Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self
Women of Spirit and Faith convened its second
Alchemy gathering November 7-10, 2013
at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay.
It’s lasting impact is best described in the words of attendees:
I treasured the intentional open network design of the conference, with key questions posed in circles without efforts to direct, control or shape outcomes.
I have more confidence in myself and my abilities … I no longer feel comfortable remaining silent in situations where I am overlooked or ignored because of my gender or my age or my race.
What I think about often is also the diversity (age, ethnicity, religion) of the women. It takes intention to achieve that diversity and it was so rich. The lingering impact for me is the longing and desire to be surrounded by and frequently touched by the Divine Feminine, as we experienced over and over during our time at Alchemy.
I know my life changed again after this Alchemy. The circles brought me closer to the real things that are going on in my life. My spiritual work seems to have a new intensity and passion.
I know more than ever that women will save the world.
Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self brought together 120 women from across North America for a unique exploration of women’s spiritual leadership. Women were invited to explore big questions in the safety and power of feminine spiritual community. How do we create a global alliance to amplify the faith voices of women at a time when the world desperately needs their wisdom? Can we model a radical experience of sisterhood to transmute limiting paradigms of separation, scarcity, competition and fragmentation? How can women create a new global culture where we stand for the greatness in each other, the sacredness of the Earth and every living thing? The gathering was an embodied experience of the kind of potent leadership that emerges when women connect to their deepest spiritual root, when they excavate through the layers of fear and numbness that stand between them and their sacred selves.
DOING THINGS IN A NEW WAY
Many people have asked us how we developed the radical new model for this Alchemy gathering.
Shared leadership and collaboration:
This Alchemy gathering was first born in a conversation at a WSF retreat in August 2012. During the 15 months leading up the event, Women of Spirit and Faith invited both individual women and organization to join us in co-creating this event. We held Exploratory Meetings – in California and New York – inviting organizational representatives into day-long conversations about passions, priorities and visions. We broadcast open invitations for women to help withsome aspect of the event. We put out a Call for Proposals for break-out sessions and open space.
We made a commitment to modeling shared leadership in every phase of the gathering. Alchemy did not have any keynote speakers or panels of experts at the front of the room; it was a circular experience celebrating and harvesting the wisdom and leadership of every woman present.
A commitment to saying ‘YES’:
We were alert for clues from Spirit – and thus tried to say YES whenever a woman approached us with an idea, offering or passion. This involved both a continuous process of holding space open for new ideas – and weaving those offerings into the design of the event. Alchemy was a fluid process – right up through our closing circle.
Leaving space for Spirit:
Sridevi Ramanathan, Susan Strouse and Kallie Holmes Sorenson anchored the creation of altars in the four corners of the room representing the four directions and the four elements – Earth, Air, Water and Fire. All the women present were invited to place sacred objects from their spiritual tradition on these altars. A central altar featured an empty crystal bowl to symbolize the space that was held for Spirit at the center of the event.
The women involved with Alchemy offered prayers from many faiths and spiritual perspectives throughout the whole process of co-creating and gathering.
Circle tools and resources:
Much of our time together at Alchemy was spent in circles of eight, sharing stories as we explored a series of spiraling questions. Suzan Nolan, Mary Kay Carle, Barbara Belknap and Diane Jung shared circle teachings, passing along their own most beloved circle tools.
We believe that listening deeply – to one another and to the voice of the Divine within each of us – is the try key to transformation. Kay Lindahl guided us in an experiential exercise to enhance our capacity to listen and reflect deeply, to ourselves and to each other.
Women of Spirit and Faith has always self-organized around questions about women’s spiritual leadership. All of our gatherings have invited women into dialogue around questions that feel dynamic and inspiring in the moment. Our guiding principle for questions is asking ourselves: What’s the next question that wants to be asked? We are also vigilant about asking ourselves: Is there another way to do this? Knowing how easy it is to be stuck in what we know rather than open to a new way.
Alchemy circles explored the following clusters of questions is a spiraling sequence of explorations into personal and collective leadership patterns:
LONGINGS AND CALLINGS
At this moment in time—NOW—
What do you need to teach?
What is your heart longing for?
What are you feeling called to?
How would you describe your Divine Assignment?
MENDING AND HEALING
At this moment in time—NOW—
What do you need to learn?
Who or what has colonized your sacred self?
How is your Sacred Self longing to be free?
What prevents me from giving voice?
What lesson have you been asked to learn over and over again?
OCCUPYING OUR SACRED SELVES
How can I bring the fullness of my Creative Fire?
When I am living fully from my sacred self, who am I being?
What is the radical and bold action I must take to create a new world?
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND GRATITUDE
Many midwives contributed their skills, wisdom, time and energy to bring Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self into being. Deepest gratitude flows your way.
This event had five mothers who carried
both the vision and the details.
They are also the core leadership of
Women of Spirit and Faith:
The following women provided leadership
to weave the many aspects of Alchemy:
Alchemy Altars: Sridevi Ramanathan and
Collaborative Art: Charlotte Backman
Music: Jennifer Salima Holt
Logistics/Admin: Kendra Ford
Circles: Suzan Nolan and Mary Kay Carle
Design: Anne Fitzgerald
Jennifer Salima Holt
Melanie De More
Hummingbird Drum Circle: