I returned from the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City last month. Over 9000 people from 80 countries attended. Walking through the vast complex where hundreds of workshops and gatherings were taking place, I remembered a dream shared by a friend nearly a decade ago. In her dream she heard these words, spoken by her teacher: When enough people come together, the world will change. This must be done in the way of women.
At one point, during a panel of women speaking about the care and protection of the Earth, I looked around me. Perhaps two thousand women were in the audience, sharing a profound love for the earth, spoken aloud, inspired by the strength of their love for the Sacred.
Something real happened at the Parliament. People returned home with an energy, a sweetness that seemed to arise from the heart of this great diversity of people.
And I reflect upon the words of my friend’s dream. What is the way of women?
I had been invited to be part of a workshop of seven women called “Embodied Service: The Wholeness of Women’s Spiritual Leadership.” A panel of seven women – ranging in ages from twenty to seventy from a diversity of faiths.
For months before, we spoke by teleconference and listened to one another, and to the silence, to begin to give form to the workshop. So by the morning of the workshop, it was decided: we would each speak from the heart, and include a few minutes silence. And then the people in the audience could have time to share with each other, in small circles, and then return for a closing prayer.
Around 200 women and some men attended. And what happened was this: as each of us spoke, unknowingly what the other was going to say, a weaving took place that was itself the way of women.
For all of us, even the most seasoned speakers, we had never felt such a sense of unity and grace on a panel such as this.
Speaking from the vulnerability of being oneself, this created an opening that touched people’s hearts. It might seem that to speak about leadership, is already making a division between people. But what occurred was entirely different. The picture of leadership that arose, was free of old concepts. Embodied service became real.
I was the last of the speakers on the panel, and when I stood up in front of the audience, I realized that I had never felt such freedom in a gathering of people whom I did not know.
The personal and the universal are connected in women. Our intimate, daily life is part of a whole. And so, like the speakers that came before me, I could speak about how prayer brought a dream that led me to working with circles of women 25 years ago. And how, just 3 years ago, this was brought home when I began to care for three generations of women in my family.
How, during this time, concepts of feminine spiritual leadership were demolished, and a deeper way of being came out of surrender. In a way, each of the women on the panel spoke of their life of devotion – unique to each of us. It was the bond that brought us together.
By the end of the hour and a half workshop, our stories had become one story.
As we find our way, each one of us, to living the deep purpose of our heart, our ordinary life is included. Nothing is left out. Listening, not knowing, stumbling, opening to wonder, we discover strength in the dark night, and live this strength with dignity in the day.
May we know that we are part of a uniting of hearts around the world.