Power of the Circle in Nature, Society and for Boomer Women

IMG_0399When I decided to facilitate groups for boomer women to talk about the gifts and challenges of growing older, it was not an accident that the format for creating this sacred space would be the circle. There is just no other configuration than the circle that allows for  equanimity, where everyone is equal around the sacred center. There is no hierarchal order in a circle. Everyone sees everyone else and is visible to others. There is no beginning nor end…….Perfect for my groups and perhaps a lesson to society as a whole.

While the circle has roots in ancestral times, I believe its’ usefulness, purpose and gifts are as relevant today as ever.  Imagine a corporate, staff,  school board, City Council or even a family, faculty or PTA meeting where participants sit in a circle in the same style and type of chair. No more big, soft plush leather chairs for the “leaders”, while the “plain folk” squeeze their butts into chairs designed for people half their size. No more raised platforms where the “leaders” sit elevated above us pontificating from their higher ground.  With no contrived hierarchy nor physical separation to create an “us vs them” scenario, and with all members on equal footing, while visible to all, maybe, just maybe we could listen a little better and hear others points of views…….

The circle is a powerful archetype representing unity and wholeness. It is a protected space. From our earliest villages came round hearths, round houses, and round fences. Circles flourished as the primary social structure in our earliest communities, often with the warmth of the fire providing heat, light and the ability to cook. Today some indigenous people still follow this tradition to sit in circle for spirituality practices or matters of the community,

The circle is an archetypal construct that manifests in our cultural heritage and our collective unconscious. It is also deeply part of our natural order. I believe that for us to bridge the idea of the circle to our everyday lives, we should look to the significance of the circle in the natural world.  No one makes this more clear and relevant than Black Elk in this quote from “Black Elk Speaks” by John G Neihart.

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round.  In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished.  The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it… Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.  The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars.  The wind, in its greatest power, whirls.  Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours.  The Sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle.  The Moon does the same, and both are round.  Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were.  The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.  Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”

What better model could we have for creating a better world than to look to the natural world through the eyes of those that see the power of circle?  What better model for women to come together than the circle…..the sacred circle…….

 

By Roberta Teller

Aging Gracefully: Inner Radiance Creates Outer Beauty

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Recently I wrote that aging gracefully is an inside job meaning that the internal process of tapping into our wise woman wisdom creates a beauty and majesty of spirit and energy that supersedes the superficial manifestations of our bodies.  Ours is a youth oriented culture obsessed with the young.  We are perpetually bombarded with artificially reconstructed older faces and the overly thin and air brushed images on the big screens and magazines.  Whether a woman chooses to have plastic surgery or not, is an individual choice, hopefully made with clarity, thoughtfulness and enough money to pay for the procedure outright.  Of course, we all want to feel good about ourselves.  Of course, we all want to look our very best and have a swagger in our step as we strut our stuff…….that’s a no brainer.  But……..

What is so much more important than the number of wrinkles or age spots is creating a culture where women themselves grow into an appreciation of their own individual and collective inner greatness.  We, the boomer women, must become the change agents ourselves where we not only tap into our individual and collective voices, but it is incumbent upon us to SHOUT OUT our messages, visions, and life lessons.  We must reclaim our long lost tradition of being the heart and soul of the community – the historian, the healer, the teacher, the advisor, the voice of a long life of lessons learned and wisdom gained.

While it is a daunting task to think about challenging and restructuring a very ingrained system that does not innately cherish and revere or seek out elder woman wisdom, I would like to suggest some first  steps…..steps that begin first with an inner journey into ourselves.

1.  SELF AWARENESS:  Ask yourself: What are your gifts?  What life lessons have you learned?  What stories can you share about your life?

2.  PAY ATTENTION TO THE SUBTLE AND MAYBE NOT SO SUBTLE DYNAMICS  OF THE FAMILY, SOCIAL, BUSINESS, EDUCATIONAL GROUPS YOU ATTEND Who does most of the talking?  Do some people monopolize the conversation?  Is everyone engaged? Are you?  Why or why not?

3.    SHARE YOUR WISE WOMAN STORIES AND LESSONS: Tell your stories. Share   your life lessons with friends, family, your children. Leave a written legacy of your life.

4.  ENCOURAGE OTHER  WOMEN TO SHARE THEIR STORIES AND LIFE LESSONS:  Invite friends over with the express purpose of a story telling night. Ask elder women to tell their stories…..

5.   WHETHER YOU KNOW IT OR NOT, YOU ARE A ROLE MODEL FOR EVERY  GIRL OR WOMAN YOU MEET:   Be aware that your views and opinions about growing older are being expressed covertly, nonverbally and through actions, attitudes and conversations. What messages are you actually sending?

6.  TALK ABOUT GROWING OLDER: Let’s bring the topic of aging into mainstreamconversation. How is it different from the perspective of a 20 year old or an octogenarian? Ask yourself and others of all ages, “HOW DO YOU WANT TO AGE?”  Let’s begin to demystify growing old by talking about it, taking power around it through right choices, and bringing it into our culture through awareness, conversations and visibility.

 I believe it is essential for each and every one of us to take the time and make a commitment to ourselves to explore the richness of our own lives as well as to affirm and claim the lessons we have learned, and to honor the gifts that we have bestowed upon the world. 

 And it is through our own self acceptance and appreciation of who we are that our inner radiance will glow ever more brightly and we can move to shine this light on the world.

By Roberta Teller

Aging Gracefully is an Inside Job

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This boomer woman is aging gracefully.

This boomer woman is aging gracefully.

As a boomer woman, I have been pondering what aging gracefully actually means. On the surface, the term has a benevolent tone – a compliment of sorts or perhaps a kind appraisal of an older woman’s physical appearance.  But underneath this idiomatic facade, I see the language of this phrase as one that demeans, negates and undermines the richness and depth of the woman inside. It has become a euphemism for someone who is physically aging, yet it ignores the spirit and substance and breadth and experiences of this woman. It is another example of how the superficiality of a woman’s  physical self trumps the essence of who she really  is.

I would like to create a new paradigm for aging gracefully.  I propose that we look at growing older with grace as an opportunity to comment and honor the wisdom learned from the accumulation of one’s life experiences as opposed to how many wrinkles one has or how many more pounds have been added on over the years.  l suggest that we give voice to a life lived and listen to the lessons learned from the good and maybe not so great choices that were made along the life path.  I ask my fellow boomer women to proudly tell their stories so that all of us – young and old – may gain further insights and understandings about life – all the while getting to know you…….the real you…..the person.

I envision that we look to women from all walks of life, from all economic, class and racial backgrounds and we must not forget women who have been physically,  mentally or emotionally challenged.  I implore upon us to seek out women who have achieved great success – success not measured in dollar signs but in creating meaning and purpose and living their authentic life – whether they ran a large corporation, worked as professionals or in blue collar jobs or were stay at home moms.

To me aging gracefully is about the content – not the container. It is the culmination of a life lived, challenges met, obstacles overcome, and through the lessons learned, mistakes made, chances taken, so we gracefully age.  And, like it has been said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” I say, it’s never too late to begin to age gracefully and to give honor and respect and voice to our sisters who are already there…..Aging gracefully is not about what we look like, but about how we get to be who we are. It’s an inside job.

 

By Roberta Teller