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Coast to Coast Screenings

By Jayleigh Lewis

After a December hiatus, Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, was back in attendance at several movie screenings during January 2014.

First up was the Washington, D.C. premiere (one of two for the month, the other being the Kentucky premiere) on January 12th. Sponsored by Birch Moon, an emerging community healing space created by local woman Teresa Duncan, the event was a double feature with two screenings and two Red Tents held back to back. The basement of a home was transformed into a Red Tent space packed with attendees, many of whom were members of two Red Tent communities in the area (Bethesda, Maryland, and Arlington, Virginia, both of which were featured in the film). Isadora described the event as low-key and authentic, a gathering of women who enjoyed meaningful networking, good food, and relaxed socializing.

Later in the month, Isadora visited California and attended two more screenings. The first, on January 24th in Topanga Canyon, took place at a home within the canyon. Winding roads led attendees to the top of a mountain; getting to the screening was an adventure in itself! The Topanga Canyon Red Tent community (led by Megan Greene), which has been meeting in the area for the past three years, hosted the event. Twenty women enjoyed the combined screening and Red Tent gathering; these included women of Iranian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Mexican descent, making it quite a diverse group. Isadora noted the beauty of hearing many different languages spoken in the Red Tent.

Red Tent Screening, Topanga, CA. Photo by iX-CheL

Red Tent Screening, Topanga, CA. Photo by iX-CheL

The women literally wove themselves together during the talking circle, using a ball of red yarn which they passed across and around, forming a web that grew as each woman spoke. Introducing herself by calling in the names of her matrilineal ancestors, every woman had an opportunity to share what was happening in her life through the lenses of joy and compassion, the themes of the gathering. This was especially poignant for Isadora, whose maternal grandmother passed away in December 2013. “I am Isadora, daughter of Teresa Moorehouse, daughter of Ella Knapp, daughter of Rita Haviland,” she said when it was her turn, affirming the abiding strength of the women whose love helped form the foundation of her life.

The love and strength of the mother-daughter bond was shown in another deeply immediate and tangible form when the mother of host Megan Greene, who is pregnant with her first child, shared with great pride and joy how good it feels to witness and be present with her daughter as she holds life within her body. Matrilineal links are not only something from the past; they are being forged all the time.

The second California screening took place the next day in Canoga Park, at a clubhouse within a retirement community. It was sponsored by the House of the Goddess, a women’s organization that also hosted the Goddess Spirit Rising conference in September 2013. Laura and Delphine (Duffy), leaders of the organization, met Isadora when she attended a Red Tent Movie screening at the conference and asked her to return for another screening for their community. Although the screening and following Red Tent was only attended by about 10 women, due to many members of the community being sick with the flu, Isadora described the experience as fun.

Canoga Park, CA Red Tent Screening.

Canoga Park, CA Red Tent Screening.

Some highlights include:

–One attendee, who is a belly dancer, taught and led a session of belly dance.

–Duffy shared a guided meditation CD she created, leading women through what it might be like to be inside a moon lodge or menstrual hut in ancient times. The CD was such a hit that Isadora was inspired to make it available for sale (coming soon), so more women can have the experience.

–Women participated in an activity seeking to turn the concept of “mean girls,” girls and women who engage in negative self-talk and corresponding destructive behavior, on its head. Phrases that encapsulated the mindset of a “mean girl,” such as, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I gossip about others to make myself feel better,” were placed in a bowl. When women drew them out, they offered a countering message for each, turning them into positive self-talk and constructive, empowering actions.

And that wraps up the January screenings; more screenings to come next month!

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Recent Screenings: From New York City to the Deep South

By Jayliegh Lewis

As the days grew shorter and colder this November, Red Tent movie screenings created havens of warmth and community. Isadora, the filmmaker, attended screenings of Things We Don’t Talk About in venues from New York City to the Deep South, while the film premiered in six new locations (Michigan, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Mexico).

