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.
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:
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
Hummingbird Drum Circle: