To speak uninterrupted

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					            celebrating women

                                                                                      that is taken very seriously. What is      And it’s not that I don’t experience
                                                                                      said in the circle remains in the circle   intimacy with my female friends
                                                                                      and this rule along with the talking       outside the group. I have numerous
                                                                                      stick have been the foundations of         close relationships with other
                                                                                      what makes this space work. When           women. I cherish these women like
                                                                                      you hold the talking stick, only you       sisters. We chat, we go out socially,
                                                                                      can speak. There is no interruption        we drink occasionally, we laugh, we
                                                                                      when a woman has her time to               cry and we discuss a kaleidoscope
                                                                                      share. After this, the circle is your      of topics, many that don’t often
                                                                                      self enquiry playground, and unlike        make it into the women’s circle.
                                                                                      therapy, there is no fee.                  But something happens when I sit
                                                                                         As women, often our innate              down in the circle that is difficult
                                                                                      inclination is to help each other,         to recreate outside. Somehow I am
                                                                                      solve each other’s problems                transported to the red tent, to a
                                                                                      (especially when we can’t solve our        place as ancient as all the women
                                                                                      own) advise one another and create         who have lived before me. Daily

Left palm open,
                                                                                      a dialogue that encourages a shared        life dissolves into the light of the
                                                                                      experience. Empathy makes us feel          flickering candle and I am just me
                                                                                      human, makes us feel like we are not       again.

right palm down
                                                                                      alone in an often precarious world.           Life’s cycles have been played
                                                                                      I have now learned the underrated          out before me in a way that I had
                                                                                      but most valued skill of listening         not been privy to before. We have
                                                                                      without interrupting. To listen and        collectively shared the death of
                                                                                      stay silent, to eclipse the need to        a parent, the birth of a child, the
                                                                                      counsel, feels at times unnatural          joy of a new relationship and the
                                                                                      and detached. What I have learned,         devastation when one fails. Ageing
 by Miriam Hechtman                        images from Lord of the Flies and all      however, is how much can happen            parents, existential fears, disease,

                                           my fears around repressed anarchy          in that moment of silence for              career triumphs, everything has been
             o speak uninterrupted         and chaos brooding under the radar         both the listener and the speaker.         thrown into the cauldron and we
             is both shocking and          came to mind. Yet, the greater and         Empathy does not need to be shared         women have witnessed it without
             liberating. I remember        more frightening thought of course,        through feedback and common                judgement and without the need
             my first time speaking in     was that I, too, would have to share,      stories; compassion can be translated      to comment. The masks have been
             the circle, conch in hand,    unburden, reveal and speak visibly to      through the pure act of listening.         removed and there is no going back.
 seven pairs of eyes rested on me, the     a group of women about myself.             It is also a relief to not have all the    Once you have seen a woman in all
 sound of silence rising in volume            I have been meeting with the same       answers, to not feel responsible for       her splendour, her pain, her scream,
 until my own words filled the empty       seven women for over four years.           someone’s pain, to not feel the need       then the absurdity of petty jealousy
 space. I remember glancing down at        We didn’t have to tick off any boxes       to put everything in a box and label       and competitiveness falls at the
 my slightly wavering hands, feeling       to join – background, age, sexual          it. And to speak uninterrupted is so       wayside. What is envy in one woman
 time move at a faster pace, every         preference, religion, profession or hair   freeing. To speak at my own pace; to       can be honoured by another. There
 second, a minute.                         colour were never questioned at the        not think about my words or others’        is nothing to be gained in this sacred
    If you had told me in my early         gate. We meet every fourth Thursday.       reactions. To ponder... to pause. This     circle, nothing to be won, just an
 twenties that I would one day be          Sometimes we don’t all make it.            is something I have not experienced        opportunity to speak truthfully.
 part of a group of women who              Sometimes I would rather stay home.        anywhere else.                                Left palm open, right palm down,
 met monthly, shared their most            Sometimes I choose not to speak.              Listening to each woman speak is        the circle is closed. I plan to grow old
 intimate thoughts freely and only         Sometimes we are all there. This week      like holding up a mirror and passing       with these women.
 spoke when they were holding the          we will be three. No matter what,          it round the circle. It can be painful
 ‘talking stick’, I probably would         when, how, why, there is an unspoken       to see yourself in others’ narratives.                   Miriam Hechtman is a
 have cringed. The notion of such          commitment and a trust that I have         Issues that you may not have even                        freelance writer, researcher
 gatherings used to set my alarm           not experienced with women in my           uttered, that lie in the basement of                     and producer. She has
 bells ringing. People unburdening,        everyday world. In a contemporary          your heart and mind and may not                          covered diverse topics
 sharing, revealing, recalling their       culture void of much ritual, having a      have even ripened to consciousness,                      including workplace health,
 past, speaking without hesitation         monthly constancy to meet with these       are revealed in the story of another       ethical investment, climate change,
 or punctuation – the thought alone        women has deeply enriched my life.         woman. At first this declaration           business and travel. An avid traveller, she
 made me want to curl up and escape           Like a good session with a              is confronting, but slowly as you          has spent much time abroad on trains,
 into some hard-covered fiction. The       professional therapist, confidentiality    begin to accept this in her, you may       planes and buses, meeting fascinating
 notion of a conch, too, conjured up       is the first commandment and one           contemplate acceptance in yourself.        people with extraordinary stories.


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 28 may 2008                                                                                                                             

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