Awakening activism: Gather the women, reveal the possibilities

Awaken activism in change makers: at long last I found my vocation, after ten long years of seeking. Having found my voice, I realized that it was time to awaken the “sleeping giant” in others. Craving deeper dialogue, I activated an ancient archetype, the Circle. Stay with me, you’ll recognize it soon. The concept is “too big for words” and yet, I will attempt to explain this experience, a unique one in a busy, stressed culture in constant crisis. As together we slow down, reflect, become more present and actively listen to each other, the magic of the Circle unfolds. The Circle is a place to listen, to see ourselves in others, to open to new possibilities, to connect, to raise our awareness, to focus on what is going right in the world, to “catch courage” from inspirational stories, to become empowered, to discover who we came to be. When in Circle, the conversation shifts. We quiet our minds and speak from our hearts, we let go of expectations, we do not rush to save or fix each other, rather we hold each other in the safe container of the circle.

In dreaming up this particular format for gathering in circle, I desire to connect people in a regular, accessible place close to home – like continuing that retreat feeling that fades all too soon. I love to make connections; in another life I was probably a matchmaker. Despite our growing interconnectedness thanks to the www, studies reveal that people feel more isolated, more unhappy, more disconnected than ever. In Circle, we create community! One of the positive outcomes of the Circles to date is just that. Women love bumping into other women at the Jewel with whom they have circled, being deeply recognized and truly seen. It’s that “I see you” feeling from Avatar.

My impetus for the Circles began three years ago when my husband lost his job, an early victim of Wall Street. It was a dark couple of years as he dug in deep to find himself, his purpose and for the first time in our lives together, he was home all the time! Yikes! My routine, my sacred space had been invaded and brought a dark cloud. Fortunately, I was impelled to create myself anew. The other option was a return to a law firm. When I considered that possibility, I literally felt the walls closing in, boxing up my soul. Asking myself “What Next?” I knew in my bones it had to be an adventure, not just another job.

For 14 years, I had been a full time Mom of three, HomeMaker and Volunteer/community activist extraordinaire. No bonus, no thank yous, but I built a home and grew a community and was happy if not entirely content. I always knew I was here to do something more, something big, something life changing (not just diaper changing, much as I absolutely loved those early years). But what?!?!? Somehow, at the very time I needed it, came a wonderful book, This Time I Dance! by Tama Kieves. I emailed Tama and pretty soon I was hosting her and dozens of women in my home for a wonderful workshop, “Living Inspiring Lives.” As a thank you, she gifted me with an hour-long coaching session, from her phone in Colorado. What, pray tell, could one hour with a woman 1,000 miles away who I had met only once, possibly do for me, the nearly decade-long seeker? Something amazing, it turns out.

Since I was young, I have journaled, written poems, lots of letters, and honed my skill as a writer. Prepping for the call with Tama, I synthesized seven years of discernment into two pages. Here’s a challenge, I thought: Weave all of this together into an adventure, a vocation, the intersection of “my deep gladness and the world’s deep need,” as Frederick Buechner so eloquently stated. She did. Together, we planted the seed of the Circle concept. Hours later, pulling out years’ worth of journals, I saw (I kid you not) ideas for circle after circle after circle. My annual twenty-four hour getaways, quieted like an oyster in dark solitude, had cultivated pearls! Just then, the art tile of three women sitting in circle, weaving together, that called to me at a local art show years before, suddenly made sense. I was to become a “circle tender,” connecting and weaving together women’s stories.

In the past eighteen months, I’ve been privileged to facilitate nearly 100 circles including more than 100 women (30‘s to 70’s) and middle school-aged children. We’ve covered fascinating topics from transformative transitions to mindfulness to kindness workshops. [see www.2big4words.org for more] I knew I’d reached my own personal tipping point, when a former Circler emailed me with the seed of an idea for a circle now called “Awakening Activists”. She had read Half the Sky in book group and wondered whether I could create a circle out of it! I wondered if anyone would sign up; something this big was 2-4 years on my horizon. I sent out the invitation, nonetheless. Catherine already said she was “in”. Why not?! Eight women signed up within the first week. No need to hang flyers in coffee shops, fret about marketing skills I didn’t have, or even consider that it was spring break: eight women answered the invitation! Alas! And so, I opened up a second circle; it filled the next week. I have a waiting list for the third; it’s nearly full. The story’s not over. I wrote to the author of one of the three books referenced in the flyer entitled Iron Butterflies. Incredibly, Birute Regine returned my call immediately. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said –music to my ears. Today, we are collaborating, creating a circle formula for her book. Imagine the possibilities!

So, I started this crazy, unique idea in the darkest of times, with no investors, no business plan, no marketing skills, no “circle tender” degree, no website, seemingly no time (recall I’m primary caretaker for an 11, 12 and 14-year old), and with nobody other than Tama telling me that I could do this, no one even understanding what “the circle” was, and yet…. They came. They sent me their children. And now they want more. ‘Tis truly magical what happens when you align your passion and purpose with the world’s needs. I did it to create something other than the cocktail party chitchat. This weekend, at my daughters‘operetta, an amazing woman came up to me and said “I’m intrigued with your Circles. Tell me more. I heard women talking about them at a cocktail party last weekend.” I had come full circle.

