Phenomenal Women

Last night I returned from a weekend retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo with 25 other PHENOMENAL women. I am still processing all that I have received from the women’s spirituality weekend. The connection amongst women is phenomenal. In just two days the stories that were shared found a home of encouragement in each of us.

My “word” for the time away seemed to be connection – and I found a deeper awareness to my authentic self, a connection with women of all ages on similar journeys, and a connection to God in the beauty of the space, the icy cold waters of the lake, the grass and pine needles under my barefoot as I ran along the path.

Mary Daly, in her book Beyond God the Father writes about healing wounds we as woman carry, often as a result of a patriarchal society. In order to heal within it requires a “reaching out toward”. It is in the connection with others, both male and female, that we can begin to share, have compassion and discover and define ourselves as authentic women.

It would be naive to think that the healing of the divided self can take place in one act. A truly healing insight involves a will to change that externalized itself in continually unfolding action, so that the insight grows and action becomes more meaningful.

I would also be naive to think that healing can take place in isolation. The individual’s sense of reality depends upon some kind of communal consent. It would be absurd to think that singly a woman can win the struggle for psychic wholeness. The sense of reality that such an individual is trying to sustain would be pitted against a system with enormous resources for persuading her of her error, sinfulness, or mental illness.

The “bonding” phenomenon among women, expressed by the word “sisterhood” is therefore essential to the battle against false consciousness. Only women hearing each other can create a counterworld to the prevailing sense of reality. 

The sisterhood that was created in less than two days is testament of the bond and desire for a deeper bond with women. It is something I deeply desire, yet am still trying to grasp my own past resistance to deeper “bonding” with women, and feeling safe and secure in that bond. Often, as was brought up on retreat, we as women fear getting too close because of “catty” women that actually perpetuate the patriarchal society in which we live. Unless we have biological sisters, we may not be accustomed to “sisterhood” in its secure and healing form. And as an aside, those that have had catty or ruthless sisters may not trust the word sisterhood.

In my own personal journey I have realized that the deeper bonding and processing that happens between women is what is most difficult for me. I am great at either being superficially nice or being deeply close and sharing all of me. But the process, the unpacking, the actual bonding, yet not bonded, is difficult for me. And here I am typing away, creating a website and hoping to understand the stories of other women, to get them to share, when I actually need to learn to be vulnerable yet secure in both myself and the connection with women, with sisters.

In honor of all of the Phenomenal Women that represent strength, vulnerability, and beauty from this weekend I leave us with this poem by Maya Angelou that we listened to and which moved me to my core. Every woman has within her a phenomenal woman, some of us are just still peeling away the layers to find her – but she is there at the core. And when we as women are secure in knowing our “phenomenal-ness” we will be able to create real sisterhoods.

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