Born of Woman – The Feminine Call to Lead
‘The Great Turning’ is also heralded as a time when women are called to lead. Such prophecies seem to affirm the deeper awakening of feminine consciousness that so many women are experiencing. Many men are moved by it too, but there is a particular rising amongst women that is gaining recognition and momentum.
It is a rising I sense in my own journey and through my mentoring work with women change leaders and healers over the years; a feeling that we are being called collectively to ‘seed’ this feminine consciousness into our social systems.
Part of our journey in answering that call is to take a stand for our future in ways that are an authentic expression of our feminine wisdom, gifts and values. This desire to serve a feminine-masculine rebalancing of our world is accompanied by a deep, soulful yearning to express our divine feminine nature and power as women ~ perhaps even to become vessels and voices for our Grandmother Earth.
I have learnt, primarily through following my heart and the guidance of my creative inspiration, that saying ‘yes’ to the authentic expression of our leadership in the world propels us into the deep river of inner restoration and rebalancing within ourselves.
I have come to see this ‘mandatory’ restoration as the healing of our own disconnection with the feminine within us, and with the Earth. It’s where we welcome and tend to the personal and intergenerational ‘woundings’ that have misshapen our sense of what it is to be ‘whole women’, walking in our authentic, feminine sovereignty and self-authority as women. Only through our own healing can we embody, and ‘hold space’ for, the restoration of wholeness that our world needs.
Two significant events ignited this awakening in me 12 years ago.
My first son, Sam, was born. Then my mother, Virginia, died.
She was a brave and proud Grandmother for three tender months before she passed through the veil.
Those three months wove the sacred threads of endings and new beginnings into my cells, marking an experience that I will never forget. Life handed me the mantle of motherhood, through a doorway of grief that called me to surrender to the essential nature of my capacity to love.
Hosting my own emotional and physical rollercoaster whilst supporting my mother’s transition and my new baby’s absolute vulnerability, felt like a condensed PHD in ‘holding space’. We’ve all had those times in our lives, when, just when we thought we couldn’t take any more, we found ourselves yielding to an even deeper breath… expanding wider than we ever imagined… and somehow, just like giving birth, we are carried through.
That ‘somehow’ felt to me, like the presence of grace. It wasn’t just my will or my inner resilience that enabled me to hold it all, though I’m sure they played an important role. What really sustained me was my ability to sense and feel the sacred field of life around me, and allow myself to be held and resourced by a presence of love that was beyond me.
I don’t know if I would have been able to receive the blessing of that invisible gift, were it not for the Earth Wisdom Teachings resounding in my bones. To that point my 5 year journey with WindEagle and RainbowHawk, of Ehama Institute, alongside my Interfaith Ministry training, had opened me to a deeper knowing of my own sacredness and belonging to life ~ and to Mother Earth.
However, despite this powerful opening, my experience of grace faded as I moved into the daily routines of motherhood. Losing my own mother at this significant juncture in my life, I felt the holding container that had been there for me for 42 years evaporate. Of course I knew, intellectually, that she wasn’t the only holding container, nor had her spirit gone, but it didn’t change my emotional experience. I could feel a hole that I didn’t think I would be able to fill.
Where had that deep feminine holding of The Mother gone to?
Being a mother for Sam gave me strength and, whilst embracing my imperfections as a new parent, I didn’t struggle to hold him with great love. What I did struggle with was learning how to mother the younger one in me, and to allow myself to receive the deeper resourcing I needed from the greater field of Mother Life herself.
Looking back, I can see how significant a doorway this was for me.
It felt like an invitation to drop through my grief, to let go of the attachment to my human mother and open to receive the holding of the Earth Mother. I was being asked to let her in. To get to know her more intimately. To begin to feel and trust her presence and guidance in me. And to become the holding container with her.
At this time, I had just entered Black Lodge Training with WindEagle and RainbowHawk. Though I didn’t fully recognise it then, I felt deeply held in my unravelling quest for re-connection. My partner John and I travelled to many beautiful ceremonies in New Mexico (and Mexico) with our baby Sam, where the land left its imprint on the soles of our feet, and our medicine family a lasting imprint in our hearts.
It’s no surprise that this doorway also marked a turning point in my work with women. I had known for years that my higher purpose was to bring the feminine and masculine back into balance and had already begun to hold Circles and Councils with women leaders.
However, through my own healing process, I started to see the journey of my leadership as a re-awakening and re-integration of the Sacred Feminine and Masculine in me. The receptive inner journey (feminine) and the active outer journey (masculine) were learning to dance together through me, through my life and through my capacity to hold other women on their journey of reconnection. Over time, I began to realise that this re-balancing dance is the inner path of the Feminine Leader. Without being rooted in the feminine first and yielding to the deep holding of Mother Life, no amount of masculine brilliance will bring our authentic gifts to life. And yet, without the ‘healthy masculine’ to engage or act on her guidance, those gifts will remain hidden and unexpressed.
