This year’s public retreats for diverse women leading progressive change in their communities—one in May in Ben Lomond, CA, and the other in Northern New Mexico in July—have been transformative and exquisite, and have felt blessed (by whomever you might believe blesses things).
Inviting magic requires quite a few great ingredients coming together, including especially attracting a committed, disparate and skillful group of women focused on doing the inner work required to increase our change-making abilities and leadership in the world.
A Stunning Array of Purposeful Women
Each training has attracted a truly magnificent array of women, women whose innate gifts, deep listening (both inwardly and out), capacity for reflection and meaning-making and willingness to immerse themselves in a learning field together has been dazzling.
The women included educators and labor organizers, performance artists and ecological designers, water activists and culture workers, health-care counselors and skillful and dedicated leaders working to provide basic services to low-income communities.
The young women in the group were striking in their clarity of purpose and vision, and their conscious exploration of how to marry their particular gifts with their purposes, or callings, to effect change.
One student working toward an Environmental Justice major noted her desire to mingle dance and movement with how she awakens people to these issues to advance change.
Another who’s dedicated to educating and inspiring people about growing healthy soils is also an accomplished singer, seeking to creatively entwine those two pathways.
In the Bay Area, a young entrepreneur launched a platform to connect people and businesses seeking to exchange goods and services toward building a new economy.
Connection with Indigenous Heritage
Both trainings drew strong Native American leaders, some working to provide health and housing support for indigenous communities, and others working in food sovereignty, conservation of traditional food and farming ways, and gourmet cooking, educating and the nexus of health and diet.
An elder from southern Colorado noted in May that she’s not accustomed to considering non-native women as potential friends or allies, and that this training was altering her sense of what’s possible.
An accomplished chef and educator offered a traditional pipe ceremony to the group, during which a young activist from Denver who was of Latina and indigenous descent noted tearfully that her only prior contact with her indigenous heritage had been about the trauma and pain that was associated with it. This pipe ceremony, she said, offered her a first experience of the pure beauty and sacred wholeness in her lineage.
A successful restaurant entrepreneur with a farm-to-table community hub in New York City surprised the group by having grown up in a village in France that was featured in the film The Burning Times, and so had a far more personal relationship to that history than had ever occurred previously.
Women Report Powerful Results
In their feedback, participants are reporting powerful results. A writer has noted a significant difference in her experience of beloved community, and in what’s possible when women align in intentional and rigorous mutual support.
Over 90% of the women noted significant increases in their:
- Understanding of what women uniquely bring to leadership
- Awareness of self-limiting stories and internalized oppression
- Sense of self-love, self-respect and inner authority
- Capacity to be an effective leader
- Experience of authentic mutual support among women
- Motivation to see other women as allies
One accomplished leader said that upon returning to her community, she seemed so different that colleagues thought she’d had a face-lift. She noted wryly that what she’d experienced was far more invasive.
Optimal Conditions Coalesce for Transformative Magic
Our facilitation teams collaborated with grace and tremendous complementarity. After nine years of co-evolving the training, Toby Herzlich and I collaborate with seamless fluidity. Rachel Bagby brings such sensitive and astute listening, encouraging vocal creativity and expression while bringing a deeply wise presence and a modeling of full embodiment to each circle.
Elsa Menendez joined Toby and me for the first time at the New Mexico retreat, where her longtime experience with transformative theater coupled with her multicultural work, her luminous love and playful spirit co-created a space where physical expression and risk-taking flourished.
The ingredients that optimize experiencing transformative magic also include Earth’s participation, and more, including great food. Each retreat—situated in a beautiful setting surrounded by wild and full-throated nature—was blessed to have glorious weather, and at Ocamora, we were also gifted with lightning storms, shooting stars and rattlesnake sightings.
Capturing the CWL Experience in Poetry
One woman offered the group an extraordinary creative gift—one of the best expressions of what it’s like to participate in a CWL training I’ve ever seen.
Throughout the first four days of the retreat, she jotted notes and phrases that she’d heard women in the group say. Then, she cut them all up, and created a poem to express what she titled and performed for us as “Your Voices in My Head.”
We offer it to you as a taste of CWL, with gratitude and wishes for the power and beauty of the work to spread.
Cultivating Women’s Leadership Alumnae in Their Own Words
"CWL is unique, unlike any other anything that I have been a part of!"
"One of the most important takeaways I’ve continued to carry with me beyond the final days of CWL, is the ability to identify the barriers to self-worth I’ve put up within myself, and to summon the courage to truly believe in myself and to ask the correct questions of myself to strip down this limiting behavior. In doing so, I’ve given my mind the freedom to re-align to what lay beneath the chatter and noise, which has revealed a strong sense of purpose. Not until I felt the support of our powerful circle of women around me did I feel free enough within my own mind to begin to delve deeper into the true meaning of my purpose, and to call forth the practical and tangible goals that lay embedded in fulfilling this purpose."
"I realize now that prior to attending the training, I was looking to my external world for clarity of purpose, and for the strength and reassurance of my calling at this moment in time. As a result of the CWL training, I fully understand that I hold the key to unlocking my true purpose or calling. This revelation alone gives me the strength and courage to be bold, creative and authentic in my service to this purpose, which, once I let go, revealed itself so clearly!"
"I really value the safe space created by CWL where I can practice new skills, with both feedback and encouragement. There were several experiences that helped me directly access my creativity and practice speaking more authentically, in ways that were new for me. I was pleased to discover that when I let go of anxieties I was able to access the same feeling of "flow" as I often feel in my technical work."
"I discovered a sense of solidarity with people across difference. Even though the circles we may face out in the world may not be as open, I feel a deep compassion for all women and all victims of the same crimes against women. I hope this strengthens my work in supporting women to discover this in themselves as well."
"I highly value connecting across differences and deeply appreciate diversity. Because my work is with mostly white young children, attending CWL gave me an invaluable experience of raising my consciousness about women's issues across cultural lines. I feel much more aware about white privilege as well as various ways in which prejudice is enacted against women."
"I had been fearful about making deep connections with women that had experienced oppression because I didn't want to offend them, insult them more, and I don't know their experiences. What I took away from CWL is the power of deep Listening and that acknowledging oppression and trying to support those trying to overcome it is necessary for me to do."
"I’ve experienced a stronger sense of self-confidence in my words, actions, and attitude within myself, and an incredible freeing of mind toward the limiting shackles I’d placed on unknowingly on myself. This freedom has allowed me to take bigger steps into my role as a strong leader, to have confidence in my decisions and actions, and to have to courage to face situations, conflicts, and tough conversations with grace and vulnerability."
Get a Visceral Feel for CWL at the 2014 Bioneers Conference
You can also learn more about Cultivating Women’s Leadership trainings on our website.