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Life to Life, Woman to Woman: November’s Red Tent Stories of Transformation and Connection

by Jayleigh Lewis

During November 2014, travel slowed for Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. Of the three screenings she had planned to attend, two were cancelled or rescheduled, and even with vending at the La Leche League of Wisconsin Continuing Education Conference in Milwaukee, WI, on November 7th, it felt like a short month. However, it was a deeply touching one. Like fibers from the Great Mother’s tapestry, the stories that arose from the Red Tent this month are made of the soul stuff that binds all women and all life together.

On November 22nd, Dr. Isadora attended a Red Tent movie screening at a private home in Muskegon, Michigan. This was only the second screening ever in the state, and Dr. Isadora’s first in Michigan. Only three hours away from her home in Chicago, it involved far less travel than many other screenings have!

Jessica, the host of the event, is in the process of launching a Red Tent in her city. Originally introduced to the idea of Red Tents through a woman she met at a Trance Dance event, she has been enthusiastic in researching and laying the groundwork for the group, which will be one of only a few in all of Michigan. The screening served as her Red Tent’s launch party.

Red Tent Movie screening in Muskegon, MI.

Red Tent Movie screening in Muskegon, MI.

Her living room was packed to capacity with about 20 women, many of whom were new to Red Tents. About half were members of a book group that had been reading Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent; they were now getting the chance to experience in person what they had been reading about.

The movie was followed by a Q + A and then by a short break, during which the women enjoyed delicious food (including gluten-free and dairy-free options) that had been lovingly cooked for hours by Jessica’s husband. Everyone reconvened for the Red Tent portion of the event, a talking circle during which the women were invited to share why they had come that day and what they hoped to experience in a Red Tent.

What arose was profound.

One woman, a regular attendee of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and a participant in many women’s singing circles, had shared with Dr. Isadora that she wanted to create local opportunities for women to sing together but didn’t know how to do that. Dr. Isadora suggested that, during the Red Tent, she share a song with the circle.

And so, this woman led the group in singing “How Could Anyone” (written by Libby Roderick), backed by Shaina Noll’s recording of the song as it played on Dr. Isadora’s computer:

How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle
How deeply you’re connected to my Soul…

In a beautiful, spontaneous moment, the women held hands during the last refrain.

The theme of connection continued to play out over the course of the Red Tent, as it emerged that an unusual number of those present had the experience of not having a physical mother in their lives. Whether they had lost their mothers through death, having been adopted or having been put in foster care as a child, or through some other circumstance, many could relate to the feeling of missing a mother’s nurturing. Many also said that they were finding that nurturing in the Red Tent. Even those present who did have physical reminders of family (several mothers and daughters attended together, as well as a group of sisters) found the same.

This Red Tent also catalyzed a moment of synchronicity for Dr. Isadora that tied into her personal life in a heartfelt way. Earlier that week, she had driven to Madison, Wisconsin (where she had formerly lived and led Red Tents) to visit a friend, Mary, in hospice care in the end stages of terminal cancer. At Mary’s request, Dr. Isadora came prepared to build a Red Tent; it was Mary’s wish that this sacred space be among the last things she would experience in her life.

Mary and Isadora

Mary and Isadora

With the permission of the hospice center staff, Dr. Isadora built a Red Tent right in Mary’s bedroom. The two then shared three gentle, meaningful hours. Music played while Mary napped. Dr. Isadora rubbed Mary’s feet (and was touched when Mary, even in her weakened state, briefly reciprocated). Conversation turned to the topic of love. Mary wanted to be bathed in love in her final days: she shared that one thing still holding her in her body was her desire to let others know of her love for them. The song “Through It All” by Mother Turtle played:

Through it all, I will love

Through it all, I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

Through it all, I will love

Through it all, I will love

In the end, this is all that matters.

Through Mary, as well as through the death of her grandmother last December, Dr. Isadora felt opened to the possibility of death as a spiritual experience, something that doesn’t need to be sad but could be instead a glorious celebration of life. She and Mary spoke about this during their Red Tent. Dr. Isadora felt that she had become a midwife for death, sitting with her friend inside a symbol of the passage that Mary would soon make. The Red Tent is a womb, a portal from one kind of life to another. Not only did Mary believe that she would continue after the death of her body, but she also believed that one day she would reincarnate and literally return to the womb. The Red Tent thus became a kind of dress rehearsal, a promise of what lay ahead!

This soulful experience was still fresh in Dr. Isadora’s memory as she participated in the Red Tent at Jessica’s home in Muskegon. Thus, when she chose a goddess tarot card from an altar Jessica had set up for personal reflections, it was a perfect sign from the universe that the card she chose was that of the goddess Mary.

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

Through it All

a song by Mother Turtle

 

Mother Turtle

This clip of the song “Through it All” are featured in the film “Things We Don’t Talk About”. It was sung by Mother Turtle and the women of the Baldwinville,  MA Red Tent Temple during our filming. The clip above is the unedited, original footage. The edited sequence of the song “Through it All” in the final film includes an additional film score composed and produced by Ruth Mendelson.

