Even how I got there was mind blowing. Looking for funding for my PhD, I sat down at my school computer and googled: “Women, spirituality and scholarships.” Up popped this website for “Women of Spirit and Faith” of which I read everything, and understood nothing. I was about to close the window when I noticed that they were holding an “Alchemy” conference in San Francisco the week that I was planning to be there (I live in New York). Intrigued, I took the issue to a mentor. “What do you think I should do?” I said. Fixing me with a stare I shall never forget he replied: “What are you waiting for? A thunder bolt? GO TO THE CONFERENCE.”
Several weeks later I rolled up at the Sofitel hotel, confused but hopeful. It didn’t take me long to find out why I was there. Over the next few days I cried like a baby, I laughed so hard my face hurt, and I discovered parts of myself I had never suspected were there. But most importantly, I found the women who were to become my tribe. It was the first time I had ever sat in a women’s circle – an experience which can only be described as exploding me into a thousand parts and then rearranging me as a totally new being – and it was the place I met the women who were to become my sisters, my aunties my grandmothers and my soul companions.
Alchemy: Occupy Your Sacred Self is an event (November 7-10th in San Francisco), but it is also more than that. For those of us who have been co-creating it, Alchemy is an ongoing process that has shaken the foundations of our lives. As Kathe Schaaf – one of the core circle – likes to put it, this is a process that changes you on the cellular level. For over a year now, we have imperfectly practiced feminine spiritual leadership to co-create Alchemy. And it’s been AMAZING.We have held deep listening circles to discover what other women are doing, being and longing for. Those circles have strengthened our collaborations with existing partners and have brought in many new women. We have done ceremony, sat in circle and written our thoughts out, trying to unravel what wants to happen, what questions want to be asked and what experiences want to make themselves felt. We have told our stories and listened to those of others, so that we might create a space where other women can discover their soul voice. We have woven together our hopes and dreams to create a tapestry of desires, so that we might follow our bliss and create an event that allows women to feel safe enough to do the same. We have listened deeply to our calling and have supported each other in carrying it out, so that when women come to San Francisco, they will be able to hear their own calling and given the courage to follow it. We have looked our own weaknesses in the face and have been vulnerable together, so that when other women come to be with us, they can see that we are like them, and that they are leaders too – so that they will also take ownerhsip of what happens during those three days in Novemerber. And we have gotten quiet, sitting in silence together, and honouring the great silence beyond, so that we can provide enough spaciousness during the Alchemy event, for women to let go and really BE, so they can hear the beat of their own heart and the calling of their own soul.
That’s Alchemy. And that’s why I’ll be there, not just for the event in November, but till my little beating heart takes its last dance with destiny.
Laura Paskell-Brown is a member of the core circle at Women of Spirit and Faith. She is a woman of spirit (with no particular religious affiliation). She lives in Brooklyn, New York and is studying for a PhD in developmental psychology.