A friend of mine who had attended the "Experience" at Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts, insisted that I go check it out. She said it was an amazing experience that I couldn't afford to miss...that I owed it to myself to open up a new horizon of truth and wisdom.
So I went.
And there I was, in a crowd of 950 WOMEN!
I sat. I listened. I participated. But most of all, I observed. A part of me was reluctant and resistant. Though I am easily fascinated by other people's inspirational work, I am also very quizzical; people around me were much more engaged and many times it felt like they were so desperately nodding away to everything Mama Gena said. What was it? What was she saying that made this experience so powerful? How was what she was offering-- the key to self-transformation and empowerment of womanhood--any different from the hundreds of motivational forums that promise to deliver the same? Not only was I trying to justify the cost of her mastery program, I also was quite intrigued by this culture's proclivity to turn to such forums in search of unlocking deep-seated issues that ate away at our souls and prevented us from blossoming into fully expressed versions of ourselves.
Having attended one of these "events"--and even having heard from others about their experiences-- I couldn't help notice how even though the approaches used were incredibly different, the reactions of the attendees were always the same: they were in awe. They were touched, moved, inspired and transformed. There was immediate camaraderie that felt like life-long friendships that developed between all--even in the "Experience" that I attended. It was quite amazing. Listening closely to Mama Gena, I wondered what it was that was so effectively able to open us up and bring out the most amazing sense of freedom and peace.
As I sat amidst a sisterhood of 950 women, I looked around at the different faces, the different styles...and as I heard the different stories and watched the tears run down all of our faces...as I witnessed women's vulnerability transform into vessels filled with love for one another, it became so clear to me what was missing from our society. And that what was missing was resulting in a deep need for healing. The "cure" was not necessarily the unveiling of hidden truths about human behavior sprinkled with golden specs of wisdom that magically freed our pain. It was something even simpler than that...something quite opposite of what we are often encouraged to do: being alone.
Of course, each of us has varying needs so a blanket statement about often we should retrieve in isolation would be completely inappropriate. However, it occurred to me that we have been encouraged much too often to find peace through solitude. Alone time has become analogous to meditation where in that moment of retrieval, the mind rests and restores itself. We seek solitude because it shuts out external noises, giving us the space to let our minds wander, reflect, create etc. But what I noticed was that retreating into our own space with our own problems--whatever they may be--may not really help us because we end up sitting alone with the same stories, the same voices or the same feeling (feelings of guilt, shame, despair etc.). I will also add that our society has also forced us to become more isolated beings: we have been conditioned to hide who we really are, or parts of who we are-- such as our vulnerabilities-- in order to get by, compete, and stand tall. It's a sign of strength in this market economy.
I realized that what made the "Experience", and probably the other motivational forums, so powerful and transformative was simply, connection to others! In this case, it was sisterhood. We are a communal species but by force of society, we have been conditioned to adopt behaviors that isolate ourselves. Sitting in that space witnessing 950 women with god-knows how much personal baggage, "issues", and personality flaws all of a sudden be able to find enough comfort to peel off the layers that masked their true identities to authentically share a piece of themselves, celebrate, cheer, laugh, and cry in support of another sister, and then come out touch moved, inspired and even transformed, proved one thing: it proved to me that we humans long for a space where we can safely let our guard down without fear of being hurt, judged, or antagonized. It's this kind of space that is biologically necessary for the human species to exist in harmony with ourselves and with one another. It is compassion, understanding, support, recognition, forgiveness, non-judgment, empathy, and solidarity in this treacherous journey that we all long for. This is what sets us free. Yet this is what has been missing. This is what many are now searching for. So why not create safe spaces around ourselves where we can relate to one another authentically.
It goes without saying that Mama Gena gets full recognition for her ability create a peaceful atmosphere by moderating with grace, humor, and love, and for supporting each person in the way that she brilliantly did. So this is not to lighten the work that she does.