The first ten days of the month saw Isadora traveling through New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for a series of cozy screenings in small towns and small spaces. Although the Red Tent movie had already premiered in New York City, this November 1st was Isadora’s first time attending a screening there. The local Red Tent Temple hosted; the space filled with community members, and a post-screening discussion focused on the topic of self-esteem.

Nyack, NY screening

Nyack, NY screening

A yoga studio in Nyack, New York was the next stop, on November 2nd, for a screening and Red Tent gathering which Isadora described as “radiant, ethereal, and moving.” Nyack is a small-town northern suburb of New York City, located in the Hudson River Valley; fall foliage was at its peak there at the beginning of November. Nyack Yoga, already a grand space, with high ceilings and beautiful lighting, was transformed into a Red Tent for the occasion, providing a gathering space for at least 60 people. Attendees were a mix of women from the local Red Tent community and women from northeast Pennsylvania’s yearly women’s spiritual festival, Where Womyn Gather. (A Red Tent movie screening was part of the festival last spring, quite appropriate since the film features the northeast PA Red Tent community!) Some festival goers who had seen the movie were so inspired by it that they wanted to bring it back to their hometown.

Nyack, NY

Nyack, NY Screening

One woman brought her brother to see the film, which caused a bit of controversy in what is often a woman-only space. Isadora made an announcement addressing this: she has always maintained that men are welcome at screenings. Men come from the wombs of their mothers just as women do, and in order to create lasting change in our world we need more men to come out in support of women’s empowerment. When this particular man left the space prior to the woman-only Red Tent portion of the event, everyone in the room clapped for him and thanked him for coming. He, too, said he was glad he came.

Isadora attended two more screenings in the area the next week: one in Hawthorne, New Jersey (hosted by a woman, Zena, who Isadora’s mother had synchronistically met a week and a half prior while the two were exhibiting next to each other at an art show), and one in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (hosted by Khrys Exposito, whose story is featured in the film). Both were small and intimate; the Hawthorne screening attracted friends of Zena’s who were of Russian ancestry (accessing this community for the first time), while the red decorations at the Bethlehem screening inspired women to view the event as their own woman-centric celebration of the season, paralleling the Christmas decorations the town was putting up outside.

November 14th marked the beginning of the filmmaker’s tour through the Deep South. She had been initially invited to the area by a professor of social work at Arkansas State University, Dr. Kat (an attendee of the Red Tent at Where Womyn Gather), but confessed to feeling nervous before embarking for some very conservative places in states she had never visited before.

Isadora’s first taste of the beauty and joy she would experience throughout her time in the South came in Memphis, Tennessee (home of Graceland), when she arrived at sunset to the First Congregational Church. The screening that evening was well-attended by a group of women representing many kinds of diversity. Afterwards, a Red Tent talking circle discussed early feminism and changes that have taken place since. The evening included celebrations in song: one woman, a disability rights advocate who said she doesn’t normally speak in front of crowds, sang a beautiful gospel song for the group, followed by members of the Jewish community singing songs in Hebrew, and a woman singing “Happy Birthday” in Dutch.

Arkansas State University, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, hosted two screenings the next day. An afternoon screening was attended by deans and professors at the school, while an evening screening at a different location, which also included a Red Tent, drew a larger audience. The evening was leisurely and relaxing, including lots of time for talking and foot rubs! During the last hour, a playlist of empowering women’s top 40 music Isadora had created began to play; the women got into the spirit and began dancing with veils and scarves. The filmmaker reports that everyone had a lot of fun; many women who had never heard of Red Tents before said they wanted more women’s community like this.

Red Tent at the Jonesboro, AR screening

Red Tent at the Jonesboro, AR screening

Another impromptu dance party broke out the following day at a screening in Tupelo, Mississippi (birthplace of Elvis), as women assisted with takedown after the event. This screening was hosted by a young woman named Zola, who offers Red Tents in the area. Her community remains small but strong thanks to her passion for bringing concepts of women’s empowerment and community to a population for which these ideas are often new.

