I grew up like so many girls with a slight dread and mistrust of women’s groups, a hangover from difficult and often painful interactions with girly cliques in school. But, in my mid thirties, having come to deeply appreciate the value of good women friends, I sensed this was probably an outdated perception that I should challenge. There’s a story about a child whose tribe is threatened by a pride of lions. When one lion slinks into the village one day roaring threats, the child turns and runs headlong towards it. The lion turns tail and flees. The lesson is to ‘run towards the roar’. So, I started – walking at least, with an intention to engage with women’s groups. When you create a positive intention, the Universe comes to meet you; things arise to drive you on, to support, to make happen.
In my early thirties, I had watched myself get lost beneath the various roles of mother, manager, wife, daughter and the impossibly high expectations I set myself for these. Along with other women of my generation – and so many who had journeyed this way before, I was drowning in conflicting tides of who I was conditioned to be – who I ought to be – and who I actually wanted to be. Sense of self was eroding away. I had become a number of facets – all very capable and working seemingly well, but the core was missing and I was in danger of crumbling. At the same time, I became increasingly aware of humanity’s disconnect with nature, mankind’s continual attempt to manipulate and dominate her. Through an interest in myths, stories and storytelling, I was exploring ancient tales that told of the consequences of this disconnect. It seems that as human beings we’ve always striven to push the boundaries of what we can do, whether we should do it is another question. Chemical pesticides, GM crops, splitting the atom, cloning, they are all forms of modern wizardry which. while the act of achieving them is impressive, astounding even, the consequences of this alchemy is proven to have and continues to have dire consequences. For me, the wonder of nature, the magic of being in tune with the seasons and the tides of the moon, of feeling myself wholly integrated in the web of nature, aware of being a part of the web and not standing apart from it, has always been a saving grace, that which brings me back to centre in difficult times. It is nature that brings me back to balance. It is on long walks, daydreams by a stream, the act of wondering at the depths of heaven on a starlit night that I find my core. It is friends and loved ones who support and nurture that core back to a glowing ember, and it is through talking, meditating and creativity that I pull back the fragments to an integrated whole. It is a daily, weekly, moon-monthly process.
As I watched other friends struggle with the same, it seemed to me that we needed ‘time out’ every now and again to just focus on that core, to fan the flames of our inner selves, to return to centre. And it was with that idea that from walking, I began to run towards the roar. I booked a weekend at Cae Mabon, a retreat centre in the foothills of Snowdonia that had been such an important part of my journey back to myself. I sent the message out to my women friends who seemed to be in need of a break, those who had been part of the discussions about setting up a retreat, and guess what? Not one of them could make it. It would have been easy to cancel, but I didn’t want to. I’d committed to making something happen, so I cast the circle wide: leaflets, word of mouth, listings, some Facebook advertising. In May 2011, 13 brave women came. Some were familiar faces, friends and acquaintances from various networks in my life. Most were complete strangers. The roar was deafening. It was an unforgettably moving and life affirming experience to share that first weekend retreat with those women, to create, share, mediate, celebrate, be vulnerable and hopeful, support and be supported. It was a great success, and there was a demand for more. The following year most of the previous year’s group returned and we welcomed new members, exploring the wild woman within us, giving her reign. Each time we met, there was a deepening. Each weekend seemed to give members of the group new motivation and strength, and perhaps the most wondrous thing of all, a network of female friends that continue to support each other on-line, in person, by phone, energetically and by meeting up from year to year.
I’m learning to trust. I trust that each year women who need this work find a way to it. None of us are ‘trained psychologists’, though many have a background in counseling and therapeutic work. It is the group, the circle of women, maidens, mothers, crones that support and counsel each other. I am grateful to all the women who come, who trust. Clearly, there is a call for this work, there is a need for more women to gain the confidence to facilitate this work, and we would like to be a part of supporting and developing them to run towards this particular roar.