Alchemising Grace from Grit in your Circle
The Groves In-breath Series Blog 2
Alchemising Grace from Grit in your Circle
The first blog of this Groves in-breath series outlined suggestions for creating a foundation of safety in Grove circles. This blog aims to explore the more challenging aspects of what may arise in a Grove, terrain that we are calling the Grit of circle.
I am going to start by defining some terms - these are not definitive definitions, they are simply the ways that the words are being used in this context:
|Grit||A TreeSisters term for the symptoms that arise from shutting parts of ourselves down, including projections and the forming of shadow parts.|
|Grace||A TreeSisters term for the reward reaped through being brave enough to face our grit honestly in a way that means it can be transformed.|
|Sisterhood wound||A dicomfort, distrust or dis-ease in relationships with other women.|
|Shadow||Parts of ourselves (qualities, behaviors, beliefs) that have been buried because of a belief they are not acceptable.|
|Triggered||Being activated by someone or something into an old story of unsafety, and feeling and acting as if the danger is in the present moment.|
|Projections||Transferring a part of ourselves that we do not accept onto another person and acting as if it belongs to them; eg: if we don't accept our own anger we see it in another and overly blame them for being angry.|
|Wound Bonding||Creating a feeling of intimacy based on shared hurts rather than shared strengths.|
'Shadow aspects of ourselves we are unconscious of, disown or repress...., and then meet in the world, in another and think it's all about them, when actually they may be simply mirroring or pointing to something about our own unconscious traits, which, if we own them can be healing and alchemical' ~ Karen Scott Grove Tender Narbeth, Wales
How does the Grit get created?
Grit is a symptom of the denial of parts of ourselves through a belief that we have to reshape who and what we are to be accepted and feel safe in the world.
As a result of our shared history of oppression and marginalisation, most, if not all of us have a version of the 'I'm not enough / I'm too much' story as well as the 'I'm not safe' belief. This combination leads us into remoulding ourselves into highly compromised versions of the naturally spontaneous, wild and joyful creatures that we are. In short it results in us believing in, and living from untruthful versions of ourselves.
Why do these aspects of us rise in a women's circle?
The short answer is 'because they can'!
'When you shine a bright light it can reveal the shadows. Women's energies are strong, and when together they can be strongly catalytic and activating of anything ready to surface and heal. Even if the full intention of the group is to be harmonious and positive, our shadows can ask to be addressed and brought into loving awareness so that release and expansion can happen'. ~ Clare Dubois TreeSisters Founder
One of the best gifts a women's circle can offer is a space of deep inclusivity, where not just some, but all aspects of each woman are welcome. Whilst Groves are not replacements for therapy, they can be strong containers that offer opportunities for the dismantling of untruth and limitation.
TreeSisters has a core circle practice called Sistering that can be offered through our Groves to support the creation of a field of loving awareness. For an in-depth exploration of Sistering please see our third blog in this series.
Working consciously with the Grit in our Groves
To speak to this, I am going to cover two main areas - the first will be an exploration into how we might invite our Groves to safety retrieve what we may call 'shadow parts', and in the second we will have a look at the area of triggering and conflict in circle and how best to respond to it.
Tending the Shadow gently
One of the most reassuring things you can do as a Grove Tender in relationship to the shadow is to name it and normalise it. Something of the history and culture that surrounds women is great for contextualising and taking it away from the overly personal -
Historically women have been taught for many centuries not to trust ourselves, not to see ourselves as powerful or worthy, and therefore it's become hard for us to do this for each other. This dumbing down of women has led us to denying parts of ourselves that have been judged as wrong, be it our power, sensitivity, intuition, sexuality, anger, wildness...'
Part of sisterhood and circles is a re-growing of the muscle of the safety of togetherness, so that we can once again rise whole. In that process it is likely that aspects like competitiveness, comparison, jealousy, envy will all reveal themselves. This isn't who we are, rather these are the strategies that we learned to deal
with having parts of ourselves disallowed......'. ~Jenny Smith Former Groves Mama
Projections and shadow go hand in hand. We will find it hard to honour parts in another that we have denied in ourselves. Again this can be spoken to in really simple ways in our Groves and also weaved into circle agreements around confidentiality, kindness and respect..
Notice when you feel pulled to speak unkindly about a sister to another and get curious as to what is going on there... What is she representing to you? What is it about her that you find difficult in
yourself? Is there a way that you can explore this more closely with yourself or the circle without compromising our agreements? ~ Jenny Smith Former Groves Mama
It is possible to create simple and playful ways to reveal what is in shadow without it having to be a heavy or intense process. Reading out a poem such as Rumi's Guesthouse that has the invitation for every part to know that it is welcome; offering playful check-ins that invite each woman to name a part of her that wants to be in the space and a part that doesn't, or inviting everyone to make a sound or movement from the place in her that doesn't feel welcome are all ways to lighten the difficulty of showing what we believe is unacceptable. See here for more suggestions on how to introduce this into your Grove.
