Category Archives: friendship

A story of Pregnancy & Death

I’m 24 weeks pregnant and it’s a girl! And she is living in the most fabulous Red Tent that I have ever created. The story of my pregnancy began back in October 2015, when I was at wrapping up a 3-year long Red Tent movie tour having hosted more than 1000+ screenings & Red Tents. My grand finale was at the Parliament of World Religions, where I was co-facilitating a 6-day long Red Tent with ALisa Starkweather and Giuliana Serena for over 8,000 people. At this conference, I met this most extraordinary grandmother elder who I greeted with such love. She said to me, “You are my mother.” A spiritual seed was planted.

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After this conference, my time traveling ended and it was time to settle down with my fabulous husband and start the next “stage” of our life. I had intended to get a temporary, “normal” job in Chicago for about a year and start a family. And once the baby was born, I would be a stay-at-home mom for a year or so. But things didn’t really work out as I planned. As my level of frustration increased, one day in early February everything changed. Within a 24-hr period, I found out that I was officially pregnant and that my friend Lydia Ruyle was dying of a brain tumor.

Image of the Tarot Card I got everyday for a few weeks. Image courtesy of Katherine Skaggs.

Image of the Tarot Card I got everyday for a few weeks. Image courtesy of Katherine Skaggs.

My first sign of pregnancy was not that I had missed a period; it was that my morning tarot card was the water child (see photo) everyday for like 2-3 weeks. When I found out that I was pregnant and that my friend was dying, I said to my husband, I want to go to Colorado for the next few months and film the end of my friend’s life. Lydia was a matriarch of a global sisterhood and I have always wanted to make a movie about her, but the timing was never right over the past 10 years. Lydia is the reason why I make the kinds of movies I make. She has always supported me and said that the world needs the kinds of movies I wanted to make. She has been a huge guiding force in my professional life and for that I will always be grateful. With my husband’s blessing, I left for Colorado to film Lydia. I was greeted with tremendous support of Lydia’s incredible husband, her daughters and son, and her niece. Filming Lydia was a deeply profound experience for me, and of course she was extremely excited to find out that I was pregnant. I captured a truly amazing story about her life and her death, and I look forward to the time when I turn it into a movie for you all to see. Lydia lived her life with such gusto and she always wanted to encourage others to let their light shine too!

Dr. Isadora, Lydia Ruyle, and ALisa Starkweather in the Red Tent at the Parliament of World Religions

Dr. Isadora, Lydia Ruyle, and ALisa Starkweather in the Red Tent at the Parliament of World Religions

As my time with her came to an end in March, my morning sickness and debilitating nausea were taking hold of my life. And for the past several months, I retreated to my house, which is why not many people have heard from me on social media, phone or email. To this day, I still have nausea. It’s been a difficult pregnancy. But she’s healthy and kicking up a storm in utero. My due date is October 23rd. So she may be a Libra or a Scorpio, we shall see. She will be the 4th generation of matriarchal zodiac cusp women, since my birthday is May 22nd, my mother’s is August 22nd, and my grandmother’s was April 21st. We have yet to pick a name, but I know that it’s going to be something AMAZING!

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Filed under birth, daughter, death, friendship, From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, mother, motherhood, parenting, red tent, red tent film, red tent movie, story

How Women hold Space for one another : Acknowledgment as an act of the Sacred

by Hollie B.

lunation.com.au

I give thanks to my dear Sister who agreed to my sharing of this story. I have chosen not to use her name. Because that’s not what’s important in this Story. So for now, she is called ‘this Woman’.

This is a Story about why I believe all Women benefit from sharing Story in a Red Tent. I don’t so much believe that every Woman needs to speak to share their Story in the Red Tent. But each Woman may find healing through Being present with shared Stories.

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I know this Woman who is employed in a place where She sees the absolute worst in human behaviour. Anything awful You can imagine, this Woman has probably seen it, heard of it, or been exposed to a story of it in some way. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not trying to bring You into a yuk Space, I just want to paint a very clear picture of how different this Woman’s everyday life is compared to many of us.

She has an awesome partner. In this case, her partner is a man, but it is not his gender that is important. What I take from this story is that her husband is there for her in the sense that anything awful that she needs to download from work, she can share with him and she knows he can take it. He works there too.

Home life is good for this Woman. Her children have grown and they are doing their own thing. She celebrates their maturity, knowing that their Journey is their own. Anything that causes stress from work, gets talked about before coming home, and left on the road. In other words, she doesn’t bring it home with her. She has a relationship with her husband, that although has had pain and grief in the past, is healed and in an Awesome Space now. She’s done Circles for healing her menarche and healing her mother-issues and letting go of the past and… In other words, right now, even though there are things that bother her in her worklife, and she knows there will still be Life Work to do, yet she feels fairly sorted.

Is that to suggest that this Woman doesn’t need an Experience such as a Red Tent? Like, she’s fairly sorted so she doesn’t need to sit around with other Women to talk about ‘issues’. She’s got her husband afterall. If he’s so Awesome, why would she need to go along to a Red Tent? She’s already got understanding and a soundboard for whenever she does have an issue. She feels supported at home…

Well, recent experiences have taught me that actually yes, she does still need the Red Tent Experience. This is not something I’ve come to on my own by the way. This isn’t something I’m coming at from my place of advice and an ‘I know what You need attitude’. Actually, it comes straight from this Woman’s mouth.

