Circle the Women

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 sharonrothmitchell@gmail.com or visit enlightenyourheart.com.


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Remembering the Sacred Seeding

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In The Name of the Mother

By Ymani Simmons of the Fellowship of Reconciliation

Beaver Creek ambles through the arid Arizona land revealing a spreading community of stone-beings that make the waters dance and sing as they roll and tumble on their endless journey. Thursday, March 20, 2014 was Spring Equinox, and I was blessed to be stepping into Ceremony, the first Women’s Gathering, with the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and sisters from all parts of this beautiful world. The Grandmothers are an international alliance of indigenous female Elders that focuses on issues such as the environment, internationalism, and human rights.

As women continued to arrive that day, our tent community began to grow and spread until we were a sea of dwellings nestled beneath the ancient Sycamores that lined the clear creek and welcomed us to our temporary home in the desert. An air of excitement and shared anticipation began to waft through camp as we edged closer and closer to the Opening Ceremony that would provide a doorway for us to step through, together.

Women around the planet heard the call and 400 were able to take the action required to make the pilgrimage to Soda Springs Ranch, near Sedona, Arizona. This life-changing opportunity, organized by Indigena and Mystic Momma, enabled us to receive the wisdom and Teachings of these remarkable Elders who ask us to connect through prayer and Ceremony for our Mother Earth.

Many Elders from many Nations have been speaking of this time, a time when women would rise together to ignite the Feminine Spirit on the planet. Our Mother is calling us to restore balance, and to awaken our remembrance, and we are listening.

The gathering was hosted by Grandmother Mona Polacca, a spiritual elder of Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa descent. The intention was to come together for World Water Day at Montezuma Well, a sacred site serving as refuge and inspiration to many over the centuries. Ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs mark it as a unique historic site and its constant flow of 1.4 million gallons of water each day uphold a sense of mystery as the source of the water is still an unknown. Local tribes, such as the Yavapai-Apache, Hopi, and Navajo still gather for sacred ceremony at this most blessed site.

“It is said that a great plumed snake has one of his numerous homes here, and that in those deep mysterious waters that flow from deep inside the heart of the mother, the feathered snake dwells.”

So, on Thursday evening the observance began with a Welcoming Ceremony led by the women from the local Yavapai-Apache Nation. Prayer, song, drums, and a sense of sisterhood that knows no boundaries or restrictions were the foundation laid to hold us close in our Medicine blanket for the next few days.  We gathered as many and began to feel the surge of energy that swirled around us as we felt our hearts unite and we became One.

Women from all walks of life, all ages, backgrounds, levels of life experience and beliefs had heard a call from beyond that touched our hearts and would not let go. Some answered knowing what was being asked of us, others simply responded through a strong sense of faith. A faith seeded in deep understanding and awareness that things are terribly wrong in our world today, and a firm conviction that it is the bringers of life, the women, who hold the key to the change that must begin to happen to make a safe and healthy home for the next seven generations.

We had already been told that some of the Grandmothers might not be able to join us because of travel distances, health issues, etc., but we were blessed to be in Ceremony with:

  • Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Confederated Tribes of Siletz
  • Grandmother Rita Blumenstein, Yup’ik
  • Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota
  • Grandmother Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota
  • Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot, Omyene linguistic community
  • Grandmother Maria Alice Campos Freire, Amazonia
  • Grandmother Clara Shinobu Iura, Amazonia
  • Grandmother Flordemayo, Mayan
  • Grandmother Mona Polacca, Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa

The days were warm and sunny, and were shared with the Great Blue Herons who flew the path of the creek and the pair of Red-Tailed Hawks who nested in one of the stately Sycamores above us. We watched the hawks circle overhead as they seemed to play in the wind currents, at times appearing to be sharing private messages with each of us. Nighttime brought a sharp drop in temperature as we settled in to the high desert chill with several communal fires to warm us and an endless canopy of stars that served as a reminder of the paradox of our existence. We are such a small piece of the whole, and yet have our significant roles to play.

Grandmother Teachings by the Fire on Friday continued to touch our hearts with a sense of remembering who we are as women, as sisters, as care-givers and nurturers. A strong sense of promise and recognition that we are not alone in this struggle to protect and defend our beautiful Mother Earth seemed to envelop our camp as if we had been covered in a loving shawl.

We were not strangers; there was a strong sense of familiarity as we moved through the days and nights, paying close attention and caring for one another as individual needs arose. Our space was shared withTurtle Women Rising, a ceremonial drum collective founded and led by Indigenous women who continued to hold us within the heartbeat of the Mother throughout the weekend. We also were blessed with the enchanting music of the duo, MaMuse, and the powerful poetry of Climbing Poetree.