Isadora wrapped up her tour of the South by speaking at a small Unitarian Universalist church in Tupelo on November 17th. In response to a man who shared that he wished his daughters could have the type of community featured in the film, and that he was glad screenings were going ahead even in this very religiously and ideologically conservative region, she spoke about the Red Tent movement being compatible with religion and spirituality even though the movement itself is not spiritual or religious. Anita Diamant’s novel, The Red Tent, which inspired the movement, was initially promoted within churches and synagogues because of its Biblical roots. The Red Tent movement is a grassroots movement which continues to grow because it speaks to women (and men) of many different lifestyles and beliefs.

Overall, November 2013’s Red Tent movie screenings were full of joy: each gathering moved women to access the radiance of their spirits, in their own unique and brilliant ways.

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September Screenings in Southern, CA

By Jayleigh Lewis

September was a busy month for the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About; 17 screenings were held in a variety of locations, including Canada and Australia! Isadora, the filmmaker, attended all but the Australian screening, making it a busy month for her as well. Even with all that travel, she still found the time to share a bit about her experiences at three of the screenings that took place in California, during the second week of September.

In Malibu, California, September 6th marked the beginning of the first Goddess Spirit Rising conference, a three-day gathering of about 150 women who came together for workshops and rituals honoring the feminine spirit. A Jewish boys’ camp was transformed for the weekend into women’s sacred space, attracting many well-known presenters, including foremothers of modern women’s spirituality Z Budapest, Vicki Noble, and Kathy Jones to this beautiful location by the ocean, north of Los Angeles.

The Red Tent movie screening took place in the evening of September 7th, in the camp’s biggest indoor space, the main hall, which for the duration of the gathering was dubbed the “Heart of the Goddess.” It was well-attended and well-received. Isadora had the opportunity to speak to many women throughout the weekend about the Red Tent.

GoddessSpiritRising_9-8-13_byAmalya_166

Tuesday, September 10th found the filmmaker in Escondido, California, just north of San Diego. A movie screening was held in the Goddess Studio, a privately-owned space located on top of a mountain, which regularly hosts women’s events, including ceremony, workshops, belly dance classes, and Red Tent gatherings. The space’s owner, Amalya, was host of this packed screening; among the attendees were some local radio producers, including Karen Tate, whose Blog Talk Radio show “Voices of the Sacred Feminine” is internationally known.

 

RedTentMovieNight_AtGoddessStudio_9-10-13_byAmalya_10

On September 11th, Suzanne Toro, radio broadcaster and practicing shaman, hosted the next screening at Sacred Roots Holistic Healing, in Long Beach, California. The packed room included two young girls who were attending with their mother; the youngest, who was about a year old, walked in front of the projector during the chapter of the movie called “For Our Daughters.” She became an unconscious symbol of the theme of this chapter, which is about how the Red Tent movement creates a strong foundation for girls to grow up knowing their beauty and power, as the movie continued to play, projected onto her chest!

A Red Tent gathering followed this screening; during this time, women had the opportunity to participate in a “Hugging Snowball.” This is an activity where each woman is encouraged to give a hug to one of her sisters, as well as a small card on which is printed the word “smile.” Once each woman in the room has been hugged, she is equipped to carry the energy of sisterhood out into her community by giving the card to someone else she encounters. This is a way to allow the spirit of the Red Tent to expand beyond the walls of a particular gathering and touch many who might benefit from it.

One screening at a time, the Red Tent movie is doing the same: carrying the spirit of the Red Tent out into the world, bringing its gentle but powerful breath of encouragement to girls and women everywhere.

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An Unconventional Red Tent

By Jayleigh

On a warm weekend in July, a Red Tent was raised at the Culture Fest in Salem, MA. I attended for a few hours in support of my friend, Natalie Johnsen (featured in the Red Tent Movie), who played hostess for the Red Tent throughout the two days it was up.