During the first wave of my women’s leadership work with senior corporate leaders, it quickly became clear that I wasn’t alone in my quest for wholeness. Their greatest challenge (though often unconscious) was the dissociation from their inner wisdom and from their authentic feelings and needs – ultimately a disconnection from the rhythms of their bodies, their emotions and from nature herself. Bringing those women into grounding Circles in nature at our home in Scotland created a vast field of resourcing in itself. (I smile as I remember being nicknamed ‘the witch in the woods’!)
The women’s experience in those Circles was of a deepening awareness of their authentic selves. They felt recognised for who they were beyond their roles. As the difficult emotions they had unconsciously invalidated and suppressed were allowed space, so the dreams that were yearning to be realised through their leadership were empowered.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “It’s such a relief to know I’m not alone!”. We cannot underestimate the healing power of simply being witnessed just as we are, in the vulnerable power of our humanity.
Many of these women were not just tackling the relentlessly exhausting challenges presented by their roles. They were trying to find their authentic feminine voices and wisdom within deeply ingrained cultural environments that unconsciously devalued the feminine and supported patriarchal dominance; task over relationship, financial reward over purpose, control over emergence, certainty over not-knowing, competition over collaboration, head over heart, intellect over intuition.
Helping these women to discover a truer sense of self-identity beyond their roles and to trust their feminine wisdom and values, despite being immersed in this field of masculine dominance, was challenging but deeply rewarding work, and a gift beyond anything I could have imagined.
However, big changes arrived for me when I became pregnant with my second son, Luke. I remember sitting in a circle with 20 police women when a clear knowing opened spontaneously in my heart. ‘This isn’t my Soul work anymore’.
So I let go of the corporate work I was doing and, once more, surrendered to the Great Mystery of my womanhood as I became a mother for the second time.
Breast feeding sweet baby Luke brought more than the joy of nurturing and strengthening my bond with him. It opened the door to a profound deepening of my own connection to Life and awakened a creative ‘channel’ that brought with it an emerging clarity for the next cycle of my calling.
I remember many long nights when, after putting Luke back into his moses basket after his first feed of the night, I would be drawn into potent, heart-expanding meditations. I would have creative inspiration pouring in so fast that, instead of going back to sleep with Luke, I would sometimes be scribbling in my journal until he woke for his next feed.
I began creating a circular glyph of ‘8 Essential Doorways’ that I called ‘The Wisdom Circle’ and the words ‘Awakening The Heart Of Feminine Leadership’ emerged. This was a time of initiation into my own quest as a Feminine Leader, a quest that deepened my understanding of the awakening journey that I believe we are on together as women.
With two young sons, it would be two years before I had the resources and impulse to move these creative inspirations into my existing work, but those two years gave me essential time to explore and experience what these emergent teachings were really about. I began an ongoing quest for integration, weaving my Black Lodge training with other threads: the transformational teachings and practices that I had studied, and my own personal journey and professional experience working with women leaders.
Not surprisingly, I also felt moved to work more closely with the ancient forest land here where we live in Scotland. During a visit from RainbowHawk and WindEagle, and with support of our medicine family here, we had already created a beautiful medicine wheel in the woods. But now, I was being guided to a smaller, more hidden and protected space, somewhere I felt had a very gentle, deeply feminine quality about it. This feminine ‘power place’, I called ‘The Earth Lodge’.
Years back, WindEagle had introduced me to Ohki Simine Forest’s beautiful talk at Bioneers – “When Women Lead’. Her words had touched me deeply and resonated with an essential truth, particularly when I read this part:
“Ancient ways teach that proper balance in the world will happen only when the primary circle of Earth Wisdom is held by women and when men enter the women’s lodge to learn from them. But for men to enter the Earth Lodge there must BE an Earth Lodge held by women. For a woman to enter into the male Sun Lodge as many do today, to make a career for instance, she must have a very strong root to the Earth to avoid the danger of disconnecting from her natural Lodge.”
The Earth Lodge (above) became the space where I would go for connection and guidance and to hold personal ceremonies for myself and for the women I was working with. Before long, I had created a fire-pit in the centre, which became ‘The Women’s Fire’. It was my connection to this sacred space, and the many instances of profound guidance I received there, that gave me the clarity and courage to step forward in my self-authority as a leader and teacher.
This stepping out began in 2012 when I birthed my first online Circle journey called “The Wisdom Quest ~ Awakening the Heart of Feminine Leadership”. Being unable to travel much, I had become very excited about the potential of the online world. So I threw myself into the deep end and created a 4 month online Circle journey where I was joined by 20 heart-centred women entrepreneurs and change leaders, from Europe and the USA for a rich and deep dive. I was blown away by the depth of connection, sacredness and safety that could be created simply using online webinars as a platform.