But the reason might not be what you’re thinking.

This Woman, wants to Be witness to other Women’s stories. She understands that everyone needs a place to share – to vent – to speak – to let go – and everyone needs to feel heard in that.

This Woman does not believe that She has ‘no issues’. But she does feel that the ‘everyday’ things she is haunted with are not for the ears of anyone outside of her industry. It’s not about being selfish. It’s not about coming and hearing everyone else’s ‘stuff’ and not adding anything to the energy. Actually, it’s about finding the Right place (for her) to share her stories, and entering the Sacred Space so that it is held Sacred. For this Woman, she feels depth in being the Witness. She isn’t there to give advice, or story-compete (Oh Yes I’ve seen lots of that), nor is she in the Red Tent to suppress some sort of need to feel special by being different.

Put simply, this Woman finds depth in the Work of witnessing other Women’s stories. In the act of acknowledgement – as witness to other Women and where they are in the moment – she becomes a Sacred Keeper of Tradition and Compassion. When she has something to say, she does. But for the most part, She helps hold the Space. She sits listening, without judgement – accepting of the Story as it is. She nurtures Women who do need to share. And She is content to Be.

Recently a number of events played out in front of me that really anchored this understanding for me. I saw many aspects of this Story. I heard the words ‘I’m fine’ while watching the body language that said ‘don’t fucken push me cos I will break – and I don’t want to break right now!’ I felt the acceptance of this Space while watching other Women go on the finger pointing mission of trying to ‘help’ and offer advice. I saw the break down of safe and Sacred energy with that pushing. I felt the pain of this Woman in not feeling accepted for where she needed to Be with other Women. I felt the distrust from Women who held expectations about sharing. The next day I felt Truth and Realness pour from the heart of this Woman as we shared together how that happened and where she would have liked it to Be. And it was in that conversation that I got clear around one very important aspect of the Red Tent.

I understood already that Women need to speak. I understood already that for a long time Women have not been heard. I have also noticed often that there are times when Women just talk for the sake of it. I have noticed that even when You suggest as a facilitator that everyone can keep their opinions and advice to themselves, and just let a Woman Be in her Space, they just can’t help themselves giving advice and opinions and cutting People off. I have noticed that some Women have a need to agree and say ‘You’ll be right’ and ‘You’re strong’ and ‘You can do it’ in response to another Woman’s Story. And I’ve noticed that this is not only un-helpful, it’s fucking disrespectful.

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My Red Tent and Women’s Spaces aren’t for feel good pep-talks. I facilitate Spaces for Women to Be. And to feel supported in that Being. In these Spaces it doesn’t matter who we are at home. What we do at work. What we have to do tomorrow. We just get to Be exactly as we are – in whatever Space – in that moment – without apologies. And we get to do it in a supported Space.

And what I became clear around, thanks to this Woman, is that I really want for the Red Tent Experiences that I facilitate for Women to feel the Power of sharing Stories, simply through Being Witness.

And then that got me thinking (it’s fairly on-the-go in my mind – when thinking is on, it’s really on until clarity is found). Although the Red Tent Experience happens in its own way, and Women share whatever they need in relation to that day, that moment; there’s still some things that some of us need to heal – and we don’t necessarily have a safe Space to do this in. Some of those ‘issues’ are older than ‘this moment and this day’, and we’re not necessarily sure how to bring them up. A ‘general’ Red Tent for sharing, although beauty-full and healing, may not always get to the deepest seat of what we need to heal.

It’s a bit daunting to bring up our miscarriages and our terminations and our divorce and how to raise our sons and daughters and our mental illness and our mother issues and our body image perceptions and… in a space full of Women who we have never met, or whom we only see every now and then. It’s particularly daunting to suddenly bring out the deep Stories of grief and loss that have been pushed down for a long time, or never given a Space. For example, it’s not easy to start talking about the abortion You never dealt with emotionally ten years ago, when the Woman next to You is talking about how she loves being a parent.

I always find it so deeply moving to hear stories from Women about things I’ve never experienced. Whether the Story is about joy or loss, it is the difference that I find mySelf inspired by. I feel honoured when a Woman shares something new to me. That is the journey of the Witness. It is quite beauty-full.

The essence of the Red Tent is the commonality of Being Woman. Always in the Story, even when we have not had the same experiences, it is the sharing that moves us. In one Woman’s Story of pain or hope or joy or loss, we find something of ourSelf. And we grow. That is True healing. That is how we fill our cup. Whether You are the Story-teller or the Witness. There is something for every Woman in the Red Tent.

And so, this leads us to the renewed, improved and fully awesome Red Tent Experience of 2013. We are diving deep. We are creating Space for Stories with intention. We are allowing room for Women to share and to respond authentically. We are opening a doorway for Women to Witness and find Truth around the Way we speak and respond. And we are Working with the Red Tent, to simply Be.

