Women's Meditation Circle: A time to connect

Erica Bray is a Chill meditation + yoga instructor and leads our monthly Women's Meditation Circle

As I’ve journeyed across the holy temples of India, the ancient ruins of Egypt and the dusty villages of Tanzania, I’ve had the privilege of spending time among diverse cultures while wearing the hat of travel journalist. It’s among many “hats” that I’ve worn over the years. 

This identity juggle is not unlike that of most women I know. We wear a lot of hats. We’re daughters, mothers, friends, colleagues, wives, lovers, confidants, teachers, explorers… the list goes on. And on. And on. 

We learn a lot in the process of living out these multi-faceted roles. There are questions, fears and dreams, too. Yet reflecting on and sharing these musings with other women – meaningfully and in the flesh – seems to be a dying art here in Chicago. It rarely happens with the same thoughtful vigor and reverence that I’ve found elsewhere in the world, and I’ve increasingly pondered the “why” behind it.

“I’m too busy.” 

“I have friends.”

“I’m doing just fine, thanks.”

I can come up with a myriad of modern-day responses.

Yet here’s a startling fact: As a culture, we’re lonelier than ever. In fact, loneliness may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, according to a recent report by the American Psychological Association, and new research states that nearly half of all Americans always feel alone or left out. 

Key word here: ALWAYS. 

There’s irony in our not being alone… in our feelings of being alone. Even in this era of intense social media sharing, there exists a growing disconnect. The communities being cultivated online aren’t always helping us offline, and this emerging research proves it. We might think that we’re connecting, but is it meaningful? Is it real? Is it helping us live out our best life?

As women of the urban jungle, myself included, it’s easy to succumb to this “Nobody really gets me” mentality as we smile our way through social media posts. In the swirl of the day-to-day, wearing our different hats, our social and emotional health can take a back seat to the do-do-do of work and family obligations. 

Taking time for ourselves – pure time to be in the company of diverse women who share honest musings and offer new perspectives – is often seen as a “luxury” or “novelty” rather than a necessity. 

It’s time to flip that.

Gathering in meditation together

As a longtime yogi and meditator, I recognize a special, but simple, mindfulness practice that happens across many of the cultures in which I’ve traveled, which also can serve as a beautiful tether for us busy-bee Chicago women. It’s called the Women’s Meditation Circle, and I’m honored to bring it to Chill.

I’ve participated in and facilitated women’s circle meditations around the world – from Mexico to Nepal to Bali to right here in the USA. Each time, it’s special. Each time, I learn something new about myself simply by opening my ears – and mindfully listening – to the stories of other women. Suddenly, things in my life, thoughts about my life, resonate within the stories of others. It becomes less about me, more about us. We become unified through common themes and experiences. We connect, even in the silence of meditation. Suddenly, we are not alone.

 

  Preparing for a circle ceremony in Nepal.

Preparing for a circle ceremony in Nepal.

The basic format of the Women’s Meditation Circle includes:

  • Guided meditation to ground the group

  • Time to write and reflect, in silence, on a provocative theme

  • Structured time to share (only if you wish) and actively listen (valuable for all) during the circle ceremony

  • Guided closing meditation

Let’s get back to basics, to boost our social health, to offset the rise in loneliness and have some fun. Nothing beats a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face conversation. Where you look someone in the eyes. Where you respond in the moment. Where you listen in the moment. Where true resonance happens. There is special magic in this connection – magic that manifests in the circle as we share and listen. 

Think of the Women’s Meditation Circle akin to a dinner party or book club, but with meditation and mindfulness as our anchors, with gentle music, poetry and laughter sprinkled in. It’s important to note that this is not a substitute for therapy. Rather, it’s a welcoming space to come curious, be in community and realize … we are never alone.

I look forward to welcoming you into the circle.

 

Register to join our next Women's Meditation Circle on November 4th.