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Tend & Befriend

How hope for the world is growing in circles

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Illustration of women dancing at night

Night Time Antics by Melodie Stacey

“The world will be saved by the Western woman” is the now-famous prediction made by the Dalai Lama at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009—and that sentiment is growing, especially in women’s circles. I had the honor of connecting with the founders of several of these movements and hearing about the tremendous positive shifts they have witnessed, why they are so passionate about women’s circles, and why they have dedicated their lives to making them available to all women, no matter which country or culture they come from. 

Jean Shinoda Bolen is the founder of the Millionth Circle Movement and author of books including Moving Toward the Millionth Circle, which has now been translated into 80 languages. Bolen shared that she is intrigued by Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of “morphic resonance” as well as the “hundredth monkey” theory. Those two theories suggest to her that new ways of human relating—“tend and befriend” rather than “fight or flight”—can spread rapidly from one group to all people. What it takes, she says, is a critical number of members of one group exhibiting the new behaviors and anchoring the new ways within community. 

Bolen lit up when she heard that the next generation of circle visionaries has created an online resource through which women from any country around the world can locate a heart-centered community space to gather. The organization that brought this long-held vision into form is Unify Global Sisterhood, codirected by Emma Clare Juniper and Lauren Elizabeth Walsh. Their interactive world map of women’s circles at women.unify.org lists over a thousand women’s circles from Saudi Arabia to Uganda to Colombia and beyond. At every new moon, each sisterhood circle offers an inspiring gathering with meditation, movement, and sharing about their lives, their challenges, their joys, and “growing edges.” The theme for each gathering is offered by Unify Global Sisterhood. Previous themes have included Liberation Through Forgiveness, Cherished Body/Sacred Temple, and Magnetic Integrity.

Another visionary, Achintya Devi, is the founder of the “Goddess Rising” movement, which has grown to an online reach of over 100,000. When I asked her what need her organization meets in society, she explained, “It is our destiny as women and sisters to birth a new paradigm: to transmute comparison, competition, and jealousy into interdependence and unification, through coming together in a safe space and being heard, witnessed, supported, honored, and celebrated in our authentic self-expression.” Devi went on to say, “Both men and women carry feminine and masculine wisdom and tools. The reemergence of the feminine voice within women and men serves to create a true and balanced representation of the voice of our global population. Both voices are needed to rebalance the world.”

Alisa Starkweather is another compellingly articulate wisdom-holder and founder of the “Red Tent Temple Movement,” who shared a story about going to Israel to meet and circle with other spiritual leaders: 

“Toward the end of the journey, I was with a small circle of women who had tightened from all of our sharings and our delving and transformational work, and I was walking in the Sea of Galilee, holding the hands of two Arab women who had never had their clothes off and could be killed just for doing that. They had never been told that their bodies were beautiful, they knew that they were in danger, but they wanted so much to meet and walk with other women. 

“When we all got out there, at some point we realized that we were a full circle—an interfaith circle. We joined our hands and made a prayer, naked in the Sea of Galilee. Knowing what we’re up against, we knew that we needed to come together and be sisters. We needed to cross lines and see beyond our limited, separate beliefs. 

“There were many tears at this gathering. The feeling shared was that this is the moment! This is what we’ve been waiting for! In this sacred gathering, we infused ourselves, and then we’re going to go from this place to the next place, into the deeper work.

“The day after I left, the war began. Eventually, I started seeing profound videos and documentaries and I could see and hear a good number of the women from our group on the videos. I could see them protesting, I could see Arab women side-by-side with Israeli women. I knew that this was seeded through the work. We draw ourselves from these connections, these places that are so full of honesty and our tears and our bloodshed, and our knowing as women, until we’re ready to be those warriors."


Prema Gaia first wrote for S&H about leaving the fast life in Los Angeles and spending four years living “ultra light”—taking to the road with the clothes on her back and no money at all. Gaia is passionate about facilitating transformational events, connecting changemakers, working one-on-one with clients, and writing about emerging movements that are supporting global awakening. www.premagaia.com


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