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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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I’m Fearless…

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

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

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

What makes you feel fearless?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

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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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