I wrote on Tuesday of finding a dream that I’ve been incubating for a while being made clear to me on holiday at Glastonbury, of all places. I wrote of my vision for women’s circles across the land, groups of friends, relations, people with shared interests, gathering and getting together to share wisdom, hopes and dreams and to support each other in what is, undeniably, turning out to be the weirdest few years I’ve ever been through.
Whatever your stage of life, modern living seems to be unnecessarily harsh on us all. Too fast, too focused, too goal orientated. We don’t give ourselves permission to just be.
I went out that evening to an art class that an acquaintance was running. It was only two hours long, but it was so good to give myself permission to play with the materials (this week it was chalks and pastels, but it will be different materials other weeks). I haven’t yet had a chance to take a photograph of the work I made, but I will do. The product really didn’t matter, anyway. What mattered was the process. Do you know the last time I just sat for two hours drawing and scraping and rubbing and making art? No? Neither do I. I should be ashamed that a process that I really enjoy is something I never free myself up to do at home. Why wouldn’t I enjoy drawing and painting and ripping and making as often as I can?
I think part of the issue is that it’s easier to find other stuff to do when you’re alone or with people who aren’t into an activity. Tuesday was about being with other people, mostly women I have to say, and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. We listened to Nina read a passage from a couple of books, or listened to Mozambiquan music, with portuguese lyrics and such a saudade feeling. Or we talked quietly, finding and creating links. Of the 12 people there, only two were completely unknown to all. Everyone else had at least one other person that they knew from a different place and who had turned up by coincidence or by arrangement. Little circles of 2 or 3 meeting in one place.
Tuesday was the first class in a series. I’ve booked for the rest, and we’ll see who turns up from week to week. It’s a set of 6 sessions, so enough time to talk to others, get to know them and create links where none existed before.
And then, yesterday, I opened my June copy of Simple Things magazine. I don’t like to read a magazine too far ahead of its date: I hate an August magazine that arrives in June or a snow-covered Winter special that hits my mat as the golden leaves of Autumn burn away, so I have a habit of leaving them until closer to the date.
And, of course, in a case of serendipity, synchronicity or just Great Minds Think Alike… they had an article on Women’s Circles. Mindful spaces to just be. The article is interesting, with advice from Anoushka Florence, whose new book, The Women’s Circle, came out in April. From ancient times to modern days, women have always gathered together purposefully to support each other, to train each other and to create safe places where women can just be. I’ll be reviewing the book in the next couple of weeks, but if you wanted just a barebones set of advice for starting a circle, the article in The Simple Things is an excellent place to begin.
And it has spurred me on. Online or in real life, I am aiming to start a new Women’s Circle with the purpose of uplifting and supporting each other at its heart. If, truly, the Cost of Living is going to hit and hit us hard, then the need for a cost-free, empowering, supporting circle is even greater. Mixed ages, mixed abilities, mixed faiths getting together for some meditation, some journalling, some crafting, reading and above all sharing of worries, concerns and capabilities will be the 21st Century of the quilting bees of old, the rag rug making sessions in front of Our Ada’s fire or the groups who met in secret to fight for the franchise. Women, lifting up women, creating strong women.
Are you interested? Here’s my initial advice on setting up a circle.
- Find a group of people who have something in common: either a shared hobby, a shared faith or a common cause. They can be all women, or mixed sex. It’s your circle: you have who you want to there.
- Approach friends or acquaintances first, but don’t be afraid to reach out into the community to find your circle. Start a Facebook page, or advertise on some local community pages. If you’re starting with a bunch of strangers, it may be safer to hold the group in a community centre room, corner of a pub or public space.
- Set out a clear purpose for the circle. Is it to do with spiritual things? Will you be reading holy texts, praying, meditating or interested in outreach? Is the circle ostensibly about a hobby, a craft or reading? Even the most dedicated bookclub eventually reaches out into personal life, but having a common activity can help the circle to gel.
- Sharing food or drink breaks an invisible wall between people. Have a large bowl with bread, crisps or fruit such as grapes or strawberries in to pass around. And use a teapot, rather than bags in mugs, for tea. The physical act of sharing creates a psychological link.
- Be prepared to lead for a few sessions before people step up to the plate, but be prepared to step back and be a circle of equals as soon as you can. Pass out roles and responsibilities: let someone else choose the readings, let another person light the candles or waft incense. If you create a Whatsapp group, name it after a place or a personality trait rather than a person. Childwall Women Together, or Picton Peace Circle rather than Hayley’s Happy Women.
- Remember inside is not the only place to meet. Parks, woodlands, stream banks and seaside can all yield an extra dimension, especially in meditative times. Don’t choose places that are expensive to get to, or that charge admission. And bear in mind that access may be an issue for some.
I’m still playing with an online circle idea. I think that may be harder to run, because surely part of the magic of a women’s circle is the small, close-quartered aspect of it: that you will be able to see everyone within a short space of time, that the shyest of participants can add a response without talking. I’m a big fan of In Real Life, especially after two years of Covid has driven everyone online but I’m realistic enough to know that if you can’t find a circle nearby or can’t get to one, online is the next best thing.
Tuesday’s art class is a proto-circle. I don’t know what will happen after the course has stopped. It would be brilliant to think 4 or 5 of them met up to pause once a month, once a season, to explore art and capture their emotions on paper again. We’ll see. For now, my personal next step is getting a couple of circles of friends that I’ve been working on to join together and create a larger circle. I know they’ll all get on, because I know they’re quite well-matched. A monthly space, of menopausal/perimenopausal women who support each other at a time of life when the world still seems quite dismissive of us…. that seems like a start.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.
Planning ahead, early, is How to Hygge Your Summer. It has ideas for taking your hygge with you out of winter and to any place you go in the summer… the beach, the park, your holidays. Hygge is an all-year feeling, so start preparing and let’s hygge the heck out of summer this year!
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.
The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash. It’s waterlilies, chosen for the reflection and because the flowers resemble lotus flowers so much. And my header is a photograph by Becca Tapert on Unsplash. I chose it because the image of three women together, unified, seemed to portray some of what I see women’s circles as being for. A way for women to hold each other up.