Ana Couch – Regional Coordinator, SoCal GTW

AnaI was introduced to Gather The Women a few years ago from Sharon G. Mijares  Ph.D. (who is now the Regional Coordinator for Gather The Women in Costa Rica).  I jumped at the opportunity to be the Southern California Regional Coordinator. I was wanting to connect with women that were meeting in circles too. Many times in our circle gatherings  we could feel a connection to other women from around the world as if we knew that other women were meeting in circle but didn’t know how to connect with them. GTW  allows us to feel and be a part of that thread of love. It joins us to women that are meeting in circle like we are. It threads us together with other circles and women, Just like the quilt that we participated in making, Some of you may remember creating a piece of the quilt that Gather The Women made last year! I love the idea that we are not just our small little circle from San Diego but that we are part of something  much larger than ourselves.

The first time I was introduced to circle practice was when I was 19 years old (19 years ago). My mother (Chloe Ann), my sister (Rain) and Shauna all attended a women’s circle that was facilitated by Sharon Mijares  (Regional Coordinator for Gather The Women in Costa Rica). Sharon had led our women’s group for many years here in the San Diego area and introduced us to setting sacred space through circle ritual. Sharon ended up moving to Costa Rica after about 15 years of attending her circle. The group dissipated after she left and I felt an empty spot in my heart for circle and its practices. I felt that something was amiss and I longed for that feeling that sits with you when you meet in circle with your sisters. I missed that sacred circle space that is shared with the women there. The voices and stories being told, by other women.  Being heard and listened to with love, by other women. It had been a couple of years or so without having any circle gathering  in my life

While I was away at a self realization event in 2008,  it came to me and I realized that my purpose and my passion in life is to awaken the potential and inner beauty within myself and ultimately in other women too by shining my own light.  I had a vision of gathering with women and leading the group in sacred space. The only thing I could think of the rest of the trip was getting back home and what it would take to start a circle of women in my own community.  First thing I did was call my sister my mother and another friend  Shauna to ask about their thoughts on starting a circle of our own.  I felt that just because we didn’t have the formal training and background that Sharon did when she led group through guided meditations , that there was no reason to let circle gathering fall out my life. I questioned and doubted whether or not I could do it. There was hesitation at first, but once we all agreed we joined together and created and now guide our Northern San Diego CA group. We asked the closest women in our lives to come and join us for our sacred women’s circle! Other women have held the topic for the night too and we rotate our gifts of insite and knowledge with one another.

We meet in the homes of each of the women and we trade who’s house we hold our meetings in. It’s a very intimate setting and we sit on the floor, sitting on pillows with our circle center aglow! The circle center usually has a combination of stones, candles, scarves, fruit, offerings,  sage so that we can smudge one another to start the group. I think its important to incorporate some type of ritual into circle practice as opposed to just sitting and chatting with girlfriends.  One woman will light the sage and each woman will fan the next with the smoke so as to clear the day away and start our ceremony. We call in the  directions (East, South, West, North, above, below and center)  and all of the gifts that each of those directions bring,  in order to set the space and cast our circle. There is always a topic in discussion for the night and then we will usually do something to integrate the message that we are discussing by having some sort of body movement or chanting, drumming, guided meditation, tree planting, wand making, …all to embody the experience more. We’ve even gone down to the ocean to howl at the full moon!  We always close the circle by thanking and releasing the directions. It is the  casting of our circle and the rituals we perform that allows us to set sacred space and deepen the experience of the circle setting.

Many of us (and some of our husbands) get together outside of our circle practice too. These women have become very close to me. I love and cherish them all and look forward to the many more years of gathering together to honor ourselves and honor the sacred practice of the divine feminine in a circle setting.

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