We gathered in the meadow on Saturday morning, World Water Day and walked the one-half mile on a gravel road in pairs, in silence, to Montezuma Well. The Park Service worked in cooperation with us to assure a private ceremony at the well. As I walked, I felt a strong feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to be part of such a sacred event and felt tears of joy moisten my cheeks as I entered a space that knew no time, a moment that knew no restrictions, an opportunity that knew no boundaries.

Four hundred women lined the walkway that borders two-thirds of the Well, and the Grandmothers settled in to their respective places in the four directions along the rim above us. Their voices could be heard floating down as blessings and prayers were offered to the water and then we all began to join them in one moment of timeless, sacred unity. We opened our hearts wider and deeper to the prayers, intentions and healing for the waters of our planet everywhere and for the animals, birds and fishes that are affected. Such a powerful moment to be alive, awake and fully engaged in affecting change for people around the world also gathered at water sources in their communities to speak to the water, to bless it and offer prayers of gratitude.

Life is always complete with its teachings and there is never an indication as to when and how these Teachings will surface. Grandmother Bernadette was informed on Saturday morning that her son had been killed in Gabon and plans were being made for her emergency trip home. She faced a long, sad journey home to help make the preparations for his funeral and to be with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren who were left behind. Once again, our collective heart space opened as tears of sadness were shed as we mourned with her, prayers offered for his soul and for those left behind and a combined outpouring of love as we offered donations to assist her with what lay ahead.

The final ceremonies were held on Sunday with gifting to us from the Grandmothers  and an opportunity to gift them a token of our appreciation in return. So much joy and laughter could be heard as we came together one more time In the Name of the Mother.

As we broke camp, said our tearful goodbyes and began to move back towards that break in time where we first stepped into this Ceremony, we realized that something significant, life-changing and monumental had happened within each of us. We had answered the call. We had shown up with open hearts and minds for ourselves, our families, our communities, our ancestors, the next seven generations and for our beloved Mother Earth and all of her children. We signed up for this work and choose to move forward together as we join hands and hearts and circle this planet with the love and nurturing spirit of the Sacred Feminine.

“We are who we’ve been waiting for.” ~ Grandmother Mona Polacca

Ymani Simmons (Chickasaw/Celt) is a peacemaker, writer, mentor, and facilitator of women’s circles and retreats. She participated in a March 2007 Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran and is an advisor/co-founder of the Kashmir Center for Peace and Reconciliation, a youth initiative. Regardingher usage of capital letters throughout her reflection, Ymani writes, “The Red Road of spirituality is my path and certain words are capitalized as a way to honor and respect the entity. The Fire and Well are sacred beings to us.”

 

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World Water Day

March 22nd, 2014 ~ 3:00 pm ~ Hominy Creek Park in Asheville, NC

As the sacred waters flow through my body this day, I know for myself I am fed and nourished by the Divine. I bless the waters of this beautiful earth today as I take into my body the clear, pure waters that quench my thirst. Thank you waters, which flow abundantly clear for all life to receive. Thank you for your sweetness and life enrichment beauty! I am grateful for this All Good flowing through me today and always. Blessed Be.

Bring your drums, rattles, songs to share, and fresh water to drink


 

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Affirmative Prayer

Great Mystery ~

As my day bursts forth into beauty,
I allow the natural, creative blossoming of all that is good
to demonstrate in my life now.

My thoughts and actions are of wellness and prosperity –
of color and growth in my gardens.

This creative expression is demonstrating continuously for a most
wonderful life.

I am grateful for this enthusiastic zest!

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Affirmative Prayer

Creator ~

As I turn my heart to the rising sun this morning,

I stand in gratitude of Grandfather Sun

illuminating my life with clarity.

I trust in the divine unfolding of this day,

Accepting with ease and joy,

The perfect circumstances and people crossing my path.

My experience is hearing the bird’s song,

smelling the blossoming of trees,

and feeling the soft, warm, caress of this Spring day.

My heart is grateful.

 

Ah-oh and So It Is!

 

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Upcoming Offerings

Create Your Own Medicine Wheel Vision Board – April 14th, 1:30-4:30

Spring is the time to start envisioning your medicine wheel garden.  Come spend a Sunday afternoon with us to manifest the life you desire for these coming growing seasons.  Learn the teachings of the medicine wheel and create your own, beautiful vision board.

