Every Monday, the Greensboro Women’s Joy Circle meets to share stories, sip tea, brag, write, stretch, dance, and meditate…every week it is a different constellation of women, and every week we explore a new theme as we continue to build daring, joyful lives. On Tuesdays, I share what we’ve learned with you.
Okay, disclaimer: the women’s joy circle didn’t actually meet this week. My wonderfully intelligent body kicked the crap out of me because I had decided to take a trip that my spirit, mind, and intuition were all warning me against. (“Just try to go NOW” purred my body from its supine position, too feverish to allow me even to pick up the phone and cancel my airplane ticket.) There is a treatment when sickness has progressed this far: it is called SHUT UP AND LISTEN. As in, put your echinacea tincture down, girl, get some sleep, and next time your intuition kicks in PAY ATTENTION. All right, all right. Sheesh. Anyway, what follows is a description of a women’s circle from last month.
We congregated to celebrate beauty. We stood in that circle and took each others’ hands and looked in each others’ eyes and decided that we would make our own definitions of beauty that night; that we would love and celebrate and affirm what we saw. And then I passed out bellydance scarves and put on this song and we were off. We practiced hip circles, and rib circles; we learned to flutter our bellies and shimmy like fiends. Some of us had never bellydanced before. It didn’t matter. This is a female dance form, sinuous and cyclical. It comes pretty naturally and feels wonderful. It is felt beauty, moving like this, letting the body spiral and shake, and laughter bubbled out naturally from all of us.
Bodies warm and loved, hearts full, we sat on the floor and I brought out my little bags of prepared henna. I like to soak henna powder in strong coffee or tea overnight when I use it for body decoration, mixing it as thick as toothpaste. Then I place it in ziplock baggies and cut the tip from one corner, which allows me to squeeze it out in thin lines. Prepare the skin beforehand with essential oil of lavender, then squeeze the henna paste onto your skin in your desired pattern; there are many possibilities here or you can come up with whatever feels right for you in the moment.
I suggested we celebrate a part of the body that was often derided or neglected, a part of us that we needed to make peace with. Almost all of us chose our bellies. The mamas, especially. This center of our intuition and instinct, this home for the feeling body, this most vulnerable and tender and resilient home of life, is treated with such disgust and hatred and contempt. By US. But not tonight! The music played on and we sprawled on the floor, decorating each other, filling the air with happy chatter and the scent of lavender.
As the henna paste dried (usually this takes a half an hour at least; don’t remove it until it is crumbling off on its own) we sipped rose petal chai and ate chocolate layer cake from crystal plates. One by one, we took turns in the center of the circle. Each woman in the outer circle gave a sincere compliment to the woman in the center. To each compliment she could respond only: “Thank you, it’s true.” Accepting compliments with grace is so very beautiful, and watching it happen so very moving. (gratitude to Mama Gena for this exercise!)
The music played again as we washed dishes, and gently brushed the dry henna paste from our bellies, blotting the designs with lemon juice and orris root powder to preserve them. We gathered the circle in and held hands once more, replete with appreciation for the beauty that surrounds and fills us always.
I would like to make an observation here about the nature of these circles. There is a general perception (that has been voiced to me a number of times) that self-care is a self-serving cycle of pedicures and navel gazing and feather boas, that it is a bourgeois indulgence for the pampered upper classes. Let me share some of my thoughts on this. I’ve gone into it a bit in this post but I’d like to elaborate a little, because the subject of pleasure has been much on my mind and heart lately.
At this time on Earth, many to most of us are caught in a punishing system that allows little flexibility or possibility for luxury. There are many demands on our mental and physical energy; systems are collapsing all around us.
designed in to provide shade or warmth or nutrients, the healthier the overall system will be. I have also learned that an ailing or infected plant lowers the productivity of the entire guild. We are each of us elements in a system. The stronger, more radiant, more joyful we are, the higher the yield of our system. Thank you, it’s true.