Women hold within themselves a special way to connect to each other and the living world, which supports a deep, natural wisdom. They have an inherent ability to create, bringing forth new life and serving and holding their families and communities. The uncertainty of rapidly changing times, however, can disconnect women from their unique strength and orientation, leaving them unsure about best ways to move.
In response to the challenges of these times, Ukalai, one of the Lifeways events offered through the Sacred Fire Community, provides an opportunity for women to connect and renew while also growing the skills needed to meet the challenges women face in holding the gift of the feminine. Facilitated by Sherry Boatright—a senior quiatlzques of the Nahua tradition and a therapist with a deep passion and extensive experience in women’s work—the October 2016 Ukalai was held at Loblolly, a Sacred Fire retreat center near Atlanta, Georgia. Previously the land has welcomed many community activities, including Firekeeper trainings, Grandfather Fires, leadership meetings and ritual. With generosity, Mother Earth opened herself again to receive the women who gathered.
While it has been natural for millennia for women of all ages to gather together in their villages, this practice has been lost due to a lack of recognition of the deep value it holds for women as well as for society. Therefore, on this warm autumn day those who arrived were excited about the opportunity to spend time with each other. When asked, several women said they came looking to get in touch and understand themselves as “feminine” or the “divine feminine”. As one attendee said, “I wanted to develop myself as a female in the world and figure out what that means”. Another admitted, “Sharing with women is not something I am accustomed to doing. That was actually one of my biggest fears going into this time together.” A native Mexican spoke of having experienced the qualities of courage and strength while in the presence of Grandfather Fire. Remembering that, she specifically wanted to sit with a circle of women to help her address the challenge of living in the United States during these turbulent, political times.
As the women’s work began, each participant came with individual views and life challenges. Some were younger, some older, some were mothers and others not. The essence of the feminine was explored through a variety of experiences and processes. Perceptions began to move and the group began to gel as one heart expression. Trust for deep sharing began to arrive. Before coming, many of the women thought they would be shy but found that through the work of a skilled facilitator they quickly shared openly and intimately. They also discovered that while they might be at different phases in life, each held a deep connection to the others through this innate quality of being “woman.” One participant explained it this way: “Before I came, I felt distress in every role I have – as wife, as mother, in my work in the community. I was always wishing I could do better. I left feeling free and more forgiving and accepting about what I am trying to do. I treasure that.” Another participant shared, “I longed to attend Ukalai. When the women came together, we slowed down to the pace of nature and became better listeners for one another and to the heart’s wisdom that resides within us. We honored the feminine aspect of our lives and the contribution we make in the world. We began to restore a sense of meaning and the purpose that it serves. This is vital if we are to live courageously and with integrity in a world that is ever-changing and demanding more from us.”
There were many pleasant surprises. Spirit was invoked, prayers were made, and ceremony held. And the land responded. A participant offered, “The part that was totally unexpected for me was on the last day of the retreat we had some alone time and I managed to get down to the creek for the first time. It felt perfect, just sitting there. And then it was like dominos, one insight after another, all these things I had been working on, came to me.”
When the time for parting arrived, there was a feeling of enthusiasm and fresh resolve. “As I left on the airplane that day, I was flying physically but also spiritually. I would do that again.” Thoughts also moved to what would come next. “What I really want is to be more connected to an immediate circle where I live. And yes, I do think it is very, very important that women get together in this way on a regular basis.” Another attendee chimed in: “Having retreated and reaffirmed to bring more balance to our lives, we left this sacred space of women with a deeper sense of who we are and with a larger circle of friendship. We grew more aware of our potential to contribute to life with gratitude and joy.” And still another responded, “I value having a place for women to go when they need to be heard and supported by other women. It seems less common these days that one has ‘girlfriends’ readily available in their lives. I believe special work between women is essential, not as a one-time fix, but as an ongoing ‘shot in the arm’ of honest and respectful witnessing of our lives for one another.”
In response to the need, Sherry and Annie King, the Director of Firekeeping for the Sacred Fire Community, are supporting the opportunity for women to gather locally by offering training for those women interested in facilitating Women’s Fires. The goal is for hearths to offer such Women’s Fires regularly. These will provide local support for women, yet will be different than the longer, deeper immersion afforded by Ukalai. It is therefore encouraged that Ukalai be experienced annually if possible so that attendees may drink deeply from the well of Divine Feminine and then return to the world, quenched and revived, ready to move as Woman.
Do you hear the call to gather with women? An Ukalai women’s gathering will be held this summer in Tepoztlán, Mexico. If you would like to get word about upcoming Ukalai women’s retreats, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to know where Women’s Fires are being hosted, contact email@example.com.