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Filed under coming of age, friendship, growing up, Guest Blogger, healing, Hollie B., how to create a Red Tent, red tent, sacred space, women's stories

I’m Fearless…

The non-ordinary space inside a Red Tent evokes powerful reactions from women. Even a woman who is no stranger to empowerment can be amazed by what she sees…and by the strength of her response.

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

What makes you feel fearless?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

If you liked this video, subscribe to our channel & sign up for our free weekly episodes of Red Tent TV at http://www.redtent.tv/

Missed my most recent episodes? Watch them here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw

Enjoy the video and have a fantastic day! Thanks for watching!

My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw
Website: http://www.redtent.tv
Friendship on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redtentfilm

Opening song “Red Tent Temple” by Mother Turtle. http://www.motherturtle.com/

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", Feminism, friendship, From the filmmaker, healing, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, red tent, red tent experience, red tent film, red tent movie, Red Tent TV

October’s Red Tent Movie Screenings Facilitate Connections Across Distance, Gender, and Circumstance

by Jayleigh Lewis

Between September 28, 2014, and October 26, 2014, Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About, attended eight screenings in five states spanning four different time zones. It was certainly a packed month (which, coinciding with Mercury retrograde as it did, contained its share of travel difficulties and communication problems—Dr. Isadora ended up arriving late at three of the screenings, an extremely rare occurrence!). It also contained some beautiful moments of support and co-creation (many provided by men), as well as inspiration for new Red Tent activities.

The first screening, held in Hudson, Massachusetts, on September 28th, took place in the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson and was hosted by the Hudson Red Tent community. It was an intimate gathering of women co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora, Nancy (leader of the Red Tent community), and Reverend Alice (minister of the church).

Nancy had recently had a hysterectomy; beforehand, she had been acutely aware of the finality of her last menstrual cycle. In order to celebrate the holiness of her last blood and to preserve its power, her friend Mary Cote-Diaz (of Drumblebee), a drum maker and Red Tent leader from Grafton, MA, had worked with her to create a custom drum made from goat skin. The drum had been decorated with Nancy’s last menstrual blood, which was then covered over with paint. This deeply meaningful gift was presented to Nancy for the first time in the Red Tent that day, in the presence of her community.

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This Red Tent gathering featured activities that allowed the women present to interact and get to know each other in creative ways. As each woman arrived, she wrote a question she wanted an answer to on a piece of paper (the questions could be about anything, from a personal situation to an existential pondering). The anonymous questions were mixed and read aloud at the end, so that anyone present in the room could answer them. Questions included “What is humility?” and “How can you be resilient in times of suffering?” Collective wisdom provided much fuller answers than any one person could have provided alone.

A second activity was led by Reverend Alice and was based on a Unitarian Universalist tradition. She had written down a list of experiences that might be encountered during a lifetime as a woman (for example: being a daughter, being a mother, having lost a child, feeling not good enough, being proud to be a woman), which she read out loud, one by one. As each experience was named, those in the room who had had that experience stepped into the middle of the circle to be seen by their sisters. Dr. Isadora was so impressed by the silent yet palpable solidarity and bonding created by this activity that she decided to bring it to all subsequent Red Tents she facilitated at screenings this month!

October arrived, and Dr. Isadora traveled to Pennsylvania for two back-to-back screenings. The first was in Reading on October 3rd, in a former warehouse turned community arts space called the T.E.A. Factory. It was organized by the Reading Spiral Sisters LLC, a women’s group led by a young woman named Kelsey. Many of the members of this group are also regular attendees of the yearly women’s festival Where Womyn Gather, where the Red Tent has been a presence for many years.

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

These women were inspired to create a Red Tent for their own community; they applied for and received a grant, planned and built an elaborate semi-permanent Red Tent at the T.E.A. Factory, which would be open to the public on designated days during October and November 2014, and set dates for screenings of the Red Tent movie to kick the whole thing off. What they did not know was that Dr. Isadora was already planning to be in the area at the time of the screenings! When they found out, they quickly worked together to partner and co-host the screening together. Dr. Isadora enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends from Where Womyn Gather while relaxing in the Red Tent, which had been installed in the former bank safe of the old warehouse, a soundproof room which she described as the “womb of the building.”

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

The next day, she was off to York, PA, for a screening hosted by a new Red Tent community led by a woman named Susan. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York (UUCY) provided the space. Susan’s partner, a contractor, helped put up the Red Tent; he was the first of many men who would provide such support over the next few weeks. The community, although only months old, is strong, and the screening was well-attended. During the Red Tent, women participated in the veil dance (the ritual Dr. Isadora first learned in California in February and has been bringing to Red Tents ever since) and in the “stepping into the circle” activity from September’s Hudson, MA, Red Tent.

Traversing time zones, Dr. Isadora landed next in Elgin, Illinois (about an hour away from Chicago), on October 10th. The screening she attended was held in the Elgin Artspace Gallery and Lofts; it was the centerpiece of a week-long women’s event called Rise and Shine: Awakening Heart to Heart. Kathy, the organizer, had planned something special for every night, including a women’s art show in the gallery space.

