Read an Excerpt
Women's Spirituality Today
When a woman begins to be aware of the divine spark within,
she will soon be faced with a decision whether to honor and
trust it....She is so accustomed to looking outside herself
for authority that the realization of God within is
radical and shattering. It changes everything.
The Yang Heart of Yin
It's our time. Women's time. The feminine divine is reemerging from centuries of repression at a time when we are sorely in need of inspiration, courage, and community. The energy of the Goddess, of the Great Mother, of Mary and Sarah and, Esther and Hagar is palpable. You can feel it in gatherings of women both large and small. You can see evidence of it in the marketplace, with goddess pendants, lunar calendars, and ritual supplies prominently featured in increasingly mainstream stores. And now these energies are burgeoning in the hearts of more and more regular folks as we gather together in small circles to explore our spirituality. Women's circles are becoming a holy ground of communion with the sacred.
Before we plunge right into the hows, wheres, and whys of creating women's spiritual community, we want to provide some background information for those of you who are stepping onto this path. For those of you who have already been actively shaping the world of women's spirituality, we offer our views and want to make our assumptions and perspectives clear at the outset. Herewith, then, is our "busy woman's" treatment of women's spirituality in the 1990s.
When we mentionthat we are in a women's spirituality group, people ask a remarkably similar group of questions. For instance, What do you mean by spirituality? What is a spirituality group? How is it distinct from other kinds of groups? Why is it only for women? Is this a new age thing? And, what is women's spirituality, anyway? These are our brief answers to such important and complex questions.
What Is Spirituality?
Our definition of spirituality will be, of necessity, an in-process one. In process because we find that our understanding of spirituality is always evolving. And of course there is no way to adequately define the essentially ineffable. As Scott Peck put it in his book A Different Drum, "We can define or adequately explain only those things that are smaller than we are....Sooner or later we inevitably run into a core of mystery." Yet there is nothing to lose in trying, as long as we remind ourselves that such "definitions" are never to be settled on for long.
Spirit comes from the Latin spirare, to breathe. In essence, our spirit is what animates and quickens us, what makes us alive. Spirituality, then, in our view, is the practice of staying consciously connected with what makes us alive, with our own selves, with one another, and with the Great Other.
Another aspect of spirituality is the part of us that strives to make existence meaningful. Are all these events and circumstances of our lives truly random and pointless, as agnostics and atheists would argue? Or is there some deeper design in our lives, in what happens to us, in our work, in our relationships? Knowing at the outset that we will never have all the answers, we embark on our spiritual journeys in order to make sense of our lives.
How would you define spirituality? How has it changed since you were a child? In the last five years? We invite you to formulate your own definition. What is it, and what role does it play in your life?
What Is a Spirituality Group?
A spirituality group is a self-selected gathering of people who want to explore, express, and develop their experience and understanding of spirituality. (Of course, there can be mixed-gender and men-only groups, but this book is about women-only groups.)
You might immediately ask how these groups are different from therapy or support groups. The lines between them sometimes blur. Therapy and the recovery movement are problem oriented. Support groups focus on painful pasts and obstacles for growth. People come to these groups to get "fixed" and to heal. Having participated in therapy and support groups, we know that both are important vehicles for growth. We also know there is a distinction between these and women's circles that is subtle yet profound. (Not being clear which kind of group you want can cause problems for groups. We discuss this further in chapter 4, "Creating the Circle,") Spirituality groups, while intensely personal, don't dwell on personalities but instead explore the archetypal, even heroic, patterns and journeys of people's lives.
Why Are These Groups Only for Women?
Some people find it paradoxical that women have been fighting for theright to work side by side with men for decades and yet still, in the1990s, want to sequester themselves in women-only activities. We findthis quite logical. Even though women are seeking and securing powerand equality on various fronts, many find they long for a feminine haven.A place where feminine values and ways of being are not just tolerated but embraced. A place to strengthen our long-forgotten and underdeveloped senses, intuitions, and ways of knowing without the presence of men.
Women's spirituality groups are safe places, free spaces, environments that foster the development of individual gifts. In our group, and in the groups of women we interviewed for this book, women continually come home to themselves. Women's circles afford an atmosphere of discovery and growth not found elsewhere in contemporary culture.
What Is Women's Spirituality?
You might now wonder, What makes women's spirituality different from any other kind of spirituality? Certainly, spiritual experience and practice are not gender specific or exclusive. Many men hold the same values and beliefs that characterize the women's spirituality movement. However, these common values and beliefs are generally more "feminine" than "masculine," according to our cultural understanding of those terms. And generally speaking, in Western culture, it is more common for women than men to hold these beliefs.Sacred Circles. Copyright � by Robin Carnes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.