Through the centuries, women have gathered at the community well to wash their clothes and gather water.
But more than this, women gathered at the well to gain sustenance from community, from one another. Women returned again and again to the well where they were nourished, both by the cleansing waters and by the community of fellow seekers who gathered at the water.
There was a rhythm of unfolding that happened at the well. As the women met one another and began to trust, they would start to share the stories of their hearts. One brave woman would go first. She would tell her story, and a second woman would find a seed of truth in that story that related to her own life. From that seed, a deeper story would emerge.
These women began to find meaning in their stories. The stories informed them, gave them validation, sparked their curiosity, and dropped them into a new connectedness with one another.
The women may each have come to the well from a different village. There were several communities and many families represented in the gatherings at the water. But over time, these women became a tribe. Their bond grew stronger through the years and this tribe became the primary anchor that supported them. They grew to become sisters, and the gathering of this tribe of sisters became a catalyst for personal growth that was the impulse for a sweet kind of spiritual unfolding.
Each woman took the nourishment from the well back to her life within the village. The lessons of the well were not just feeding the women. These lessons were helping to sustain each village. Each community grew healthier because of the sustenance the women received and the wisdom they were growing into. Over time, the overall society became a better place.
I can close my eyes right now and imagine the pleasure these women shared. There is a profound satisfaction in entering into a deep relationship with other women. There is a unique sense of comfort in sharing our stories, in supporting and encouraging one another. There is a special kind of nurturing that happens when we enter into deep, meaningful soul-talk, when we engage in rooted listening, and when we are brave enough to speak from the heart.
The poetry and true potential of our lives can be found when we take the time to gather and connect with one another in a deep, meaningful way. It is then that we return to the deep “well of the soul.”
There aren’t many opportunities for returning to the well in today’s world. The pandemic has caused us to become more isolated than we’ve ever been. The need for social distancing has stolen our moments of intimacy. The zeitgeist of divisive political discourse may have caused us to become distrustful of “the other.” We may be so busy calculating all the ways to simply survive, we have come to ignore the deeper stories that inform the meaning and purpose of our lives, the stories that enrich our journey.
Where are the places we can take pause and find our tribe?
Some find this in a women’s fellowship group within the walls of a church, synagogue, or mosque. Some find it at their yoga studios. Perhaps there is a measure of it in the “mommy and me” playgroups that young mothers join. Maybe it’s during a nature hike. And for many of us, at this moment in time, it is found in a Zoom call.
I have been a facilitator of women’s circles on and off for many years now. I started doing this in the early 1990s to meet the needs of women who were longing for a fuller experience of discovering who they are and what their place is in the world.
I want to encourage women to find or start their own wisdom circle. These gatherings have a dedicated time and place to meet regularly, and there is usually a curriculum that encourages the sharing of stories and experiences.
I can tell you this: when women gather, there is a special alchemy that happens. Women who have not learned to use their full voice somehow find a way to express their deepest longings. Women who have been timid or fearful find their courage. Women who have never been validated are able to take a new look at themselves through the eyes of the tribe. Cross-generational and cross-cultural understanding surfaces and we learn profound lessons from one another.
There is an undeniable power behind women nurturing women. There is a deep sustenance in women returning to the well. We can be sure that, just as in ancient times, the gifts that surface in a tribe of women will ripple out into the families and communities that these women inhabit.
I believe we need strong tribes of women now more than ever. So, dear women, let us gather together. Let us nurture and support one another. Let us extend that nurturing out into the communities of our broken, needy world.