This Red Tent (somewhat unusually, though not, apparently, for this month!) was put up and taken down completely by men; one was a construction worker who had previously helped to build LAX and O’Hare airports. They were happy to help create sacred space for the 70-80 women who arrived for the gathering—so many women, in fact, that the Red Tent portion of the evening could not actually be held in the Red Tent, since there wasn’t enough room. Instead, the main gallery space was used.

Dr. Isadora led the group in the “stepping into the circle” activity and in an activity she calls the “proud circle,” which she learned at a women’s festival in California in June 2013. In the latter activity, women form small groups of four to five, and each woman in turn takes one minute to speak to her group all of the things about herself and her life that she is proud of. Afterward, as the gathering was coming to a close, the men who were taking down the Red Tent brought in the parachute that had formed its roof—and, just like at the screenings in Vermont and Massachusetts this summer, the women began playing with it. Perhaps this too will become a Red Tent ritual!

Serendipity played a big role in the next screening Dr. Isadora traveled to attend. Initially, she had four screenings booked in Oregon for mid-October, but, one by one, all except a screening planned for Portland were cancelled or rescheduled. Since she had already bought her ticket, she decided to head that way anyway and take some time to visit her godmother, Tamara, and goddaughter, Esme, who live in southern OR. She also put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone in the area might want to organize a last-minute screening.

One woman, Claire, who had participated in September’s Red Tent TV online launch party, responded to the call—and she happened to live in Grants Pass, OR, very close to where Dr. Isadora was already staying! She needed a venue, however. This was serendipitously provided when Tamara, who works as an OB/GYN, offered the conference room in her office. Thus, on October 17th, The Women’s Center, a building dedicated to women’s health, hosted a screening of the Red Tent movie. It was a very fitting extension of the Center’s mission to support the well-being of women.

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The screening in Portland, OR, on October 18th was also a success. Susan, the organizer, is in the process of establishing a business called Moondays, which she hopes will eventually be the host of a permanent Red Tent space. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign; the screening was her launch party. The event, which took place at TaborSpace (a neighborhood gathering place which describes itself as being like a “community living room”), also included a Red Tent. Women participated in the same “proud circle” and “stepping into the circle” activities that their sisters in other states had earlier in the month.

October’s final set of screenings also involved a fair bit of serendipity. Dr. Isadora had already planned to be in Colorado for 10 days to help a friend decorate her home, but when two local women with whom she had previously corresponded (they were seeking advice about how to start a Red Tent) found out she was in the area, screenings were quickly arranged!

Jessica, the leader of the Nectar of Life Red Tent Temple (begun this past summer in Colorado Springs, CO), had already planned to hold a screening on October 25th. She had held one previously, in late August, but had had to limit it to 15 people due to the size of her space, and now wanted to have a bigger event. This screening, to which Dr. Isadora was invited, was held in the Movement Arts Community Studio. It, like the previous screening, was very well-attended. It was also supported by Jessica’s husband, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army who was on leave for a few days—and who spent part of that time putting up the Red Tent! Yet another man giving practical support to women’s community.

Red Tent Movie screening at Colorado Springs, CO

Red Tent Movie screening in Colorado Springs, CO

The second local woman, Ananda, who lives in Denver, CO fell in love with the Red Tent Movie and wanted to bring it to her home community and to the women of The Temple of the Crimson Lotus, the Red Tent she started recently. When she found out Dr. Isadora would be nearby, she organized a screening for October 26th and invited the filmmaker.

The event took place in a private home that frequently hosts women’s activities. It was a small gathering, but a sweet one. Two of the women in attendance brought their very young babies, only weeks old. The women joined Dr. Isadora in the same activities previous Red Tents this month had engaged in, as well as in a “fire releasing” ritual, during which they wrote on pieces of paper things they were ready to release and then burned the paper.

Despite (or because of?) many unusual circumstances, this month’s Red Tent movie screenings facilitated a variety of powerful connections: between sisters separated by distance but united in common Red Tent activities, between men and women engaged together in creating Red Tent space, and between women longing to create Red Tents and those with the resources to help them. The movie continues to fulfill its purpose.

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", friendship, From the filmmaker, Guest Blogger, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, Jayleigh Lewis, men in sacred space, recent screenings, red tent, red tent film, red tent movie

Return To The Red Tent

by Teresa Maria Bilowus

“Return To The Red Tent” was first published in Starflower Living Naturally, Issue 2, July 2014

“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go…a place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women…” ~ Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

There is a place where women can go to tell their stories. A place where women can rest, create, sing, dance, sleep, or just ‘be’ for a while. There is a place where women can be witness to authentic sharing and connection. A place where women can hold each other and be held. There is a place where women can go to experience a ‘homecoming’ and leave feeling renewed, restored, replenished and open. There is a place for women. It is called the Red Tent. When women’s paths meet in this safe and sacred space, lives are transformed.

It is unlikely that when Anita Diamant published her best-selling novel ‘The Red Tent‘ back in 1997 she could have imagined how her work would be a catalyst for a ‘Great Remembering’. Anita Diamant’s descriptions of the monthly celebrations in The Red Tent not only illustrate the close relationship with land and nature and the moon cultivated by semi-nomadic women in ancient times, they also indicate the strong bond between women who would menstruate together in a sacred gathering space. It was in this sacred space, the Red Tent, where every girl became a woman.

