What’s It Like in the Red Tent?

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.

Stay tuned….

 

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Boundaries & Priorities

The other evening, I had a few moments to sit in a lawn chair in my back yard, soaking up the scenery & listening to the birds.  At one point, I looked down at the arm of my chair & saw a delicate little insect with an iridescent green body & transparent wings.  It stayed only a second & was gone.  If I hadn’t looked down at just that moment, I would have missed it entirely.

That’s when it suddenly dawned on me that it’s been a while since I just stopped & participated in nature fully.  I don’t mean glancing up at the sky as I run between my car & the grocery store nor do I mean staring out at the trees as I walk down the hall at work.  I mean sitting in stillness & silence IN nature…. feet on the earth, breeze on the face, & sun on the skin.

Participating.  Being present.

When the realization hit me that I’ve been too busy to connect, I took a cue from people who keep track of expenses so they can see where their money goes, and kept track of where my time goes.  I listed every group, committee, class, & work obligation.  I even listed my boyfriend, dogs, & housework.  I wanted to see it all in black & white.  Am I focusing on what I love or have I gotten distracted by other things?  The answer, I’m ashamed to say, is that I got distracted by other things.  And what’s worse, I make the little things the priority & pushed what mattered to the back burner.  Can anyone out there relate?  It was quite a wake-up call for me.

I admit it; I’m an overachiever.  I’m a woman who says “Yes” and “Sure, I’d love to” without thinking about the time commitment because I like to be helpful & do things I know I’m skilled to do.  We all want to make a difference & feel important.  Right?

But here’s the reality check– I can’t do anything well when I’m doing too much.  The amount of time I need to fulfill all my obligations is greater than the time I have in a given week.  And what’s worse, there is zero time for things like “fun” and “relaxation”.  I cannot do it all.  So it’s time to do 2 things…

Set priorities & establish boundaries.

I put the items on my list in order from most important to least important.  Then, I considered how to scale back.  For some things, it’s easy.  An on-line class ends at the end of the month & an art class ends in early June.  I just won’t take any more classes for a while.  For other things, it’s a little more difficult.  I have to resign from a couple of committees.  I hate to do that but I know that I cannot give my best when I’ve stretched myself so thinly.  Instead, I’ll give the few things that truly matter more of my energy & thereby, make a greater contribution than I am now.  I’m going to keep scaling back until I can take a deep breath & not feel like I’m wearing a corset!

Establishing boundaries may prove to be a bit more challenging for it means I have to look someone in the eye and say “No.  I’d love to help you but no.  I can’t fit anything else in my schedule at this time.”

Some people are masters at multi-tasking.  I’m not one of them.  I prefer focusing on one thing at a time & giving it my best.

Some people can run from one task to another, eating their dinner on their lap while they are driving.  I don’t want that to be my experience.  It’s too stressful.  Plus, I can only eat so many french fries & still fit into my jeans!

I want to have a quality life- balancing the giving & the receiving.  I want to support the causes I care about but I also want to support my own health & well-being.  I need time to watch the insects crawling on my lawn chair.

If it feels like you’re doing too much, YOU ARE.  

List your priorities.  

Start saying no.

There are countless takes on the phrase “Keep Calm & Carry On” but there is an alternative that I saw on a magnet… “Let go or be dragged.”   If it no longer serves your highest good, stop doing it.  Make space for what matters most.  Give as much as you want but remember you have to give to your Self, too.  It’s not selfish… it’s self-preservation.