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January and February Red Tents and Movie Screenings: Warmth and Community in the Midst of Winter

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, resumed Red Tent hosting and film screening attendance in January and February 2015, after a brief hiatus. As she reconnected with the women of her local Chicago community and traveled to Milwaukee for a screening co-organized by a Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference attendee, screenings were also taking place in other parts of the country and world.

Of particular note were the screenings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 25, and in Coyhaique, Chile, on February 7. The former took place at the Sophia Center for Goddess Study, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating men and women about contemporary Goddess traditions. It was well-attended; Dr. Isadora would have been there if not for her prior commitment on that date to the Chicago Red Tent. The latter screening took place at a Chilean women’s festival, Encuentro Ser Mujeres en Patagonia, held at the Centro Cultural Coyhaique. Approximately 300 women attended the festival, reflecting the explosion of interest in Red Tents among women in Latin American countries over the past six months to a year. Since Things We Don’t Talk About is subtitled in Spanish, the film is well-suited to be an introduction to the Red Tent movement in these parts of the world!

On January 25, Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent in her Chicago home. She transformed her dining room into a red fabric-draped space which was filled to maximum capacity by the approximately 15 women who attended. Many of the women brought their children; Dr. Isadora makes it a point to welcome moms who can’t always manage to get a babysitter but still need time and space away from their ordinary lives. (One advantage of this is that everyone gets a chance to hold the babies!)

Red Tent Chicago

The event was “loose and flowing,” a time for women to talk and be together in whatever ways they wished. Embodying her commitment to giving back to her community and to honoring the women who show up, Dr. Isadora offered foot rubs to all. She also bonded with the eight-year-old daughter of a friend while painting the little girl’s nails with sparkly polish. It was a gentle and nourishing midwinter gathering.

The February 7 Milwaukee, WI, film screening, which took place at the 5757 Spa Salon, had a similar light and flowing feel. Liz and Cathy were the organizers. Cathy, who works at the salon, had attended the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference last June and had seen the Red Tent movie there. She happened to have been sitting between a woman in her 80s and a young mother with a baby, and had an inspired moment when she realized that the Red Tent was needed by all generations. After that, she was determined to bring it to the women in her local community.

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The salon, a former doctor’s office, does not have many large spaces (although, in each of its many small rooms, unique inspirational sayings are featured, reminding clients to look for beauty within). In order to clear a space large enough for the screening, the merchandise storage area (which had originally been the waiting room) needed to be emptied, a process which took hours of work. But it was worth it when the women showed up. The event was sold out with approximately 20 women in attendance (including one woman who had driven two hours from Chicago and was glad to find out from Dr. Isadora that there is a Chicago Red Tent community!).

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The post-screening Red Tent, initially slated to last an hour and a half, stretched on for almost three hours; the women did not want to leave! Three activity options were available—henna body painting, chakra aromatherapy, and angel card readings—and in between “appointments” women relaxed, talked, and ate chocolate-covered strawberries in the Red Tent.

Dr. Isadora engaged several women in thought-provoking conversation during this time, bringing to life the spirit of Things We Don’t Talk About by talking about the things women don’t usually talk about! One woman, a nurse at a midwifery clinic, discussed what she knows about infertility and overcoming the fear of having children. Another woman, a salon owner and hairstylist for 30 years, who had been brought to tears by the film, told Dr. Isadora what had so moved her: the depiction onscreen of nonsexual intimate touch. She knows through experience how powerful this kind of touch can be, how it can generate instant trust. When women come to her to get their hair styled, they are often initially uncomfortable with the risk involved in changing their appearance. She has learned to subtly reassure them by unobtrusively massaging their shoulders as they discuss what they want—and thus what was a tension-filled experience becomes a healing experience.

Another conversation touched on a little-discussed aspect of menstruation. Some cultures have menstrual rituals that help to direct the intense energy of this time. Native American women who are menstruating enter moon lodges, because they are seen as too powerful to be part of mundane life; they need to be able to concentrate on ceremony and dreaming. The mikvah is a ritual bath taken by Jewish women that serves as a type of spiritual cleansing and reorientation to the ordinary world after they have finished menstruating. For some women, the Red Tent is a menstrual ritual that can help support and anchor them while they are bleeding. One woman offered the opinion that when women become bloated, “bitchy,” and depressed around the time of their menstruation, it is because they are carrying unresolved grief around the loss of the egg that is passing out of them, grief over the unexpressed potential for life the egg represents. If a woman feels this way, and wants a safe space to get in touch with this inner truth that might otherwise go unacknowledged, the Red Tent as menstrual ritual could be the perfect container for its expression.

