The story of a woman runs deep like an underground river. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of it.
Other times, it runs so deep that it lies forgotten – its sacredness nearly lost to memory.
But what I have seen in sitting with women in circles, especially women at risk of homelessness, is that these stories need to be welcomed. In a story, we see how we are connected to each other, to life itself. They feed a woman’s deep longing to know that the divine is everywhere.
When I sit with women in circles, I witness a spark of light inside the density of a difficulty or limitation. I hear this through their stories.
One day I was preparing for a circle with a group of indigenous women. As I stood alone looking out the window of the room where we met, I wondered, what is it that can be offered to these women? I felt the insignificance in the face of the great need.
It was then that I recalled the words that I heard months ago, upon waking one morning before a talk I was to give to women at a shelter. The words I heard, as I awoke, were simply this: Let it be.
It made no sense at first, but after a few minutes I realized it was from the Beatles song: Mother Mary came to me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it be’.
So this is what I remembered, this moment of utter connection and surrender. And I turned to this, rather than my doubts.
A few minutes later, a young mother was the first to arrive. She was distressed, but in a tough, defensive way. The other women needed to pick up their children from school, so they would come later. We started the circle and the young mother began to speak about her situation. Here was a space in which she would be able to talk until a deeper thread was uncovered.
By the time the other women finally came, she had spoken for a long while. As we meditated together, I noticed how the room became quiet, still inside, despite all the agitation in the beginning.
After the meditation, the women wrote on a theme: “Once there was a flower….”
The young mother said that she would read first. Her story made no sense, she said. And at first, to her, it had no meaning. But as she read, I heard something else. It’s like how the sunlight reflects off a fish swimming deep below the surface, and we then see a flash of movement, and light.
What she read was this:
Once there was a flower. Someone planted it but then walked away and left it all alone and neglected. The petals fell off, and the plant knew it would die unless it moved to a park. So the flower picked up its roots and went to a park, and waited. One day a little girl noticed the flower, and watered it with her water bottle. She did this every day until the flower bloomed again and the petals returned. It became a beautiful flower again.
The other women read, too. Stories of nature, of forgotten beauty.
At the end of the circle, the women were asked to speak one word that described what they wanted to carry forward from the circle. The young mother, who had spoken with such a hard veneer, quietly said, “Hope.” Another woman said, “Belief.”
On the way home I went to the supermarket, as I realized I was hungry. While waiting in line for the cashier, I took a deep breath, relieved that the circle was over.
Suddenly I noticed the music played on speakers in the store. Impossible. It was the Beatles singing Let it be, let it be….
How amazing – that in our witnessing, our prayers – in our breath, our tears, we are not separate but part of this living being we call Life.