I attended a women’s spiritual retreat this past weekend, with a marvelous group of 13 other women in a quiet but spiritually active campground in the Coastal Range of Oregon.

It is always re-invigorating to be able to converse and share with others your personal spiritual experiences and gifts—in an environment that is without judgment.

In a closing circle on the last day, we passed the “talking stick”—a rattle, actually—and were encouraged to speak from the heart about the word, “imagine.” The resulting sharing revealed how much we all had in common, and how we imagine many of the same things for ourselves, and for the world.

One theme that recurred was that of freedom. Women want to be free—free of the demands or expectations of spouses, children, grandchildren, and work.  They want to be free to express themselves creatively without criticism or, worse, mockery.

Another theme was the reluctance to believe themselves as having healing talents and abilities.  Although most of us strive to be healers in one way or another, we also experience a great deal of self-doubt and the idea that somehow we are not worthy as healers because we aren’t perfect.

It shows that women—especially, I suspect, of a certain age—still struggle with the programming of our childhoods.  Programming about our role in society, about our place and our purpose as women. We were taught to be self-effacing, putting others’ needs before our own.  But through the years, the decades, a part of ourselves was inside screaming, “What about what I want?”

Then we find ourselves feeling guilty about having needs, about wanting things that we want.  We feel guilty when we are desperate for relief of the arbitrary demands of our culture.  Through retreats we can remind one another that we DO deserve what we want, that we are not only allowed to create our own lives, but that Spirit encourages us to do just that—create OUR OWN LIVES.  We can remind one another that guilt is a soul-killer and cripples us with fear.  Guilt, after all, is just another form of fear—the fear that our choices will somehow wreak havoc on others or create dire results. 

In recent years, I find myself with health issues.  I deal with them, do what I need to do for myself, understand and respect the limits, the boundaries, my body demands these days. But too many people seem to think we are supposed to be healed before we can become healers—something that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It is our very woundedness, our own shortcomings, our own suffering that gives us the gifts we need to become healers.  It is through these personal experiences that we develop compassion, understanding, and empathy.  Someone who has never suffered cannot possibly understand the suffering of another.  So let us embrace our wounds, our suffering, as the gift-givers that they are.

For it is in the experience of darb2ap3_thumbnail_DSCN0954.JPGkness that we come to appreciate light.  It is suffering that makes joy so—well, joyful! 

Magic women, women of magic—and that, I believe, includes all women—must express our needs and desires, be willing to pursue them and make them manifest, embrace our suffering and use it as a tool for compassion, without self-judgment and without guilt.  That is when the magic truly uses us and moves through us to create a magical world.