Lyrics

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

Through it all

I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

Through it all. I will love

 

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The Red Tent Movie: Changing Women’s Lives for Two Years and Counting

by Jayleigh Lewis

On September 15, 2014, the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, marked two years since its world premiere. In that time, it has reached thousands of men and women all over the world and has had a significant impact on the lives of many. Not only does the film tell a powerful story, but inspiring stories continue to grow out of the screenings that are taking place every month, many of which are attended by Dr. Isadora, the filmmaker. As she reports her experiences, it is clear that the movie remains fresh and relevant, a catalyst for women’s encounters with their own most astonishingly beautiful selves.

Circle of Women International, a Vermont-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing women together to teach and share traditional ceremonies, hosted its second screening and Red Tent in Montpelier, VT on August 15 (the first was in September 2012 and was only the second public screening attended by Dr. Isadora!). President and co-founder Katrina Coravos is also the owner of Liberty Chocolates, an organic chocolate company that donates a portion of the proceeds of every sale of its pomegranate and cherry-flavored Moon Time chocolate bar to the Red Tent movie.

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Montpelier, VT Screening

Approximately 10 women participated in this intimate event, which included a pre-screening Red Tent and a post-screening community meal—and plenty of synchronicity and joy. Dr. Isadora reports that at the very moment the women joined hands, preparing to set their intentions at the beginning of the Red Tent’s opening circle, a grandfather clock in the room chimed. This unexpected affirmation led participants to wonder whether it was really a grandmother clock giving its blessing to the proceedings!

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Montpelier, VT Screening

During the takedown of the Red Tent afterwards, the five or six women who were helping Dr. Isadora had a moment of pure childlike fun when they spontaneously began playing “parachute” with the roof of the Tent (which is actually a red parachute). The opportunity to play like little girls was so refreshing that Dr. Isadora is now going to encourage women to do this at every takedown!

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Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

From August 23-28, Dr. Isadora attended WomenCircles, a women’s spirituality camp that is held every year at Rowe Center in Rowe, Massachusetts. Currently directed by Marie Summerwood, this camp, in its many incarnations, has drawn women to these mountaintop woods in the Berkshires for nearly 40 years (and now runs concurrently with Woman Soul, a women’s spirituality camp with a focus on mysticism). Dr. Isadora already knew many of the women in attendance at both camps, but was still surprised at what a transformative and bonding experience the week was for her.

Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

 

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Photo of Cherie Ackerson in the Red Tent she built at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

A Red Tent, created by Cherie Ackerson, priestess and WomenCircles staff member, stood for the duration of the camp. Dr. Isadora noted that it was large and beautiful and that she spent time in it every day, but was grateful that she hadn’t had to put it up herself!

The movie screening was held on Sunday night and featured some unique forms of audience participation. Many of the women in attendance were very familiar with the movie and those featured in it; some were in it themselves. Every time a woman known to the audience appeared, her name was shouted out. Mother Turtle, one of the week’s workshop leaders, wrote three songs that are part of the movie, including the theme song, “Red Tent Temple.” During her workshop earlier in the day, she had played two of these songs, teaching the words to the women who were present. Thus, they were able to sing along during the movie, something Dr. Isadora had never seen before! (Mother Turtle also, before the screening, told the story of how she had initially written a different theme song for the movie and had been told diplomatically by Dr. Isadora to try again.) The screening was followed by a long, informal Q + A session.

WomenCircles was a powerful experience for Dr. Isadora not only because of the enthusiasm of the women present but because, for her, it felt like a true retreat. She often works at women’s festivals but doesn’t often get to be a participant. Here, she was able to genuinely “check her title at the door” and become one sister among many. She even participated in the talent show at the end of the week, creatively showcasing her talents for filmmaking and card making!

In order to meet a challenge she had given herself—to shoot, edit, and show a mini-movie within one day—Dr. Isadora shot video of women dancing and playing “parachute” in the WomenCircles Red Tent (the latter activity inspired by Big Winters, WomenCircles staff member and co-founder of Circle of Women International, who told the group how much fun it had been in Vermont) and then spent the afternoon editing the footage. She described the final product, which she showed that evening at the talent show, as “pretty” and “joyous.” She also announced during the show that she would create a custom-made card in under seven minutes for one of the audience members; the songs “Everyday Goddess” by Celia and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (from the famous movie “Dirty Dancing”) kept time while women danced around Dr. Isadora and her art supplies. The finished product went to Marie Summerwood, but Dr. Isadora promised to send cards to the rest of the women after camp.

