Compassionate Witnessing: A Red Tent Offering

Sometimes we simply need to be witnessed. What does that mean? We need time and space to be heard and held. That’s it. Nothing else. February 2016 071No advice. No suggestions. No commiseration. No chit-chat. No, “me too.” While a common element of Red Tent or Women’s Circles is to “pass the rattle” and to give each woman a chance to be heard in turn, last month I decided to go a little deeper and to try something I called Compassionate Witnessing instead. It was based on experience that I had in facilitating the Green Tara lesson in the comprehensive and beautiful women’s spirituality curriculum, Rise Up and Call Her Name. Green Tara is a Buddhist goddess of compassion and liberation and the excerpt of her mantra used here means to liberate from fear. At the Red Tent, as we passed the rattle, each woman had the opportunity to voice something she needed compassionately witnessed. After she spoke, and stated, I have spoken, the circle of women around her responded. Placing one hand on our hearts, we sang to her:

Om Tara, Tuttare, Om Tara, Tuttare.

Om Tara, Tuttare, Om Tara, Tuttare.

(you can hear one version of the chant here. Our own was a little faster.)

The Rise Up curriculum is very specific about emphasizing that this is an overview of goddess traditions from a variety of cultures and to avoid engaging in cultural appropriation, but rather only honor and respect the many diverse expressions and experiences held by many cultures. While I feel as if using the “Om, Tara” chant is consistent with honor and respect, vs. appropriation, you may wish to use another responsive witnessing song or phrase instead. Some suggestions would be:

I see you (or I hear you).

Or, you may like to try a song that I learned at a UU Women and Religion event:

Molly is here, Molly is here

all manner of good things

will come to her now.

It was amazing how hearing this song sung back to us after our time to speak, created a sense of being received. I encourage you to try it with your own circle.

handsIf you’d like to explore more of the messy, beautiful real-life work of practical priestessing with me, I invite you to join me in our seven week Practical Priestessing or Red Tent Initiation courses.



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