12 September 2008

Women in Transition’s Peace Ritual

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." ~ Albert Schweitzer

I know I always say this, but I will continue to say it. Last evening’s Women in Transition gathering was the best ever! It was a wonderful group of women who came together to share deeply on their memories of September 11, 2001 and the lasting impact it had on their lives. Then we lit candles to those memories, honoring the memories as touchpoints for life. It was a very powerful ritual as the women shared things that were never reflected on before.

After our opening song and sharing, I read out the famous quote from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This quote sparked a lot of conversation. In the candle lighting ritual, I wanted us to be reminded that we are a reflection of the light shining from those flames. That light burns brightly within each and every one of us. When we give light to someone else, it takes nothing away from our light, only causes it to burn brighter. Lighting another candle does not diminish our own light. Being light not only extinguishes the darkness but also fear. Love and fear cannot co-exist, just as light and darkness cannot co-exist. We have the power to choose love or fear, light or darkness. May we choose wisely.

One of the wonderful lessons that came out of that very awful and tragic day was that it gave us as a nation permission to grieve publicly. One of the things we are taught from the beginning is to suck it up and bear it. This is absolutely bad advice for a human being; for a robot or non-human, maybe. As a human being living a fully authentic life, part of that authenticity is honoring all feelings; realizing that they are just feelings, they are not who you are. Feelings are not facts, as the slogan goes.

At this gathering, we gave ourselves permission not only to grieve and to remember, but to completely honor the process, knowing that we come out stronger with more courage and confidence. Of course, I believe that any woman that walks into a room full of strangers and can bear her heart and soul is already courageous and confident.

One of my takeaways from the evening was that going through any life altering event brands you with the responsibility of journeying with another along the way. If you have had a significant loss, you are now a teacher to guide someone else through that kind of experience. We do not experience grief, loss and pain just for its own sake; there is a reason for its presence in your life. You now become light to someone who is in the darkness of their own grief and pain.

Look for the lessons and the blessings of each experience, especially the painful and traumatic ones. Our tendency is to just ask “Why is this happening to me?” then curl up in bed and pull the covers over our heads. Yes, that is an option. Another option is to question each experience: “Why are you here?” “Why are you here now?” “What do I take from this experience?” Then just sit with the questions. Do not look for the answers; the answers will come when you are ready to receive them.

Women in Transition Groups meet every second Thursday of the month at the Elizabeth Seton Women’s Center. When you are ready for the process and need guidance with your dimly-lit candle, come and join us to help brighten your own light.

Shine your light and live in peace,
Coach Carolyn

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