Whilst the origins of the ‘Red Tent’ are fictional, women sitting together in circle is ancient and very real. Women coming together to bleed is found in almost every culture around the world. In some traditions women were segregated from their communities for being ‘unclean’ during their monthly bleeding time. But in many cultures women were honoured during the bleeding days and went to a special place within the village to commune with other women. Sometimes this place was called the women’s lodge, the moon lodge, the menstrual hut, the bleeding lodge, or by some other traditional indigenous name. These spaces all had great power and significance because it was the space where women bled together and shared wisdom. It was in these spaces that women passed down their traditions and shared their aural history – their stories and their mythology. It was in these sacred dwellings that women connected to their own inner power – in particular the intuitions and visions that came at the time of bleeding. And it was in these gathering spaces that women helped guide young girls into womanhood and were themselves guided by the community elders.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

Today, the Red Tent is a global women’s movement. There are an estimated 20,000 Red Tents worldwide. In thousands of locations around the world women are once again gathering together to share the cycles and the stories of their lives. These are important times. For the last 4000 years the entire history of ‘woman’ has been suppressed. Women’s songs, wisdom, traditions, intuitions, stories, methods of healing, mythology, knowledge of herbs and of the stars, and of magic and the underworld have all been vanquished. Patriarchy effectively wrote history in the image and the voice of the masculine. This doesn’t necessary mean that history is wrong. But it does mean that without the voices of women, history is wildly incomplete.

When women enter the Red Tent a ‘Great Remembering’ takes place. Women the world over share the same experience of coming into the Red Tent for the first time and yet it being deeply familiar. The Red Tent is a gathering ground for which women have been yearning, but until women actually enter the space, this yearning has not been released. Adeola from the Red Tent community in Bournemouth, UK says “I found a space I hadn’t released I craved, to speak with a voice I had never heard, about a wisdom I had carried since birth but had no awareness of.”

It seems that ancient women-wisdom is woven into the very fabric of the Red Tent space. From its fictional beginnings, women all over the world have breathed power and life into the Red Tent. Some Red Tents focus on celebrating menstruation and the blood mysteries, others are simply a place where women can dance, sing, rest and speak their stores. Healing, transformation and renewal are common themes within Red Tent communities. Regardless of age, culture, background, experience, religion, or circumstance, all women have a home within the Red Tent. There is a deep-knowing that when a woman enters the Red Tent she is supported not only by other women, but by an ancient energy that has drawn women together since the Beginning.

Women have big, important stories. Deep, painful stories. Stories that matter. Stories make up the meaning of women’s lives and yet for so long there has not been a place for women to share these stories. It is so easy for women to hide what has happened to them – to stuff their own experiences down into a hidden-away-space so as not to feel them. It makes it easier to ‘get on’ with day to day life. But within the walls of the Red Tent women are experiencing the phenomenal healing power of telling their stories. No one needs ‘fixing’ or advice in the Red Tent. There is no judgement or ‘therapy’. But there’s lots of compassion. And there are lots of women being heard. When women speak it, shout it, cry it, scream it, feel it – whatever ‘it’ is, then it comes to the surface to be released. Women’s stories are monumentally important. Each and every one of them. All over the world the Red Tent is providing a safe and sacred space for women to tell their stories. And be heard.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

In September 2012, award winning film-maker Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost released a ground-breaking documentary entitled “Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent‘. This 72 minute film seeks to ‘humanize the stories in the Red Tent – to put a face on the space’. Recently I had the wonderful pleasure of connecting with Dr. Isadora to talk about her film and the worldwide Red Tent movement.

Dr. Isadora, can you define what the Red Tent is for modern-day women?

“The Red Tent today can be anything you want it to be. The Red Tent is to fulfill the needs of your community. What do women need? Who would come? Sometimes women need to dance, sometimes to talk, sometimes to rest, to laugh, to cry, or to eat soup. There’s no one right way to create a Red Tent space. It has to meet the needs of the community, whatever those needs might be.”

Why now? Why at this time? Why has the Red Tent movement become so big?

“Contemporary women have a need for sisterhood. The Red Tent movement has a wonderful ability to cross all boundaries of culture, religion and background. No matter who you are, what language you speak or who you love, inside the Red Tent we are all sisters. I’ve heard women’s stories from Red Tents in India that are the same as women’s stories from Red Tents in Chile. The Red Tent transcends everything and brings women together to just ‘be’ in a safe and sacred space.”

So is the Red Tent part of the feminist movement?

“Well, firstly, let’s define feminism. My definition of a feminist is someone who believes that all women should be respected, honoured, nurtured, and heard. A feminist wants all women to believe in themselves. A feminist is someone who wants women to muster up the courage to live what they came here to do. I believe we are in the third wave of feminism. The first wave was the right to vote. Then came the second wave which was for equality. But we went out too hard. We burnt ourselves out. And so now the third wave of feminism is about self-care and self-love. It’s about bringing everything back into balance. The Red Tent gives us a place where we can find this balance. We can find sustenance communing with other women within the walls of the Red Tent. This gives us the power and the strength to go out into the world and do our work. Women need this balance.”

