I was walking the dog the other night when I felt it, deep in my belly: a stirring, a pulling.
Earlier in the day I had been finalizing the logistics of my trip to San Francisco for Emerging Women Live. There were calls with my best friend who lives in Noe Valley to arrange a night together, making the decision to stay in the hotel for the conference, securing reservations for the doggie spa while I am away, and more—all the things that need to be handled in order to create a clearing for myself.
And then, when the sky was dark, and the city was still, my senses tuned to the wind, the moon, the earth... that’s when I felt it. It was the call of my sisters, the annual tribal council. The time when we gather together from far and wide, from our varied outposts to discuss, observe, and discern the state of all things.
The feeling in my belly deepened, rooting in my sacrum and rising up my spine. I felt the heat in my solar plexus, vibrating in my throat, my forehead, and the top of my head. I was waking fully to the impending magic. With a skip in my step I turned back towards home, pausing for one more moment, one more breath of the cool night air. I turned my face to the stars in gratitude for the many gifts in my life. The full moon was the kind that begged to be howled at, so alone with my dog on the street in Los Angeles, I did.
I’ve been gathering with groups of women as long as I can remember. The first time I recognized it as such, was as President of Women’s Coalition in high school. We were a group of young women from various social groups who would assemble in the home of our beloved advisor, Katherine Alcorn—a former Betty Crocker Homecoming Queen from her small town in rural America, who had since become liberated under the guidance of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and the second wave of feminism. We would share our personal experiences as women in the landscape of our suburban New York public high school society, discuss national and world politics, inspire and challenge each other into social activism to contribute to the cause of empowering women and shifting gender balance wherever we could. It was the first taste I had of the what happens when we join together with intention, an act that I now refer to as “circling-up”.
We gather in circle to hold each other in sacred space and purpose.
We circle-up to share our stories, to be seen, to deepen our identities as individuals and as a group. Held by the safe container of sisterhood, it becomes possible to bring forth the most tender parts of ourselves so that they may be healed, so that our vulnerabilities may become strengths. It is by leaning into sisterhood that we are able to transform ourselves and our world.
Deep. Juicy. Vibrant. Electric. There is a certain magic that is at once palpable and inexplicable. A post-menopausal woman waking on Day Two with her period, the discovery of a life’s purpose, a spontaneous healing, the forging of a sustaining friendship in a nanosecond… these are all stories from the floor of Emerging Women Live.
I participate in a number of conferences—yoga festivals, coaching summits, meditation retreats—where like-minded people with a common interest gather to practice. What is so unique about Emerging Women Live is that our "common interest" is our gender, and our only agenda is to spend four days in community exploring the experience of being a woman. What brings us together is not what we do, but an essential part of who we are.
To maximize this powerful experience, here are a few tips:
1. No Comparison
Sitting in a room with 600 women, it is natural to compare ourselves to others, but don’t. A maple tree doesn’t spend time wishing it were a juniper tree, or thinking about how much more beautiful its leaves are than the juniper’s needles. Comparison inherently diminishes one or the other. It arises from a mindset of scarcity, when in fact there is enough for each of us, and each of us is enough. When we raise each other up, we all rise together.
2. Think Small
When considering potential peak experiences, meeting some of our idols tops the list. There are some spectacular women speaking, and the intimacy of the event makes them unusually accessible. But don’t forget that there are also hundreds of small, powerful moments throughout the weekend. Sometimes the shortest conversation or the briefest hug can have the biggest impact, if we are present and available to it.
3. Moment to Moment
Setting an intention is a powerful way to experience the conference. Articulating why we are there and what we wish to achieve brings focus and clarity. At the same time, allowing ourselves to be flexible and spontaneous creates a pathway for unexpected gems. Let the story of your weekend (and the subtext) reveal itself one page at a time.
4. No FOMO
Do you know this term? Fear of Missing Out. Let’s face it, if it were possible to be in two places at once, this would be the time. Alas, we will need to make some choices during the course of the conference. Whether it’s choosing one workshop over another, or opting to take a break, do so with the confidence that you are exactly where you should be. Listen to your body, your mind, your spirit, and honor its pace. Sometimes we need a moment of stillness so the wisdom can sink in.
5. Root Down, Stretch Up
Each of us has a modus operandi, a frequency at which we normally run. This tendency becomes more apparent—and even exaggerated—when confronted by the excitement and energy of an event like Emerging Women Live. If you are someone who tends to be scattered and unfocused, remember to slow down. If you are often quiet and slow, challenge yourself to participate. This is the perfect time, in the safety of sisterhood, to dig deep into your authentic self and stretch into who you are becoming.
6. The Word is Connection
Above all else, Emerging Women Live is about connection. The most powerful moments arise when we connect with each other. As women, we feel deeply. It is our birthright, our superpower. The willingness to be vulnerable is the key to the door of connection. The growth and transformation we seek, both individually and as a group depends on our ability to touch each other. In our hyper-connected, multi-tasking, 140-character world, we often feel isolated and alone. Connection is the medicine. Take a heroic dose.