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

The tent itself stood out from the others: red amidst the white. The entire inside seemed to glow red from the reflection of so many pieces of red fabric which had been draped over three of the tent’s sides. There were red-draped chairs, red-covered tables, red pillows and rolled-up blankets on the ground.

This Red Tent had multiple purposes. One was to provide for those who wished a space for respite, shade, and refreshment (ice cubes, iced tea, and cold gazpacho were available). Anyone could enter and sit for as long as he or she liked. Another purpose was to educate and increase visibility for the Red Tent. Men were welcome to come and learn. Another purpose was to create soulful space where lively conversation might happen.

I entered the Red Tent after it had already been up for several hours that Saturday. I sat, watched, and listened.

The space was witness to conversations ranging from intimate asking for support to a group discussion of hair and what the connection might be between cutting off one’s hair and releasing the hold of old memories. A few men stopped by. Women came and seemed delighted that such a space was there.

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

At one point I found myself writing in a book in which women at various times had recorded their lineage through the women in their family. I paged through and read names, read women’s writing about why they had come to the Red Tent. It was a profound thing to write my name, and then my mother’s, and then my grandmother’s, and then (after a long pause in which I struggled to remember it) my great-grandmother’s. No matter who these women were, no matter what they had or hadn’t done, their lives allowed mine to be. I wrote my own dedication: I knew in that moment that I had come to the Red Tent to affirm my life.

Eventually, that day, I left, appreciative of what had been. What a radical thing it is to simply offer space where one may be nourished without needing to be any particular way. Natalie, with her open eyes and open arms, held this space beautifully for all who came, whether they had ever heard of the Red Tent before or not. Although it was an unconventional Red Tent, it was the Red Tent at its best.

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Red Tent Consciousness in Everyday Life

by Jayleigh

To be in the Red Tent, even if only once, is to absorb an atmosphere of safety, daring, community, space and time to just be, and invitation to examine the truth of your life and feelings.  My own actual Red Tent experience is limited, but I have been so captivated by this atmosphere that I have nonetheless stepped wholeheartedly into the movement.

It is because of this that I have been thinking about how Red Tent consciousness may be more than just something that exists during a once a month meeting.  What gets carried forth when the women walk out into the night?  How do women who do not live close to a Red Tent and are not yet able to create one connect to this movement?

Is it possible to live Red Tent consciousness in such a way that it becomes inseparable from the activities and thoughts of every day?

I believe that symbolic action, intentional space, and sacred objects help to change and shift consciousness.  If you want to learn more about a particular quality or aspect of life, surround yourself with what evokes that quality and in so doing enter into dialogue with it.

Red Tent, Palo Alto, CA

Red Tent, Palo Alto, CA. Photographed by Lynette Penick of URMyArt photography.

For me, it was the level of authenticity in the Red Tent that most drew me in.  I feel an excitement: here is a place where I can talk about things I thought I had to live alone with.  I associate this excitement with the Red Tent as a place I can go to be immersed in this authenticity.  But I also know that I can surround myself with this quality in my daily life.

What images, objects, words, quotes, etc. genuinely hold for me the same quality of authenticity that I sense in the Red Tent?  I can collect these things in a place I visit often and that is in some way set aside from the rest of my living space.  Perhaps I will choose to carry some of these reminders with me on a regular basis.

I pay attention to what happens next, even if it’s not what I expected.  I apprentice myself to authenticity.  I honor it.  I begin to live and radiate it not as an abstract concept but as a felt reality that is in sync with the ways in which I first perceived it.

When you first heard of the Red Tent, what drew you in?  What sparked your continued engagement?  Working with these qualities, you can start to build your internal Red Tent space.  Think of it like a temple inside you that you carry with you wherever you go.

I believe our experience is strengthened when we know that not only is the Red Tent what happens when we gather, but also what happens when we each become living Red Tent Temple space.

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