In 1996, I co-founded a women's personal/spiritual growth center in Grand Haven, MI. It was called "The Gathering Place." I loved that place and how women came together in community to heal, grow their hearts and minds, and CONNECT. In a 2-year period, we serviced over 1,000 women.
Though I was the director and led many of the activities, this also became my personal community. We sponsored teachers to come in and guide us in various areas of healing and growth. We retreated together. We took "field trips" and learned from more teachers. (Marianne Williamson, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Wayne Dyer, Neale Donald Walsch, etc.)
I led women's book discussion groups and a healing circle for women with chronic illness. I taught journaling and, during that time wrote my first books. It was a profound time for me of uncovering my true self. Time spent at the Gathering Place allowed me to spread my wings and fly, too.
I began to write, speak, and travel alot at that time— and it became challenging to maintain our Center, so we had to let it go in 1998. Since then, I have longed for another Gathering Place.
I had hoped to find it in the town I moved to in 2002. I did not find it here. I searched for it on the internet and did not find it there either. In terms of my own spiritual practices, the closest community (church/temple) is 5 hours away, so my "practices" have been rooted here, in my "nest." A powerful, solitary journey that I have loved ...
And though I am a private person, and rather introverted, I've known for a while now that it was time to reach out once again and either join a community or create it. The choice seemed clear. My inner voice said, "Create it!"
So I have. It is another "Gathering Place," though, this time, it is online.
It's called Dharma Sisters.
"Dharma" means "truth" or "a path of truth."
And I hope if you are a woman passionate about finding and living your truth, you will consider joining us.
The story continues:
What I found so fascinating this past weekend (upon our community's launch) was that it contains ALL of the features that our old Gathering Place did. This happened so unconsciously, I did not truly see it happening.
This new sacred (and private!) community is based around a gifted teacher spending time with us each month. And we practice together—in the areas of meditation, mindfulness, and loving-kindness.
There is a women's healing circle for women with chronic illness.
A book discussion group.
An Art Gallery. A Library.
With more features being added weekly.
And there are Moderators, gifted women who have shown up to help and lead. I bow ...
Right now, I am pretty blown away by all of this because now the Gathering Place is here again, albeit, in a new form. It feels like it birthed itself in a spirit-led sort of way ...
Here's the other important piece of the puzzle:
I had become disenchanted with the internet, Facebook, and all that. There is a lot of silliness, phoniness, posturing. There are voyeurs, hackers, trolls, spammers, and, for a sensitive person like me, this can be quite disconcerting—especially knowing that everything you put up on the web (and yourself) can be violated or misused. It is not, for me anyway, a viable option for spiritual community and self-expression unless it is SAFE, secure, and protected.
Our soul's work is the most important work of our lives. It deserves to grow in sacred ground. The internet, as it is now, is not that place if it's so unguarded. A conundrum to be sure, because this is where so many of us are spending our time these days because we may not have true community. And we long for it so!
So Dharma Sisters is here, a completely private and secure, membership-based sangha:
a community of women who have come together on the internet
to learn and grow and practice.
It is visionary, dedicated to living the core practices of
mindfulness, loving-kindness, and compassion.
Perhaps you will join us. You would be most welcome there!
My community and yours ...