Suggested Donation: $20

 

Women’s Inner Growth Circle – New series beginning April 17th or 18th – Circle meets once a week for 12 weeks

What in your life do you want to look different and what are you willing to do about it?  You can see with setting clear intentions that this is a very intimate group and we delve deep within our own psyches.  Come to experience and witness incredible changes and healings in women’s lives.

 

Sweat Lodge – May 4th

 

Ongoing Offerings

Women’s Quest Circle – Meets 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month, 6:30-8:30 pm

Co-Ed Circle with Sharon & Steven – Meets 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month, 6:00-8:00

Please contact me for more information on any offering

sharonrothmitchell@gmail.com

(828) 712-1119


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Affirmative prayer

Creator ~

In gratitude, with the newness of Spring,

My inner most nurtured dreams

burst into new growth and budding

The sunshine of my inner and outer gardens spring forth

In gratitude, I honor this greatest gift of Great Mystery

expressing her creativity through me, as me

Ah-oh and So It Is!

 

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Affirmative Prayer

Beloved ~
Honoring the divine connection of all life, I embrace spiritual unity this day.

Thank you for the courage and heart of a lion to speak in truth and hold up moral integrity for the highest and best of this beautiful blue-green planet we

share.

With conscious respect, I honor the many faces of God expressing Itself in

this Circle of Life.

Help us to have integrity of right action, and stay strong in preparing a

beautiful place for our children’s grandchildren.

Ah-oh and So It Is!

 

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We Are Nature

The magic of the holidays is when family and friends get together to celebrate that which is good and full of hope and goodwill in life.  In this holiday season, be as the children and know this magic.  Feel the magic of the season through lightheartedness and hope that a new dawn is coming.

There is a major shift in consciousness at this time, reminding us that it is important to give thanks for all of God’s blessings.  As we collectively shift our attitude back to gratefulness in seeing the abundance in nature, with a healthy respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, we learn from our mistakes and move into right action.

I often sit with a teaching from our elders stating “everything we need to know spiritually, we can learn by paying attention to nature, all of her gifts, and relations.”  There is truly no separation between humans and nature, because we are nature.  Because humans have an intellectual mindset, we are often under the misconception in thinking that we own and control nature.  Thus, having fallen into a delusion that we have authority over Earth’s resources.  Through our relationship with nature, we are reminded that we are no better than the rocks, squirrels, or energy reserves.  It’s all Spirit!

We are now at a tipping point.  We must live by the natural rhythms of our surroundings, bringing us back into balance with our Earth Mother.    Life is not something we go through or that happens to us, it is something we create by our decisions.  As we honor nature for all her gifts her beauty and glory call us into action now.

It is safe for us to talk about moral issues.  We know we are overusing Earth’s resources to the point of our grandchildren’s children not having what we have.   Don’t we want them to hear the songbirds that we hear in the morning?  Change isn’t easy, yet the time is such that we must address these moral issues to create a new world.  In order to move forward we must do so with positive action and attitude for the good of all.

I do this by starting small and taking personal responsibility with my own life and actions.  I connect with my moral integrity – the balance between what our actions should be, and what they truly are.  With money and governmental control, the power lies once again in the hands of the executives and politicians.  They seem too big to approach, too intimidating, yet I know I can stand strong in my moral obligations to future generations by being personally responsible.

Consumerism, cheap fuel and convenient food have made it easy to live a life of capitalism.  However, spiritually, morally, and environmentally, we know it has been misused.  We are all part of the system that supports and encourages environmental destruction.  These are the habitual patterns of our lives that we must change.  Every dollar which supports local, sustainable, and morally just goods and services provides us with more freedom, joy, and ultimately change.

Starting from the grassroots level of ourselves, we can move into conversations with our communities.  We are all going through this together, and must support one another in being mindful consumers, and minimal users.  As the communities we reach expand, our message will eventually reach those daunting figureheads of the corporations and political groups with international power.

This work is powered by love.  We love our children and grandchildren more than anything else.  To love something is to have a moral obligation to protect it.  Simple joys of this Earth Walk are often taken for granted.  The warmth of Grandfather Sun, the ability to breathe, clean water, food, shelter, and the love of friends and family are all blessings. The urgency of this work is calling upon us like never before.  Mother Earth cannot withstand much more of our ignorance.

 

Footnote: Inspiration for this piece came when I read an article in December 2012 issue of The Sun magazine entitled “If Your House Is On Fire – Kathleen Dean Moore on the Moral Urgency of Climate Change.” Moore is a nature writer and philosophy professor at Oregon State University.  You can read her article at http://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/444/if_your_house_is_on_fire

 

I have the courage and inner strength to stand in my moral integrity.

 

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