I wrote the other day about how women feel more comfortable in themselves by being supported by others at the Symposium, but I forgot to mention how they also get it by example. I'll get to this in a roundabout way through a quick personal story.
I just spent a couple of days camping w. my niece and nephew on the Smith River. It was so perfectly warm and beautiful. I'm a big fan of spending as much time outside as possible, and I was raised to appreciate nature through lots of camping excursions, so I love having the opportunity to spend time camping and playing in the river w. my niece and nephew. They're now 10 1/2 and 8 years old and they love making fires, roasting marshmallows, playing in the little rapids and sleeping in a tent.
This week was special because I was with them alone for 24 hours and in that time they made new friends w. a family from Seattle with 2 kids of similar ages. The kids hit it off immediately and by the end of the day, the girls decided they wanted to have a sleepover. I love that easy open-hearted connection that kids make, especially girls! So we had a slumber party at our place and they had a grand old time romping around in the huge family tent my brother brought.
I was observing these two 9 - 10 year old girls laughing and becoming great friends with such playful abandon. There was no concern for the shape of their bodies or what they were wearing, their income level, age or intelligence. But I know that soon, much of that will change. They will become self-conscious; concerned about body shape, clothing styles, hairdo's, which boys they like, who's cutest, etc.
Here's where the herbal symposium comes in. Many girls sort of grow up there, coming with their mother, their aunt, grandmother, friends, or all of the above, every year from the time they are very young. The Symposium offers them many forms of support: they can take classes just for their age group about herbs or making baskets or natural dyes or about coming into their "moon cycle" and they learn to nurture themselves and to take a part in their healing. They can perform in the kid's talent show or in the adult one, and everyone will clap for them and celebrate their unique offering. Or they can go into the "moon hut" and pick a tarot card or a Rune, read about women's wisdom, rituals and celebrations of womanhood.
And the living examples at the Symposium are pretty amazing too: we all attend the Maiden Ceremony on Sunday and the girls get to witness young women (or themselves) being honored for their transition into womanhood; they witness women of all ages introducing themselves on the first night, openly sharing their stories of pain or loss, joy or success; they see some women relaxing in classes or by the river with their clothes off and they see that women can be relaxed in their bodies, no matter what size, age or color they are.
This is how I see the Symposium as a great example for young girls in finding a great ease and comfort with themselves. The Symposium forms a community of women who support and uplift each other. It reminds me of the Anusara gatherings we used to have, with the Tantric vision of celebrating diversity, seeing the good in everybody and having the shared intention of lifting each other up to our highest potential. We would all leave feeling brighter and this is what happens at the Symposium. So I think the more often young girls and women attend, the more they will "get it" in their minds and bodies that being a young woman and a powerful woman is an awesome thing.
For a few years, I've been wanting to find a way to bring my niece to the Symposium as my friends have been bringing their kids or nieces. It was sad to me that once again, I wasn't able to make it happen (she lives about 6 hours away). But writing this today has renewed in me the desire to manifest that for next year. So, if anyone is coming down to the gathering from Ashland (next May) and can give her a ride, that would be an answer to my prayers!
In fondness and love,