A circle can really come into the power of itself through the recognition of there being a mixture of shadow parts. It then becomes possible for competition to turn towards inspiration as one woman looks to another to support her to reclaim a disallowed part of herself that her sister is able to embody with ease. ~ Jenny Smith Former Groves Mama
We did some shadow work together in my women's circle where we had beads and we mentioned topics in brief without stories, and strug beads to make a little string of shadow. I loved having these beads to reflect on how to honour these qualities and remember the core. ~ Sara Steffey McQueen Grove Tender US
There are also ways to invite a more conscious sharing of shadow and projection through deeper circle work. Some of our tenders are trained in holding practices and processes that offer spaces where strong feelings can be expressed and felt. These spaces are rare, precious and essential in life and should only be offered if you have the experience and skills to do so.
'It took over 3 hours of witnessing, listening, providing wisdom as guidance for self and sister... to lay bare the Truth of our triggers in this World of Shadow, to speak sincere apology for what we had
wrought in one anothers Spirits, and then the teams. Tears of Rising, Forgiveness and Releasetoright relation. All blessing to this Grove for their courage, especially when ego wants to have her say. All blessings to my sisters who remained to continue in Circle to work things out when all simply wanted to run and hide from our wounds'.
~ Barbara Donohue Grove Tender
Supporting your Grove in times of a sister being triggered
Moving now to the area of triggering...
- When we are triggered we can become lost in our reactions.
- We can take things personally that are not personal
- We can jump to conclusions without checking things out
- Becoming triggered can look like attack towards self or other.
Being triggered often involves loud and overwhelming feelings feelings, resulting in us losing the ability to be aware of, or curious about what is going on on the other side.
Unconscious triggers become a negative vortex that will draw everyone else in who has a resonating wound. The risk of that is escalation into wound bonding and blame, separation and fragmentation. This is the opposite of what we're trying to create through our Groves.
If someone does fall into being triggered in a circle, the primary energy that is most helpful is one of kindliness and de-escalation.
Ways Grove Tenders can support a charged situation to de-escalate:
Calling the circle back to a place of holding
- Acknowledge that there is charge in the space and suggest everyone takes a breath
- Let the sister know that her feelings matter and that it is an important distinction between what we feel and how we express it
- Invite the circle to return to love and to sistering.
- Remind the circle that everyone is doing their best
- Agree as a circle that in moments of stress there are various options - singing a song, having some silence, standing up and shaking, putting some music on and dancing,
Supporting the sister/s who is triggered:
- Ask the woman who is triggered what she needs -
- Encourage her to make eye contact if she can.
- Make suggestions like having someone that she trusts sit up close to her,
- let the circle move on to someone else whilst she finds her way back to herself,
- Reassure her, normalise the experience of hitting up against tender parts of ourselves and not feeling safe enough to feel them
- Invite her to speak from the place of ‘I feel….’ rather than ‘you made me feel….’
- If a sister has been attacked follow same process with her.
Sowing the seeds for sistering once again
- Remind her and the whole group of the boundaries of kindness, and respect
- If you have some kind of Groves pledge in place you could read it out and ask for women to re-commit.
- Do something physical to shake out and move the energy - breath, movement, sound are three keys for moving energy through our bodies / through a group
- Invite the circle to lean back into the holding of trees, wider nature.
- Agree as a circle to create a space for deep sharing in the future when women can be supported to take responsibility for their experiences and become curious about them so that things can move and transform.
During times of charge or pressure, stay aware of the importance of boundaries around things like starting on time, endings. Notice and acknowledge if there is a temptation to overrun because of distress and make sure that this is negotiated with group rather than assumed.
To minimise repeats in future - build in regular reviews in your Grove where women are invited to give feedback of their experience and express their needs. Being given space to say honestly how things are is very rare and can reap huge benefits to the safety and deepening of a circle.
Valuing the times of Grit
As a Tender it is normal to feel stretched during times of difficulty and conflict in your Grove,. It’s really important that you feel supported either through your co-tender or the wider circle of Grove Tenders in the TreeSisters community.
These challenging times of projections, shadow material and triggering have the potential to offer your circle absolute pearls and ultimately serve in the deepening and strengthening of your circle. Remember to lean into the trees, the land and the rooted cyclical teachings of nature that shows up that everything that rises up in absolute beauty also moves into an essential phase of composting and decay in order to nourish the next cycle.
Shadow is so interesting. It’s so closely stuck to us and the process of unpeeling it then noticing more as it comes away is freeing yet painful at the same time! It’s like finding a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that was never supposed to be there. When its taken out all our other bits re-jig themselves into place and we immediately find ourselves more comfortable.
~ Charlotte Jane Grove Tender Lincs, UK
In my own journey, especially in my early years when I as delving into what I named my shadows, I kept finding treasures. My gifts, strengths were so hidden away, that I didn’t even know they were there. ~Lure Wishes Grove Tender Australia