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

 

Dr. Isadora, in addition to being a filmmaker, you are also a textile historian. How important is the ‘fabric’ when creating a Red Tent?

“I have personally done over 500 film screenings of ‘Things We Don’t Talk About‘. Each screening is done in a Red Tent. I set up these Red Tents in gardens, churches, houses, forests, community halls and theatres. I have a great love of fabric. I have lived in 18 countries and I am intrigued by the history of fabric. I create amazing Red Tents with beautiful fabrics that I have collected from all over the world. But I know women who simply gather in circle each wearing a red scarf. That’s a Red Tent too. The Red Tent is any embodied space that honours the needs of women.”

Could you share your forward vision for the Red Tent movement?

“I would like to see The Red Tent movement get to places that are not so westernized. I would like to see it grow into places such as Eastern Europe and Asia. I’d like to see the potential that the Red Tent movement has to support women in those countries. I’d also like more international festivals with huge Red Tents. I envision global summits and international symposiums on the Red Tent movement where women from all over the world come to share their experience and their future vision.”

And finally, what about the future vision for your film? Where to from here for ‘The Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About’?

“I would like to do lots more film screenings within the US and internationally. And I’d like to make another Red Tent film. The next one would incorporate women’s stories from the global Red Tent movement. I’d like to film women from the Red Tent telling their stories in their own countries, culture and language, and then subtitle them in English.”

When contemporary women are asked what the Red Tent means to them, they share that the Red Tent is “a sacred feminine temple where I can honour myself”, and “home”, and “a place of powerful healing – healing where nothing needs to be done”, and “a place where I can come back to my pack.” There is a gentleness, kindness and realm of support for women within the Red Tent that is not found anywhere else in modern day society. Many women are witness to the powerful outpouring of love that takes place in the Red Tent. Women who have previously felt resistance toward women’s circles because of negative experiences of malevolent or competitive women are being drawn back to reconnect with women within the safe space of the Red Tent. Here, women are being nurtured by each other. Women can enter the Red Tent at any time. This supportive space is no longer just for women at the time of menstruation. The global Red Tent culture offers a place for all women to gather and honour their own individual journey while experiencing oneness with a united sisterhood.

There are often regular monthly gatherings within a Red Tent community. These monthly gatherings might be loosely structured to include movement and music, talks, rest time, craft activities, body work, creative pursuits, pampering, reading, journalling and much more. In addition, Red Tent communities offer open days where women can use the space in whatever way supports their needs.   Workshops or special events held in the Red Tent are often focused on areas that are deeply raw and painful for women. These can include topics such as healing from birth trauma, dialogue about sexual abuse and rape, mother wound healing, and empowerment around the menstrual cycle. Often when women take part in a workshop or retreat, they can experience big shifts only to go back to the ‘real world’ where there is no where to discuss, share, explore, or expand these shifts further. This can be difficult when the work is deep and the processes new. Within the space of the Red Tent, women can find ongoing support around such shifts from other women in the Red Tent community and from the space itself.

It is common within the Red Tent to find teenagers conversing with crones. This is a space where all stages of a woman’s life are recognized and honoured. The sacred trinity of maiden, mother and crone are melded together in a diverse and dynamic group of women defying societal norms on age segregation. It is within the Red Tent that young girls are experiencing powerful coming-of-age circles and empowering mentorship programs. Once again women are guiding girls into womanhood. For the first time in generations girls have a place to go to learn the ways of women. The Red Tent is a collaboration of women. All women have gifts to bring. Some women give massages, as others make tea. Some women bake cakes while others brush hair. Some women read poetry as their sisters are painting toenails. The Red Tent is where all of this can happen simultaneously and with complete spontaneity.

The healing that is taking place in the Red Tent is vital for our planet. When women heal themselves there is a ripple effect that touches their ancestors, their children, and the entire global community. Courageous women all over the world are speaking their stories. Women are finding their voices. When a woman comes to the Red Tent she experiences a ‘homecoming’ and a deep sense of belonging. Each time she returns to the Red Tent she returns home to herself.

© Copyright Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014 All Rights Reserved.

 About the Author

Teresa Maria Bilowus is a facilitator of workshops and retreats pertaining to Women’s Blood Mysteries. She is a Menstruality Empowerment Activist. Teresa facilitates Red Tent Bournemouth (Dorset, UK) and is the founder of Moon Girl Warriors, a powerful coming-of-age mentorship program for girls. Teresa is passionate about giving voice to womb-space wisdom and educating women on the rites-of-passage from menarche to menopause. She studies metaphysics and is a freelance writer. Teresa is the inspired mother of two phenomenal daughters.