Truth and trust were shared, bonds were strengthened, and sacred time was enjoyed during these recent Red Tent gatherings. And more are coming next month! To see a listing of upcoming screenings (including those Dr. Isadora will be attending), go here. If you don’t see one for your area, perhaps you are being called to host one?

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, Jayleigh Lewis, recent screenings, red tent, red tent experience, red tent film, red tent movie

Red Tent Communities of Chicago: Tending to Home

by Jayleigh Lewis

Sometimes, you don’t have to travel far to find your tribe. Sometimes, a wealth of community, sisterhood, and inspiring conversation finds you right where you are. Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, had this experience last month (July 2014) when she attended two Red Tent events in her current home city of Chicago.

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The first event was a combination film screening and Red Tent, co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora and local life coach and energy worker Andrea Friedmann. Andrea, a vibrant Colombian-American woman who strongly supports women’s community and owns a coaching business called Vibrations Coaching, met Dr. Isadora initially through Linda Conroy of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference. It was at their first meeting that the idea to host an event together in the Chicago area was born. The vision became manifest on July 20, when an intimate, multi-generational group of women gathered at Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, surrounded by the red fabric of Dr. Isadora’s traveling Red Tent.

After watching the film, the women participated in activities led by Andrea, including a talking circle and a “soul journey,” which Dr. Isadora described as an adventurous guided meditation, the purpose of which was to connect women with their souls and encourage them to make discoveries about the deepest parts of themselves. Dr. Isadora witnessed a rich diversity of personal stories emerging from the group as women spoke about their feelings and experiences.

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One woman, in response to a question posed in the talking circle—what story from the film did you relate to?—shared the resonance she felt with the woman who spoke onscreen about the complicated emotions that arise from knowing she won’t have children. She could relate, as she is coming to terms with knowing she won’t have grandchildren.

Many women in the room spoke about wanting local community and not having it. Dr. Isadora and her mother, who was in attendance at the gathering, echoed this theme. Dr. Isadora spoke about wanting to have more friends in the area who are “real”—people who can be honest and vulnerable about the experiences and challenges they are moving through and who won’t just tell her they’re “fine” when she asks how they are. Her mother, who is making plans to move her art studio to the Chicago area, said that she wants to spend more time around women like those who were in the room. All seemed to share a longing for community whose roots run deep, and when one woman proposed hosting a local Red Tent, everyone said they would come.

In another Chicago suburb (Berwyn), Dr. Isadora attended another local Red Tent gathering on July 27. Led by Celena Chavez, co-host of the Red Tent at the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, this community is relatively new, having been started by Celena after she recently moved to the area. Dr. Isadora described the gathering as relaxing and peaceful; she really appreciated being able to attend a Red Tent that she didn’t have to create!

Many women present had young children with them. One woman who was seven months pregnant spoke with Dr. Isadora about how the latter overcame her fear of pregnancy but is still feeling into what it means to enter this life stage, in anticipation of eventually having her own children. Celena, a mother of young children herself, shared about her practice as a midwife who works with placentas. Some of the children present received astrology readings from Dr. Isadora, containing information about the unique challenges and life lessons each was born with—invaluable for their mothers’ understanding of how to support them.

In keeping with this Red Tent’s theme for July, “Moon in Leo,” women spoke about how they, like the archetypal lion, symbol of the sun, are shining in their lives, and how they want to shine even more brightly. Intuitive ways of knowing were honored as women shared card readings with each other, using angel cards and mother wisdom cards. The archangel card Dr. Isadora drew reminded her of the importance of bringing more humor into her life.

In the midst of her near-constant travel to attend Red Tent movie screenings and Red Tent-related events across the country, these two gatherings allowed Dr. Isadora to stay close to home and connect deeply with local women. She plans to continue this practice!

What stories, experiences, and gifts are you exchanging or do you want to exchange with the women in your geographical community? How are you growing relationships with deep roots?

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Red Tent Rituals Falling Like Soft Grace over Women’s Lives

By Jayleigh Lewis

February 2014 was another light traveling month for Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. She attended just two movie-related events, and only one screening. However, what was lacking in quantity was made up for in quality: included in the events’ heart and soul-warming moments was the “most inspirational experience” Isadora remembers having in her year and a half of touring the country with the film.

Red Tent, Escondido, CA

On February 8th, she returned to Escondido, California, where she had last been in mid-September 2013 shortly after the Goddess Spirit Rising Festival in Malibu. On her previous visit, too exhausted from travel and facilitation to set up the Red Tent, she had held a bare-bones film screening in the Goddess Studio, a sacred temple space on the home property of Amalya, who was one of the festival’s presenters and is also a writer, belly dancer, priestess, teacher, and ceremonialist. However, Amalya, inspired by the Red Tent at the festival, had invited Isadora to return later for a full Red Tent experience in the Goddess Studio. That return took place on February 8th.

