In our circles with women experiencing homelessness, we create a space for the women to touch a part of themselves so deep, a seemingly remote and unfamiliar terrain. Yet in this created space the women rest. Deeply rest. Because this deeper place belongs to us. We are not separate from it. And this is why it’s said that in a woman, spirit and matter can never be separated.
I was recently in a meeting with staff in a large shelter. They wanted to know specifics about what we do. At first I was at a loss for words. It’s about a space, I said. We create a space. But again, they asked, ‘But what do you do?’
And so I sit here today, trying to bridge this understanding. How, for instance, do you sense an opening, like fresh air, that suddenly comes into the circle? A fresh air that allows every one of us to feel a new ease. A deep relaxation. Where before, there might have been tension and anxiety.
How do you feel inside yourself, when a woman speaks of a difficulty that you cannot change or fix? How does one lean in inwardly, to hold in the heart with love and acceptance, the sorrow of another?
And how does the mind cope with a shift within an hour of being together, from sorrow to a quiet peacefulness? Sometimes, not just stillness, but even a quality of joy can arise out of nowhere.
‘And why is this important?’ they asked at this recent meeting. I say, ‘Because the women have forgotten. Or more likely, many have never had this reflection of their sacredness. The culture doesn’t know how to value it.’
And a part of me recognized a long ago, familiar shame rise up. The shame of not being able to explain.
Just then, I recalled a dream I had years ago. In the dream a woman tells me, ‘You must not bow your head in silence. You need to speak from the depths of yourself – even in front of the king.’
With this recollection, I shared with them something I had written in the preface of my recently published book, Finding Home: Restoring the Sacred to Life:
Not only is there a growing homelessness problem here – and across the world – which is touching more and more people, but there is also a homelessness of the soul – of the inner. And so when we offer a place for women to meet and connect at this level, while their outer problems remain, they are able to find peace – even if just for an hour. Slowly something comes alive in the women through this process. Not for all, of course, because some wounds are so deep, and their issues can be complex. But there is usually a healing that takes place, even if it is just a felt experience of being welcomed, as they are having their sacredness reflected.
So we each return to something so needed today. A deeper place that sustains life – our own life, the life around us. And also the world soul. Without it, we are lost.