I answered the urgency of my own calling to do more, to become more, because I felt the urgency of our time of crises. With so much in the world a mess, we need a place to focus on what is working, what we can do to right the sinking ship. And so it is also true that we live in a time of extraordinary possibility. We are the crossover generation, the “people of the parenthesis”. Although we stand on the shoulders of wonderful mothers and grandmothers, there is no model for who we women are becoming here at midlife, having worked careers, built homes, raised children, and still wanting more. Never before have so many ordinary people awakened to new levels of consciousness on such a massive scale. I am taking online courses with 800-1,000 other like-minded souls. Truly mind-boggling, heart-warming, soul-expanding stuff! There are literally millions of NGO’s, citizen groups, made up of individuals just like me and you, who are one by one changing the world! We are part of something BIG!!

In the first Circle, I tell the women: you will be changed. One month, one year from today you will be a new version of YOU. So, why not choose to transform consciously? Why not envision and intend who you want to become, what you want your world to look like in five, ten, fifty years? When we sit in circle, we change the conversation. We gently push ourselves and each other outside of our comfort zones, stretching to reach that place where true growth occurs. Sharing our stories, our hopes and our fears. Women empowering other women. Children empowering other kids. That’s how a society is changed for the better. While I am admittedly a visionary, a pragmatic one if possible, I recognize that change comes not just by moving mountains (thankfully) but also in “the Butterfly effect” – something as small as our daily interactions if we spread our wings. Each connection we make sends ripples farther than we can ever imagine. My deep desire is that these interactions activate our highest potentials and that, together, we transform ourselves and the world.

The day after I sent out the Awakening Activists email to the 150 people I know and the thousands on MomMail (thank you, Annette Coffee!), “Being the Change” was the editor’s letter in Shambhala Sun (May 2011). Liam Phillips Lindsay asked a question I repeat daily: “What am I doing to make the world a better place?” It was like receiving a big “YES!” from the Universe. “We can look within and reach out right where we live!” he said and instead of giving into “sedentary agitation” (being regularly upset by all you see but not getting up and doing anything about it), we can be the change! Instead of being resigned to the reality-distorting 24/7 news, we can focus on solutions: “How can I get involved?” “Can I encourage others to think like problem solvers?” “How do I tap my own potential to bring about change?” (How to Change the World, David Bornstein). “Social entrepreneurship,” Bornstein says, “is not about a few extraordinary people saving the day for everyone else. At its deepest level, it is about revealing possibilities that are currently unseen and releasing the capacity within each person to reshape a part of the world. It does not require an elite education; it requires a backpack – it comes from first hand engagement with the world – from asking lots of questions and just listening and observing with a deep caring to understand.” I am here to activate potentials.

Ladies, the world needs us now. Fortunately, for us, as Jean Shinoda Bolen shares, “Women hold the antidote to this Crisis: we are the answer and we have the power,” in her book Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World. Six years ago, I mailed her book to a dozen friends, with a heartfelt letter, a wake-up call, an urging that we gather and save. No one responded. The timing simply wasn’t right; the message fell on deaf ears. I spent the next 6 years fine-tuning my message. My great hope today is that we “do not lose heart” as the wonderful Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “Ours is not the task of fixing the whole world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” My goal in Circle is for each one of us to find our voice, to find our vocation, to live more compassionately and courageously, to attain our highest potential.

I’ll close with a quote from another wise woman, whose goal has been to spark a million circles, so as to reach a tipping point where we enter a new morphic field of consciousness – a world of peace. Jean Shinoda Bolen, of Gather the Women tell us: “Like an unexpected pregnancy, you may be carrying the seeds of something that will change your life and the world. Take that seed and bring it into a circle of women, nurture it with wisdom, give it energy, prune what needs pruning, let the tap root go down into the energy field of Mother Earth, to draw from and contribute thought and action to the morphic field, and then take it out into the world to bloom and bear fruit.”

Susan Lucci is wife, mother, friend, tireless volunteer, and esteemed human potential engineer. To learn more about Centering Circles visit www.2big4words.org.

5 Comments

  1. Jean Lachowicz said...

    This entire concept is nothing short of revolutionary! Susan’s courage, her discernment process, and her passion are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

    May 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm
  2. Melissa said...

    Susan, I’m so excited to be a part of another Circle with you! Thank you for your honesty, love and caring for others – to grow themselves and through that growth – help themselves and others.

    May 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm
  3. Mia Lucci said...

    I am really proud of my mom and how she is managing us kids, work, and everything else. I don’t want any other mom. She is by far the best.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:48 am
  4. Margaret Brennan said...

    Susan creates circles of concentric energy for positive change and transformation. She has her pulse on what we need as individuals and as a community.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:56 am
  5. Ann Schreckenberger said...

    Mia, I am really proud of your mom, too. This is a comment I made to Susan on an evaluation form at the completion of a recent Mindfulness Circle.
    “Thank you for being a seeker and for the level of energy and beauty you bring to the work. Thank you for all the beautiful handouts and hours and hours you spend preparing for each Circle. I love being in the sacred space of your home. I hope you are experiencing the depth of creataive energy being laid down there. I try and tap into it as I am writing at my computer and can gaze down the street to your house on the corner, knowing the evolutionary change being seeded there. I am expecting the house to start glowing in the dark any day now. I often say to Darla, my friend and companion Circler, “Susan is on her way to something BIG”. I am priviledged to participate in and witness your unfolding. You have aligned yourself with the life-force energy of Universe. Go find your Destiny.”
    I love Susan and you will, too. Become a seeker. Join a Circle.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:02 am

Share your thoughts