I got a phone call yesterday from the convener of a group of women that I am scheduled to address on Saturday of this week. She called to tell me that the registration is now up to 39 people! I asked her if someone was paying the women to come since she originally told me that there would probably be about twenty registrants. As we laughed and discussed things like room set-up and schedule, I began to rethink how I might restructure the day so that all the women would have a chance to be heard in such a large gathering. I was happy when the convener began to speak of tables of six because most people are comfortable speaking in a group of that size. I will want to speak in the beginning of the importance of deep listening without judgment as we tend to jump on one another’s thoughts and interrupt each other when our experiences seem to mirror that of the person speaking. In that way we lose something of the sacredness of the exchange. Sporadic moments of silence to remind ourselves will be essential.
With those thoughts I was reminded of the experience of this past Saturday when I met with five other women in a small circle to spend time considering transitions in our lives. We began talking about the change of seasons, considering how we felt about each of the four seasons, what we like and dislike about each and even naming musical selections that included or indicated characteristics of each. (Everyone listed “Autumn Leaves” in their list; we were all of “a certain age!”) That conversation gave way easily to deeper subjects and by the end of the day these women who did not even know each other’s names at the beginning shared an empathy and reverence for one another that I could only name (and did) as “miraculous!” It was a holy exchange fueled by deep listening.
Is that kind of experience possible with a crowd of forty women? Perhaps. I believe it depends on intention and trust – the willingness to say what is often left hidden inside us because we do not feel articulate or as knowledgeable as others. Establishing an environment of curiosity and willingness to trust will be essential and will be the job of each person in the group. As I write I begin to build my initial approach and my trust quotient of “letting go and letting God” which is the only way that the miraculous dance of the Spirit will take place. I have great confidence in the energy of such a group of women but it will take some shepherding, I think, to harness the energy and make space for the deeper meanings to come through. I look forward to the challenge and hope for the best.
Wish me luck!