I found last Saturday’s Red Tent event rich in conversation & deeply moving. I chose the topic “Mothering and Being Mothered” for Mother’s Day weekend… it seemed appropriate. I’ll never divulge the details for “what happens in the Tent stays in the Tent” but consider how you’d answer these three questions and imagine what the conversation was like among women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s.
1) How does your relationship with your mother impact your ability to mother others?
2) Who (what) do you mother and what forms does your mothering take?
3) As you give generously in so many ways, how do you nurture your Self?
These amazing women brought their authentic selves to the tent, speaking their truth courageously because somehow each sensed that the tent is a safe, sacred, private place where women can speak without judgement, shame, criticism, or guilt.
For this Red Tent event, I established an altar in the center of the carpet to honor “mother” images from various religious traditions, our own mothers & grandmothers, as well as the ways we mother in our own unique ways. Each woman brought an object or photo that symbolized motherhood for her and we shared their importance. This initial introduction of ourselves- women who gave birth, adopted, chose not to have children, & were contemplating having a child for the first time- cast a magical circle of protection around us in some ways, allowing each of us to share deeply and honestly. I call this circle the Sacred Wisdom Circle because each & every one of us brought the wisdom of our experience to the group for all to possibly learn from. Each of us was student & teacher in turn.
When I create a Red Tent event, it’s not merely a “gimmick” to create a space that resembles a Middle Eastern tent with red curtains, rugs, and exotic accessories. I deliberately design it with the intention that I’m creating a space set apart from our everyday concerns so women can rest, rejuvenate, connect with other women, and reconnect with their highest selves. I want it to look different, feel different, and be different. I want the women to feel different and be different from how they feel they have to be for husbands, parents, employers, and children.
The Red Tent is a womb– a protective place that nurtures and nourishes. All who identify themselves as women are welcome here regardless of age, race, or spiritual beliefs. Every tent is charged with the energy of the participants, be they contemplative, humorous, emotional, lively, or a blend of one or more of these qualities.
Our time together ended far too soon, after meaningful discussion and a reflective labyrinth walk nestled between the memorial wall and the majestic weeping beech at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York’s campus. I trust all the women felt refreshed in some way be it physically, spiritually, mentally, or emotionally. I know I did.
So what’s next? My next Red Tent event will be an all-day retreat that focuses on Beauty- Inside and Out. And this time, it will be open to women AND GIRLS ages 8 and up. Mothers can share this experience with their daughters or come alone for the topic is relevant to all of us. We’ll explore what it means to grow up in a society that still places too much emphasis on being skinny & young. Most importantly, we’ll explore ways to be strong, empowered, & full of the knowledge that we are each beautiful in our own way. It’s time to tell our girls that they are valued just the way they are.