Teresa can be contacted at: returntotheredtent@gmail.com

 

For further information on the Red Tent please visit:

Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost – ‘The Red Tent Movie – Things We Don’t Talk About’ http://www.redtentmovie.com/

The Red Tent Temple Movement http://redtenttemplemovement.com/

The Red Tent Directory – UK and Europe http://redtentdirectory.com/

Red Tents In Every Neighbourhood http://www.deannalam.com/global-network/

And for further information about HERSTORY – A Womanifesto (an informative free e-book) please visit the website of Jane Hardwicke Collings: http://www.moonsong.com.au/

 

 

 

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How Women hold Space for one another : Acknowledgment as an act of the Sacred

by Hollie B.

lunation.com.au

I give thanks to my dear Sister who agreed to my sharing of this story. I have chosen not to use her name. Because that’s not what’s important in this Story. So for now, she is called ‘this Woman’.

This is a Story about why I believe all Women benefit from sharing Story in a Red Tent. I don’t so much believe that every Woman needs to speak to share their Story in the Red Tent. But each Woman may find healing through Being present with shared Stories.

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I know this Woman who is employed in a place where She sees the absolute worst in human behaviour. Anything awful You can imagine, this Woman has probably seen it, heard of it, or been exposed to a story of it in some way. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not trying to bring You into a yuk Space, I just want to paint a very clear picture of how different this Woman’s everyday life is compared to many of us.

She has an awesome partner. In this case, her partner is a man, but it is not his gender that is important. What I take from this story is that her husband is there for her in the sense that anything awful that she needs to download from work, she can share with him and she knows he can take it. He works there too.

Home life is good for this Woman. Her children have grown and they are doing their own thing. She celebrates their maturity, knowing that their Journey is their own. Anything that causes stress from work, gets talked about before coming home, and left on the road. In other words, she doesn’t bring it home with her. She has a relationship with her husband, that although has had pain and grief in the past, is healed and in an Awesome Space now. She’s done Circles for healing her menarche and healing her mother-issues and letting go of the past and… In other words, right now, even though there are things that bother her in her worklife, and she knows there will still be Life Work to do, yet she feels fairly sorted.

Is that to suggest that this Woman doesn’t need an Experience such as a Red Tent? Like, she’s fairly sorted so she doesn’t need to sit around with other Women to talk about ‘issues’. She’s got her husband afterall. If he’s so Awesome, why would she need to go along to a Red Tent? She’s already got understanding and a soundboard for whenever she does have an issue. She feels supported at home…

Well, recent experiences have taught me that actually yes, she does still need the Red Tent Experience. This is not something I’ve come to on my own by the way. This isn’t something I’m coming at from my place of advice and an ‘I know what You need attitude’. Actually, it comes straight from this Woman’s mouth.

But the reason might not be what you’re thinking.

This Woman, wants to Be witness to other Women’s stories. She understands that everyone needs a place to share – to vent – to speak – to let go – and everyone needs to feel heard in that.

This Woman does not believe that She has ‘no issues’. But she does feel that the ‘everyday’ things she is haunted with are not for the ears of anyone outside of her industry. It’s not about being selfish. It’s not about coming and hearing everyone else’s ‘stuff’ and not adding anything to the energy. Actually, it’s about finding the Right place (for her) to share her stories, and entering the Sacred Space so that it is held Sacred. For this Woman, she feels depth in being the Witness. She isn’t there to give advice, or story-compete (Oh Yes I’ve seen lots of that), nor is she in the Red Tent to suppress some sort of need to feel special by being different.

Put simply, this Woman finds depth in the Work of witnessing other Women’s stories. In the act of acknowledgement – as witness to other Women and where they are in the moment – she becomes a Sacred Keeper of Tradition and Compassion. When she has something to say, she does. But for the most part, She helps hold the Space. She sits listening, without judgement – accepting of the Story as it is. She nurtures Women who do need to share. And She is content to Be.

Recently a number of events played out in front of me that really anchored this understanding for me. I saw many aspects of this Story. I heard the words ‘I’m fine’ while watching the body language that said ‘don’t fucken push me cos I will break – and I don’t want to break right now!’ I felt the acceptance of this Space while watching other Women go on the finger pointing mission of trying to ‘help’ and offer advice. I saw the break down of safe and Sacred energy with that pushing. I felt the pain of this Woman in not feeling accepted for where she needed to Be with other Women. I felt the distrust from Women who held expectations about sharing. The next day I felt Truth and Realness pour from the heart of this Woman as we shared together how that happened and where she would have liked it to Be. And it was in that conversation that I got clear around one very important aspect of the Red Tent.

I understood already that Women need to speak. I understood already that for a long time Women have not been heard. I have also noticed often that there are times when Women just talk for the sake of it. I have noticed that even when You suggest as a facilitator that everyone can keep their opinions and advice to themselves, and just let a Woman Be in her Space, they just can’t help themselves giving advice and opinions and cutting People off. I have noticed that some Women have a need to agree and say ‘You’ll be right’ and ‘You’re strong’ and ‘You can do it’ in response to another Woman’s Story. And I’ve noticed that this is not only un-helpful, it’s fucking disrespectful.

Red Tent

My Red Tent and Women’s Spaces aren’t for feel good pep-talks. I facilitate Spaces for Women to Be. And to feel supported in that Being. In these Spaces it doesn’t matter who we are at home. What we do at work. What we have to do tomorrow. We just get to Be exactly as we are – in whatever Space – in that moment – without apologies. And we get to do it in a supported Space.

