Women’s Circles been around for centuries. From the Ulithi tribe of the South Pacific to Native American and African tribes, they’ve been a way for women of all ages, to come together, support one another, share stories, and pass on traditions to the next generation. Circles provide an “opportunity to be heard and seen, without judgment”, says Giselle Perry-de Vries founder of Sofia Women’s Circle.
Over the years, Women’s Circles have largely disappeared. What would once take a village is now an individual struggle, creating a disconnect, and often a feeling of isolation. As women, we’ve been trying to do it all on our own for way too long. So, in our often fast-paced, but now uncertain society Giselle believes, “it’s time to reimagine Circles to fill the gaps in our modern-day communities. Come together, exchange positive energy, set intentions, and harness the power of like-minds”. Giselle, a Sydney native, is bringing the tradition back to Sydney’s North Shore, with the inspiration of her aunt and a little “nudge from the universe”.
I’ve known Giselle for a little over 10 years. Connected through our son’s sport, Giselle is the women whose hand goes up first to volunteer, and who always has your back, no matter what. So, when she launched Sofia Women’s Circle I wasn’t surprised, to me, it seemed like a natural extension of the woman herself. Training in Byron Bay with a facilitator who has taught doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and who specialises in psychosomatic theory, Giselle has been able to marry ancient tradition with the more modern principles of women’s circles.
How does Circle work?
Named for Sofia, the Greek representation of wisdom, the Circle, held once a month, is designed to bring women together in sisterhood to share their experiences, or to just be. “There’s no requirement or expectation of how anybody’s going to behave”, says Giselle. “Whatever you need from that Circle, you will take away from the Circle, but, in a Circle, we come together, united in a common purpose”.
When Circles first began in 800AD, they were very much connected to the new moon or full moon, women coming together to gather and grow awareness of their cycles. The modern approach is supported by ritual but is very much a vehicle for “self-realisation and integration with community”.
Taking part in a Circle doesn’t involve a whole lot of chanting or woo-woo, but you’re encouraged to come with an open mind and immerse yourself in the experience as fully as you’re able.
“On arrival, you’ll be offered a sage smudge stick to cleanse what you’d otherwise be bringing into the Circle from outside”, says Giselle. “It’s just a nice way of down-regulating the nervous system. Women are then encouraged to make a cup of tea, get comfortable and find a space in the Circle”.
The Circle, of no more than ten women, “introduce themselves, say a few words about how they’re feeling, and set an intention for the Circle. I’ll talk about the Circle guidelines, the confidentiality – what happens in the Circle stays in the Circle,” Giselle offers.
Giselle then takes the group through a visualisation and mindfulness activity before opening the group up for wisdom sharing. Typically, the Circle will last over two hours. “There are no expectations to do anything other than be your gorgeous self,” says Giselle.
Benefits of a Women’s Circle
According to Giselle, “women walk away from the circle feeling connected, supported and seen. Research shows that when we support, nurture and nourish others, endorphins are released in the brain, giving us a natural high”.
Circles also provide an opportunity for like-minded women to form friendships and access a network that they may not otherwise have been able to connect with. As it’s a safe and sacred space, the participants don’t need to be concerned about what they share within the Circle. “Circle is a confidential, judgement and advice-giving free zone. What is said in Circle stays in Circle and women bear witness for each other and respect the truths which are shared” advises Giselle.
Through her mindfulness practice and connecting with Circles, Giselle has managed to reconnect with the spaces, and things in life from her youth, that made her the happiest. Giselle believes that taking the time and finding that space in your life to reconnect to self can have a profound impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Her hope is that ‘Sofia’ can become that space for those who join.
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