Red Tent TV launch party (Sept 5 & 6, 2014) with 35 events worldwide and more than 6,000 people participating! For more info visit: www.redtent.tv

Late August saw two more premieres of Things We Don’t Talk About (Colombia and the La Coruna region of Spain), while the beginning of September saw the launch of Red Tent TV. This free weekly online TV show features never-before-seen footage from the movie plus ideas from Dr. Isadora for things to do in a Red Tent. The global launch party took place within a jam-packed 48 hours on September 5 and 6. The statistics are mind-blowing:

During these 2 days, when the movie was available online for free, 6669 people from 42 countries watched it. Free screening licenses were also available during this time, and 35 public screenings took place in 10 countries, including 2 country premieres (New Zealand and Italy) and 4 state/city premieres (Madrid, Spain; Montreal, Canada; Manitoba, Canada; and Kansas, USA). Dr. Isadora participated in 35 15-minute Skype Q + A sessions, one for each screening, plus 3 live teleseminars that lasted for 30 minutes each (one solo; one with ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red Tent movement; and one with DeAnna L’am, founder of Red Tents in Every Neighborhood). (That’s 38 Q + A sessions in 48 hours!)

50 episodes of Red Tent TV were available for these 48 hours, and 2779 people watched them. And, a live global Red Tent took place within a private Facebook group, in which 658 people generated 23,976 comments and likes. Dr. Isadora posted a new question every 15 minutes, in addition to the Red Tent TV episodes, and she moderated the whole thing for the entire 48 hours!

 

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After this clear success (and getting some sleep), Dr. Isadora attended a September 19th Red Tent movie screening in Lucknow, Ontario, which marked her third time attending a screening in Canada. This one was hosted by the Grassroots Rural Retreat, a 100-acre family-owned farm near Lake Huron. Vicky and Roger, the current owners, raise cattle and horses as well as run a spa, a bed and breakfast, a retreat center, a hair salon, and a yoga studio on their land. When a Red Tent began meeting there less than a year ago, Linda, another staff member, became its facilitator. The women who attend display real dedication; since Lucknow is a small town in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, many drive over an hour to get there each month.

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A three-hour Red Tent preceded the screening. It was relaxed and spontaneous, with small groups of women engaging in different activities, including henna body painting and conversations about past lives. Towards the end, the entire group watched the new 2015 video from One Billion Rising, the worldwide campaign to end violence against women. Together, the women learned and practiced the dance to “Break the Chain,” which has become the anthem of the campaign. Dr. Isadora noted that this video is a huge inspiration to her; it motivates her to be a better filmmaker and to continue her work with women.

After two years, the message and heart of the Red Tent movie is still going strong. May the inspiration continue!

 

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Red Tent Temple

Click here to watch the video on Youtube

“Red Tent Temple” written by Marsia Shuron Harris for “Things We Don’t Talk About.” Performed by Mother Turtle. Produced and arranged by Adrienne Zolondick. Produced by Marsia Shuron Harris.

 

Lyrics

A woman needs time

time to rest

time to play

A women needs time

to honor her ways

as a woman

and today

I woke up this morning feeling ok

cause I know there is a Red Tent today

Once a month

and it can’t come too soon

women come together underneath a new moon

It’s a paradise.

Women side by side

Sister’s alright

We’re taking some time away

from our day life

a universal love inside

peace of mind

we’re healing here today

in the Red Tent Temple

just come in right way

the Red Tent Temple

you can hear your sisters say

it’s a miracle

we’ve got to find our way

to the Red Tent Temple

a woman’s sacred space

away

feels like coming home

women come together

right now

women come together

from all around the world

where it couldn’t be much better than to be a girl

In the tent we have a chair

where you sit an tell your tale

or just hang and be held

feel alive

when the moment’s there let truth from your heart share

and we won’t might if you got to cry

it’s so simple

just come in right way

the Red Tent Temple

you can hear your sisters say

it’s a miracle

we’ve got to find our way

to the Red Tent Temple

a woman’s sacred space

the red tent temple

it’s a movement

the red tent temple

the red tent temple

it’s a movement

the red tent temple

ALisa Starkweather

the red tent temple

the red tent temple

yeah for girls!

 

"Red Tent Temple" DC by Mother Turtle

“Red Tent Temple” DC by Mother Turtle

 

 

To purchase the song

“Red Tent Temple”

click here

 

 

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Rise Up

a song by Mother Turtle

 

Mother Turtle

The song “Rise Up” shown in the video above is the in the opening sequence of “Things We Don’t Talk About.” It was sung by Mother Turtle and the women of the Baldwinville, MA Red Tent Temple during our filming. The video above includes an additional film score composed and produced by Ruth Mendelson.

 

 

 

 

 

Lyrics

The women of the world are gathering

together we’re creating

a world unafraid of feeling

we’re initiating healing

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

(call & response)

The women of the world are gathering

together we’re creating

a world unafraid of feeling

we’re initiating healing

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

RISE UP

The women of the world are gathering

together we’re creating

a world unafraid of feeling

we’re initiating healing.

 

"Rise Up" by Mother Turtle

“Rise Up” by Mother Turtle

 

To purchase the song

“Rise Up” click here.

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