And what I became clear around, thanks to this Woman, is that I really want for the Red Tent Experiences that I facilitate for Women to feel the Power of sharing Stories, simply through Being Witness.

And then that got me thinking (it’s fairly on-the-go in my mind – when thinking is on, it’s really on until clarity is found). Although the Red Tent Experience happens in its own way, and Women share whatever they need in relation to that day, that moment; there’s still some things that some of us need to heal – and we don’t necessarily have a safe Space to do this in. Some of those ‘issues’ are older than ‘this moment and this day’, and we’re not necessarily sure how to bring them up. A ‘general’ Red Tent for sharing, although beauty-full and healing, may not always get to the deepest seat of what we need to heal.

It’s a bit daunting to bring up our miscarriages and our terminations and our divorce and how to raise our sons and daughters and our mental illness and our mother issues and our body image perceptions and… in a space full of Women who we have never met, or whom we only see every now and then. It’s particularly daunting to suddenly bring out the deep Stories of grief and loss that have been pushed down for a long time, or never given a Space. For example, it’s not easy to start talking about the abortion You never dealt with emotionally ten years ago, when the Woman next to You is talking about how she loves being a parent.

I always find it so deeply moving to hear stories from Women about things I’ve never experienced. Whether the Story is about joy or loss, it is the difference that I find mySelf inspired by. I feel honoured when a Woman shares something new to me. That is the journey of the Witness. It is quite beauty-full.

The essence of the Red Tent is the commonality of Being Woman. Always in the Story, even when we have not had the same experiences, it is the sharing that moves us. In one Woman’s Story of pain or hope or joy or loss, we find something of ourSelf. And we grow. That is True healing. That is how we fill our cup. Whether You are the Story-teller or the Witness. There is something for every Woman in the Red Tent.

And so, this leads us to the renewed, improved and fully awesome Red Tent Experience of 2013. We are diving deep. We are creating Space for Stories with intention. We are allowing room for Women to share and to respond authentically. We are opening a doorway for Women to Witness and find Truth around the Way we speak and respond. And we are Working with the Red Tent, to simply Be.

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Bone Knowing: No Question

by Oceana Leblanc

Something I know in my body has placed me around the picture that I witness being colored and splashed, and painted with brushes from this world and most certainly others.  I frame it.  This is the only way I can think to describe my journey with the Red Tent, which began decades before I met the physical raising up of my own commitment to honor the sacred wisdom of women.

Roughly fifteen years or Oceana LaBlanc and Alisa Starkweather, Red Tent Temple, Grafton, MAso before I had even heard the words ‘red tent’ uttered, I found a book that changed my relationship with my moon cycles and my blood forever.  “Her Blood Is Gold” touched my soul and I began to embrace my own sacred blood secretly, wondering if anyone would think I was crazy for using flannel pads and watering my plants with my moontime blood.  The comfort of bleeding onto a soft cloth after years of tampons and ibuprofen was a great relief and brought me into a more intimate and loving relationship with my body than I had known.

More exciting to me was the thought that my blood could heal this earth, and was a gift and an offering of the greatest value.  At the time there was an innate knowing, much like the knowledge that I was absolutely committed to holding a space for a red tent when the idea emerged as an invitation.  There was no hesitation, only an intense commitment and a knowledge that this had been waiting for me patiently for years…maybe lifetimes.

“A life of its own” is how I like to describe the red tent, clichés be damned.  There seems to be an Energy that will live the red tent into being and gather women all over this tiny dirtball flying around in the universe.  That Energy seemed to know me and gather me up in Her path towards calling Her own daughters home.  I went so willingly and to this day am grateful.

I have had the deep pleasure, privilege, and honor of meeting so many women over the years I’ve held the red tent.  Standing in awe as each brings her wisdom which is unique to her, and claims her place in the circle.  I have watched the red tent transform lives, and seen it ripple outward to families and communities.  Today I see this thread that is spinning a cohesive bond among women that gather and know each other. A simple statement to be sure, knowing each other, but in today’s world, this is a profound and earth shifting reclamation.

The women come and some get that feel in their bones and ask me to teach them how.  I am overjoyed!  Yes, weave more.  Yes, create new stitches with your own flourish.  Yes, bring your women together and heal.  Yes, you are wise beyond your own knowing, for until you sit in circle with your sisters, mothers, daughters, and grandmothers,  and speak your heart into women’s listening…until then, the silence of your wisdom is one more little death.  Once you begin to unfurl your dreams, and listen in sacred space to other women, the mystery of our collective power to heal each other and this world becomes quite real.

What is the red tent?  I don’t believe it can be captured as a thing, but rather it is a remembrance, a rhythm, a celebration, an affirmation, a reclamation, an honoring, an herstorical rising, a gathering together, a calling, a dreaming, a gestation, labor and birthing of the feminine from Herself unto Herself, gifting humanity with new hope…one woman by one woman by one woman.  It is quiet revolution gathering up loose threads to cradle hope until she becomes strong enough to look a new world in the eye and claim it as her own.

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