group to start your own, based on the powerful and amazing principles of the retreat. Some of these circles have been going on for many, many years. The circles contain a lot of ritual and communication elements that you engage in at the retreat, so the level of depth is profound, available, and supported by the tools the agency provides.
Briefly, do your current women’s group and retreat designs incorporate Woman Within concepts?
In some respects. Since the women in my circles here have not been to the retreat, we are not an official E Circle and there isn’t the essential foundation for some of the experiences that E Circles can engage in. But I do draw on my experiences in my own circles to open and close our group, and I personally try to use their tools as much as I can to guide the conversation throughout.
What is the status of the local network that is forming of women’s circles?
We are assessing interest, gathering women, and figuring out how a network might come together. It is nascent, but clearly desired. We have a lot of resources for any woman who wants to start a circle and can direct our list of interested women to anyone who wants to step up and coordinate, with guidance we’d be happy to provide. So collecting women and responding to what arises is our current strategy.
The next, closest to Ann Arbor retreat is in Mt. St. Francis, Indiana, August 10–August 12, 2018. Registration is $725. More information can be found on the womanwithin.org calendar.