Yesterday my “Unfolding” group met, as we have done monthly (mostly) for the past ten years. In that year, my friend Julia Mossbridge’s book “Unfolding: The Perpetual Science of Your Soul’s Work” was published and as part of the process she decided to start a group. Though Julia was born at around the same time as the women’s movement of the late 60s/early 70s, and so hadn’t been there at the time, this group bore a resemblance to the women’s consciousness raising circles of that time. The concept has been simple – a small group of us (the group is now five of us) gets together once a month. We go around the circle, with each woman having as long as needed to provide an update and just speak on what is relevant to her life today. The others listen, then when the speaker is ‘complete’ we offer encouragement and feedback (always positive). Then on to the next woman. Once we have all ‘had our piece’, we then go around the circle, one by one, stating our intention for the month ahead. The first part is usually 15-20 minutes of talking/woman, the intention part is just a sentence or two. We have simple snacks while we’re meeting and a bit of chitchat before or after, but that’s the gist of it.
It’s so powerful!
What I think makes it the most powerful is simply being heard. So much of what passes for conversation is two competing monologues. People interrupt you to make their point, talk over you, or go off on tangents totally unrelated to what you just said, leaving you wondering “did they hear me at all?”
Our Unfolding group isn’t a conversation in that while a woman “has the floor” as it were, we don’t interrupt her. And in our commentary afterwards, we ask clarifying questions, sometimes provide challenges and mostly provide meaningful, specific encouragement and positive feedback.
There’s a phenomenal personal growth book, Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself which asks “How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you ….a place of women, where you were received and affirmed? A place where other women, perhaps somewhat older, had been affirmed before you, each in her time, affirmed, as she struggled to become more truly herself?”
I’m so lucky! My life IS different because I have this each month! For me personally, though I consider Julia, Carol, Betty, Carol and Sue all friends, I don’t really socialize with any of them but Julia outside the circle time (and as I write this I think I will change that this year!) and yet they know more about me, know me more at a soul level than some people whom I see far more regularly.
I think we all long to be listened to, long to be heard, long to be understood. Susan Atchley Ebaugh says “The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another’s existence.”
And by the way, this isn’t just a woman thing. Guys need our rapt attention just as much! Kids, pets – even, as my tsk-tsk-ing friend Bill reminds me, houseplants need attention (ahem! personal growth opportunity for me).
How would YOUR life be different if there were a place for you where you are received, affirmed and listened to? Do you have that? If you do, celebrate! If not, I invite you to change that. Start your own group. It’s easy. Free. And I guarantee you – it will change your life.
Now, I invite you to the conversation – how is the power of being truly heard manifesting (or not) in your life? What can you do to provide this gift for those you love? I really want to know!