This time, the full set of red fabrics came out for an all-day event which quickly became a moving and intimate experience. The four-hour-long Red Tent, attended by eight women and co-hosted by Amalya and Isadora, took place in three parts.

First, the women participated in a ten-minute sound meditation, created by a woman, Duffy, whom Isadora had met at a screening in January. The meditation guides listeners through an imaginative journey into what it might have been like to participate in an ancient moon lodge or menstrual hut. (Isadora plans to make this meditation widely available by selling CDs and offering it at all future Red Tents that she hosts.) As the women lay on the floor in a circle, heads touching, their bodies like sun rays radiating from the center, they realized that the red fabric panels hanging from the ceiling created a yoni shape that could only be seen when looking directly up at them. The power of perspective!

Red Tent, Escondido, CA

Red Tent, Escondido, CA

The next activity was a veil dancing ritual led by Amalya. Drawing on her years of experience with belly dance, she created a gentle ceremony that allowed each woman a chance to feel nurtured and honored. Two at a time, women lay on the floor with their heads touching and were covered with a thin white chiffon veil. Accompanied by a song called “Returning” (sung by artist Jennifer Berevan, a friend of Amalya’s), the other women danced around them with colored veils, holding the intention to bless the women in the center. Then, as a second song by the same artist played (“She Carries Me”), the colored veils were gradually layered on top of the women in the center, forming a cocoon. At just the right time, the veils came away, slowly and gently. Isadora described the experience as being like a birth consisting of nothing but healing energy. Women cried; it was obvious that this type of support reached them deeply. (Isadora now plans to offer this ritual at all future Red Tents that she hosts!)

Finally, there was a talking circle, where women shared their experiences with the veil ritual as well as a bit about what was going on in their lives. The Red Tent closed with singing led by Celia Jorgensen. She offered some well-known songs about the Goddess with lyrics changed to make them about the sacred character of menstruation:

Ceila Jorgenson

“Drops”

Drop to drop,

again and again.

Life goes on;

beginning to end.

Goddess to goddess,

hand in hand.

Woman to woman,

she’ll understand.

 

“Red River”

(Maiden)

Red river is flowing,

flowing and growing.

Red River is flowing back unto Thee.

 

(Mother)

Red River is flowing,

flowing and glowing.

Red River is flowing back unto Thee.

 

(Crone)

River Red River is flowing,

going and knowing.

Red river is flowing back unto Thee.

 

Goddess carry me.

A woman I will always be.

Goddess, carry me back unto Thee.

Escondido, CA

After this Red Tent, which with its tears, laughter, and “aha moments for all of us,” qualifies as Isadora’s “most inspirational” film touring experience so far, the day concluded with dinner in Amalya’s house and a movie screening. Nine more women showed up for the screening, including Roberta Cantow, a documentary filmmaker who created a three-part film about honoring menstruation, called Bloodtime Moontime Dreamtime: Women Bringing Forth Change. Roberta was one of Isadora’s inspirations and influences as she was creating the Red Tent movie. It was thus very meaningful to have her present for a screening—inspiration had clearly come full circle.

Isadora’s Chicago home was the site of the next Red Tent, on Sunday, February 23rd. Ever since she moved to the city in the summer of 2012, just before Things We Don’t Talk About was released, her community has supported her as she has traveled and worked on behalf of the film. Now it was time for those community members to experience a Red Tent for themselves. The event, which lasted seven hours, was an extravaganza of self-care, as women gathered, rested, ate chili, drank tea, polished their nails, and gave and received foot rubs. Two very young baby boys, neither older than eight months, were present with their mothers. Nurturing was in the air.

Red Tent, Chicago, IL (in the filmmaker's home)

Red Tent, Chicago, IL (in the filmmaker’s home)

And, for Isadora, it was particularly special because her mother-in-law, a longtime supporter of the Red Tent movement and film, was there for her very first Red Tent experience. Nervousness quickly gave way to relaxation as she received a foot rub from her daughter-in-law; the two women bonded in a new way.

The day included a veil dancing ritual inspired by the one Isadora experienced in Escondido; like a seed on the wind, it is already traveling. This ritual and others like it, grown in the womb of the Red Tent, are falling like soft grace over women’s lives, welcomed by first one community, then another. May they facilitate the holy birthing of more and more women into their true selves.

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, Jayleigh Lewis, recent screenings, red tent, red tent experience, red tent movie, red tent music, ritual