UPDATE: November 3rd Delhi #MeToo Healing Circle

What can one offer another on the solitary journey of grief and healing?

This thought lingered long past the Delhi #MeToo gathering on the 21st of October at Lodhi Garden.

Picture courtesy: Anoo Bhuyaan

What now? What next? What more?

Beyond the headlines and social media frenzy, something else has been stirred. #MeToo ripped the scabs off old wounds, still infected and throbbing under the thin veil of functionality. For every woman who has spoken up, there are tens of thousands who have not found closure, who remain unable to tell their stories publicly or at all.

On that Sunday, there was a palpable collective urge to call out this sickness in our society; to expose the rot within its hallowed institutions, and chip away at the veneer of the respectable family unit, built on the silencing of women’s lived experience.

The stories that poured out of the sisterhood offered us clarity on the way forward. No one escapes unscathed from these experiences, which linger on like a malicious phantom in a person’s psyche; we have to learn to live with it. Over time, the callouses that develop as protection of our sanity and dignity also limit us, manifesting in many life-limiting ways.

No one gets to stand as judge or jury over how women deal with these experiences. Not surprisingly, the troll armies and their brand of patriarchal supremacy hold dear the idea of ‘the perfect victim’ — the woman who suffers silently and stays invisible.

Whether a woman speaks out or processes silently, her choice lies open to being weaponised against her, alluding to either publicity seeking or guilt and complicity.

One paralyzing fear that appeared deeply embedded was the fear that we’ll be left strung out and alone as we wage a solitary battle against an institution or a person perceived as more powerful than us. Long court battles or media bullying or worse our families being swallowed by the swell of retaliation aimed to intimidate us.

The fear is real. But maybe…if we pour some sunshine and love into this fledgeling sisterhood emerging across the country, we may become stronger together.

Now more than ever we need a wholesome, empowered and self-reliant womankind in this country. We urgently need more spaces, which support deep self-inquiry, are inclusive and committed to women’s well-being.

On November 3, we gathered with this intention in our heart, to offer the first of a series of Healing Circles in Delhi. With Diwali around the corner, south Delhi roads were one long bottleneck. We started later than expected.

Our facilitator, Sudha Shankar, designed a thoughtful process. Here are the highlights.

Sudha swiftly launched us into a process of moving around the space, fully arriving and occupying it with our presence. Through her prompts, she guided us to form groups of 3, 4 or 6; each huddle was anchored to either a question or a call to enactment — going deeper progressively. And, gradually, a room full of strangers turned into compassionate witnesses of each other’s truth.

Picture courtesy: Yasmin Kaura

For the next segment, we sat on comfy floor cushions, placed tightly together to form an intimate circle around a candlelit epicentre. Womankind has been sitting around a fire swapping stories and wisdom for thousands of years and this primal ritual really anchored the gathering.

Holding ‘Buttons’ (a rag doll), each of us took turns to share what was stirring in us. This was a space of radical honesty and unflinching presence and support. Sudha coaxed some of us to sort through the chaos of thoughts to the realness of what we were feeling and what that could tell us about our needs, especially those yet unmet.

Picture courtesy: Yasmin Kaura

Sudha then explained the basic premise of Nonviolent Communication. Contrary to popular assumption, NVC is not about avoiding conflict or turning the other cheek. It is a deep inquiry into universal human needs. It’s a process of understanding that most of what we say, do or don’t, as the case may be, is, essentially, a strategy to meet our needs…perhaps, for peace, safety, belonging, compassion, justice, equality, ease, to contribute, happiness, recognition, etc. It is also a hard look at the strategies we resort to meet these needs; some strategies bear fruit and others work to our detriment.

Next, Sudha guided one of our sisters, through a process called the NVC Dance Floor. A thoughtfully plotted out map laid out on the floor, which the volunteer physically moves through. This remarkable process gives a clear and succinct insight into our thoughts — to see them for what they are — assumptions, judgments, self-blame, guilt, anger, sadness, etc. Sudha supported and held our sister as she ‘walked’ through her thoughts to arrive at the core unmet need. All the shame, rage and sadness pointed to this unmet need… ‘I matter’…a need so profound that it resonated with each of us, who witnessed the process unfolding.

Fighting through tears and asserting her will upon this world, she proclaimed, “I MATTER”

“You matter,” we echoed her, “you matter!”

So many of us needed to hear this. To be reminded how vital and compelling this need is. This is why many women are speaking up: “I Matter”; saying this to the perpetrators, to society, to detractors, to other sisters: “I Matter, and so do you.”

We closed the circle with a round of expressing, giving feedback and offering thanks.

Picture courtesy: Yasmin Kaura

So, what can one offer another on the solitary journey of grief and healing?

Presence: I’m here. I believe you. You matter.

Community: We bear witness your suffering. Your experience is real. You will always belong with us.

Empathy: I see you and I hear you. I have wholehearted compassion for your suffering. I can hold space for what you’re going through. I don’t judge you for how you coped and survived.

Expert Guidance: May I offer this insight, this mode of self-inquiry, this wisdom so you can help reach the seed of truth buried under years of pain? I know the road to healing is long and it exists. Travelled by many women before you. Let me show you how.

Support. I can walk this path with you. I’ll raise you up when you stumble. You can reach out to me when you need to. I have faith in you.

Acceptance. You’re cherished exactly as you are. You’re whole to me. I love you.

Hope: I see your potential. I know that you’re capable of turning this battleground into a beautiful garden and the world will be a better place because of this courageous journey you’ve embarked on.

Thank you, Sudha Shankar. For this, glimpse into the dynamism of life. The way you hold space is a masterclass in empathy. You’ve set the tone for what we can dream of doing with this space.
Thank you to our co-facilitator: Biraj Bose. By watching you, Biraj, we learned the subtle difference between being present and being tuned in mind, body and spirit. Thank you so much for your rooted, intuitive and gentle support!

More pictures and upcoming events on: https://www.facebook.com/GatherAroundSisters