Tag Archives: “things we don’t talk about

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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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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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 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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Synchronicity and Support: The Red Tent Comes to the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference

by Jayleigh Lewis

On June 6, 2014, the third annual Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, a three-day gathering centered on plant medicine in the Wise Woman Tradition, began. The event was permeated with Red Tent energy, in part thanks to Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, who hosted two screenings of the movie, built two Red Tents in two different spaces, and co-facilitated a pre-conference workshop for staff. From setup to takedown, the entire experience was woven with small miracles and synchronicities.

The Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, founded in 2012 by Linda Conroy, provided a receptive home for the movie last year, thanks to attendee Celena Chavez, orchestrator of the conference’s Red Tents. As a result of Celena’s vision, the Red Tent has been building presence and momentum among the women who gather each year to celebrate their connection with earth-centered, plant-based wisdom.

This year, the conference was held at The Beber Camp in Mukwongago, Wisconsin. The camp is Hasidic Jewish and keeps kosher; conference attendees observed these regulations, which meant that food could not be taken outside the dining hall. There was a beautiful give and take between the women and the camp staff. Each supported and honored the work of the other. And, too, the interchange recalled the roots of the Red Tent movement in the Jewish tradition: Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, the book that started it all, is Jewish, and her book is set in ancient Israel. Dr. Isadora reported that two male camp staff who helped her set up the Red Tents remarked on this connection. They planned to make an enthusiastic recommendation to the camp’s director that a permanent Red Tent be set up onsite.

This kind of support and connection was to be the norm all weekend. Dr. Isadora described a feeling of being in an atmosphere of “ask and you shall receive.” It seemed she had only to think of what she needed before it would appear—including a ladder-carrying man at the exact moment she needed a ladder to reach the top of the yurt where she was building a Red Tent!

Synchronicity also abounded during the pre-conference workshop she co-led with Isla Burgess, an herbalist from New Zealand. The staff participants relished this time before diving into the hard work of the weekend; they participated in a veil dancing ritual and in a visioning exercise. During the latter, each woman created a symbol that represented her vision for the gathering. She drew this symbol on a small piece of paper and then shared it with the group. When all of the symbols were laid out together, their similarities were clearly evident. Some women had even drawn the same symbol. The symbols were then organized according to their common elements; together they formed a representation of a natural life/death/life cycle, mirroring the journey of a plant from seed to fully-formed organism and back to seed. After the exercise, these drawings were hung on the walls of the yurt, behind the fabric panels that formed the Red Tent, their presence lending an earthy energy and intention to the space.

Film screenings, workshops, and informal gatherings in the Red Tent brought women’s sacred space to life. The first screening took place in Crown Hall, the main event area, which had been hung with red fabric. The second took place in the more intimate-feeling yurt, and was packed to capacity. Two workshops were held in the Red Tent: one (led by Celena) focused on how to start a Red Tent, while the other (led by a woman named Trilby Sedlacek) was titled “Sex: An Active Part of a Wise Woman’s Life.” Women were inspired by both; those who attended the latter told Dr. Isadora afterwards that the Red Tent had provided for them a safe environment in which to share stories about their sex lives that they had never before been able to share. They said the space had greatly contributed to an enhanced openness among those of all ages who had participated. In addition to these formal gatherings, women came to the Red Tent to relax and chat at other times—particularly the teen program participants, who wanted to be there for the entire conference!

Fun and relaxation was in the air for Dr. Isadora, too: her best friend and mentor, Doreen Bryant, a wise elder woman, also attended the conference, and the two enjoyed spending time together. She didn’t even have to do anything during the takedown of the Red Tents—others did the work before she could get there! A true miracle.

The second visit of the Red Tent to the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference was powerful, needed, and inspiring—may there be many more.

For more information about the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference or to attend next year’s gathering visit: http://midwestwomensherbal.com/

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", Jayleigh Lewis, recent screenings, red tent film, red tent movie