I followed this in 2014 with a month long online fundraising Teleseries, ‘A Call To Stand,’ the inspiration for which came directly from the Earth Lodge around the same time as my breast feeding ‘downloads’ with Luke. However the gestation on this project took much longer, partly due to the resourcing it needed but also because of my ‘resistance’ to leading it.
Half way through the journey of birthing this project, which included conversations with around 20 inspirational women leaders (including WindEagle) over a month, I hit an impasse, and the fear of continuing became palpable. Something hadn’t fully aligned yet – I hadn’t rooted myself enough in the Earth Lodge. I knew I was being invited to go deeper into my own healing process… to move through the same doorway I had arrived at when my mother died.
So one night, I went to the Earth Lodge for guidance and lit the fire. As I made space to presence the part of me that was struggling, I became aware of the female line in my ancestry. I began to sense a pervading fear that if I followed my ‘Call To Stand’, I would somehow betray or hurt my own mother. After all, she had not had the opportunities that life now presented me. Like many women in her generation, her freedom to create her life and follow her dreams had been constricted by a far stronger social conditioning of the suppression of feminine wisdom. She had invalidated many of her own creative needs and unexpressed emotions, and for a significant time, became depressed and unwell. I could see how, as a child, I had felt her pain deeply, and without realising it I had adopted a sense of responsibility for her well-being that I had carried throughout my own life.
With many tears of recognition, I found myself creating a ‘constellation’ around the fire, where I was able to see and acknowledge my mother and a long line of women behind her, with profound love and gratitude. By touching the pain and power of their experience and by honouring the younger one in me that had been impacted, I could begin to acknowledge and surrender the old stories of disconnection and unworthiness that had been handed down through many generations. I asked them all for their love and encouragement as I stepped over and beyond the fire, to claim self-authorship and sovereignty of my own life.
I felt an extraordinary and palpable field of love and celebration behind me and, from that point on, a renewed flow of creative energy and joy for my project. ‘A Call To Stand’ became an inspirational online journey for 1,700 women from around the world… including me!
Since this time, the framework that I call ‘The Wisdom Circle’ has grown roots and is blossoming in beautiful co-creative ways. It is at the heart of my leadership work with women and has become an essential teaching in ‘holding space’ for the transformational inner and outer journey of feminine leadership.
Emerging now are Circles of women who, working with ‘The Circle of 8 Agreements’, co-create a sacredly held space that embraces both light and shadow in their journey to wholeness. As each woman’s sense of belonging grows, she discovers a more authentic and sacred relationship with herself, with the natural world and with her Circle sisters. In the process she begins to discover her gift and embody her feminine wisdom and sovereignty. From this place of inner rootedness, she finds the courage to answer her feminine call to lead.
Through this emergent journey working with intimate Circles, I am also discovering the power of our collective feminine wisdom and our extraordinary capacity to heal our past together. We cannot do this without touching and integrating the personal, and often intergenerational, trauma that is present. When we come together intentionally and learn to hold one another in a sacred way, we create a field of healing potential that is profound and awe inspiring. Our capacity for healing and reconnection is ignited simply by being in this held space. Shadows can be seen, honoured and integrated. One woman’s healing within that sacred space activates another’s, as she becomes a conduit for the whole Circle and beyond. And creating a space where women feel genuinely safe enough to be themselves, enables us to begin to heal the unspoken wounding that exists between women.
This is the restoration of the Earth Lodge that is so needed in our world: the recreation of Women’s Circles where we can re-root ourselves firmly in Grandmother Earth, reclaim our Sacred Feminine nature as bearers of life, and lead from there.
I have no doubt that this is the time for us to step up together, Rising Connected to our heart’s wisdom, to the Earth and to one another. Perhaps then, as Okhi suggests, we can welcome our brothers into that container of love with us and carry the flame of wholeness united, towards a truly ‘life sustaining civilisation’.
I have always wondered, but now I know why Mother Life gave me two beautiful boys… and a doorway.
What a gift!
Joey is the Founder Of Awakening Feminine Leaders and for the last 18 years, has been helping women change leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches and healers to restore their relationship to the Feminine, bringing the wisdom and voices of women into the world. In 2017 she gave her first TEDx Talk, ‘Rising Connected’ at Findhorn. She is growing a collaborative community of women leaders who, though participating in intimate Wisdom Circles, are learning to hold the healing spaces needed to foster the emergence of a new culture of care, connection and collaboration.
Find out more about Joey’s work here: http://awakeningfeminineleaders.com/
Watch her TEDx Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJjBzWR5Ixs
Contact Joey at Joey@awakeningfeminineleaders.com