As seen in the Mountain Xpress:
Circle the Women: Sharon Mitchell Shares Her Experience Leading Local Women’s Circles
by Haley Steinhardt
At a Peace Summit in Vancouver in 2009, the Dalai Lama declared, “The world will be saved by the Western woman.” So, what can we women of Western North Carolina do to step up to heal our society? Women in today’s world do it all, taking care of everything from our family and friends to our work to our homes, gardens, animals and a million things in between. Too many of us, though, forget to take the time — or take enough time — to care for ourselves, and that’s where women’s circles come in.
A women’s circle is more than just a gathering of women. It is an anchor of support, a place for connection and communion, a source of inspiration and a tool for deep healing. There are women’s circles taking place all over WNC, helping women to find healthy balance in their lives and giving women an opportunity to support others and be supported ourselves. Sharon Roth Mitchell has been leading women’s circles in WNC for more than a decade, and I asked her about how her circles help women heal.
“Most of us know that women have always benefited from ‘talking it out’ with other women,” Mitchell says. “We’ve either had similar experiences or are provided with a different point of view on a situation that we hadn’t considered.” Mitchell facilitates two main circles: Women’s Quest Circles and Women’s Inner Growth Circles. The former is an opportunity for women to learn how to forge a closer relationship with Mother Earth. Mitchell has more than 30 years experience with leading ceremonies in accordance with the traditional Native American teachings that have been passed down to her. She brings these skills to the Women’s Quest Circle, engaging women in connecting with the sacredness of nature.
“One of the great benefits that I have seen over the years,” Mitchell says, “is that ceremony marks the event as sacred. Ceremony grounds us. There’s a gem in understanding these old ways and making them available in a contemporary setting to where women can benefit and take it back home to be practical in their day-to-day, to polish that gem of owning their own divinity, their own personal power of loving well, of cultivating a sweet and happy heart.” The circle meets twice monthly, providing an opportunity for women to find a sense of community. Additionally, women who wish to undertake a Vision Quest — a highly personal ceremony in which women connect deeply with nature — are invited to discuss this with Mitchell.
There is no set fee for participating in Women’s Quest Circle, but all are asked to consider making a donation. The teachings offered range from experiencing traditional pipe ceremonies and sweat lodges (purification and prayer ceremonies) to dreaming with the drum and offering prayers of gratitude. Mitchell also hosts special weekend events for the Women’s Quest Circle, such as creating medicine wheel vision boards, receiving Red Tent Moon Lodge teachings (ceremony around the sacred feminine) and learning traditional drum-making.
Mitchell also facilitates a series of 10-week women’s circles a few times a year, which she calls Women’s Inner Growth Circles. These smaller, more intimate circles focus on personal growth through the healing of whatever is holding you back. “In the Women’s Inner Growth Circles, we get very intimate with our stories,” says Mitchell. “The Women’s Quest Circles are slightly different as the focus is more on supporting one another in our spiritual practices, and we don’t necessarily share all the details of our personal lives. At the same time, we have the support and time together to learn some of the traditional ways of navigating life.”
I asked Mitchell how she came to be the community leader and facilitator that she is today. “As I look back over the years, it’s pretty much me taking care of my own life and learning various things,” Mitchell says. “I would have never guessed that 32 years ago when I stepped onto my spiritual path that I would be honored in holding women’s circles and ceremonies and community in such a way.”
Part of taking care of oneself, continues Mitchell, is remembering how to connect deeply with nature, with the sacred rhythms of the Earth. “I can remember many years ago, an elder said in ceremony that all one needs to understand spiritually, they can find in nature. In this modern-day, fast-paced living that we do, we often forget to slow down and see the sacredness all around us,” she says. “We are nature, and in our spiritual walk, we want to respect, honor and learn from the beauty that’s all around us, the life that’s all around us. We simply have forgotten. And it’s time to come together and remember.”
For more information, email Sharon Roth Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit enlightenyourheart.com.