You have it all: a therapist for your “issues” and a workout studio for your abs and a glass of wine for your feelings. Check, check and check. But what might be missing is the sense of community and positivity that comes from a tight-knit group of friends and family who are all rooting for you. That’s the vibe at WMN Space, a posh grown-up version of the “no boys allowed” treehouse from our fantasy girlhood. Run by Paula Mallis, a doula and trained conflict resolution facilitator, this Culver City aerie is the site of a biweekly “women’s circle” that’s supposed to be an empowering, transformative two-hour respite for today’s woman. Word is, in less time than it takes to watch a Tarantino film, it’s possible to emerge with a calmer, more hopeful mental attitude—just through journaling, listening and speaking to the group if the spirit moves you. We decided to try it out and offer some tips for getting the most out of your visit.
Tip #1: Get There Early
Held every other Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in a second-floor studio, women’s circles start on time and parking is limited, so...same old L.A. story. When I climbed the stairs 15 minutes late, I was stressed about being the perennial bad student, missing the beginning of the class and not knowing what was going on. I needn’t have worried—though leader Mallis was already sitting cross-legged facing a circle of 15 women also sitting cross-legged. She smiled, directed me to sit on a cushion next to her and continued talking in her calm, relatable voice. I later found out that lots of women make friends in the circle and go to dinner beforehand. So this is the new healthy girls’ night out.
Tip #2: Come Prepared to Write
All participants find a couple of photocopied sheets on their meditation cushion along with a pen. Since the women’s circles are loosely inspired by the astrological alignment of the new or full moon, themes focus on the ideas of transformation or movement...in your relationships, your career, your apartment or whatever your current focus is. The topic of the session I attended was “Up-Leveling Through Times of Change and Transformation.” Mallis encouraged us to write our answers to three questions:
• What current situation or relationship is bringing forward the opportunity for a change or shift?
• Are you being triggered by the change? Experiencing upset or resistance?
• What are the judgments, limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns that no longer serve you?
Tip #3: Don’t Be Shy About Sharing
When we were all done with our worksheets, Mallis invited everyone to share what they’d written, after setting ground rules: no cross talk, no interrupting and no judgment (everyone is meant to respectfully hold space for each other to share). Slowly, women offered their stories. One young woman was anxious about finding a job since moving to Los Angeles; one woman had suffered betrayal in love; another was concerned with keeping her spirits up during an extended illness. As each woman spoke, the room quietly followed along with a palpable empathy. Lots of nodding in recognition all around—and the women who read aloud seemed to get so much satisfaction from it that I was moved to read mine too, about fear of intimacy (i.e., whatever that adult life-partner thing is called).
Tip #4: What Actions Are You Prepared to Take?
Next, we were directed to write down “action steps” to achieve whatever life goals we’d focused on. Mine consisted of focusing more on relationships and less on distractions, as well as taking better care of my health. Meditating. While none of these ideas were new, something about the act of writing them down and taking a quiet moment to really mull over them in a room full of women also mulling like crazy over theirs, made it feel more profound and, what’s more, more likely to actually happen in my daily life.
Tip #5: What’s Your New Story?
Mallis explained, as the evening came to a close, that the overarching point of this work was “to shift an old pattern into a new story.” To help that along, she said she’d seen a “unique magic” happen when women get together in the circle, and she asked us to write down one last thing, an affirmation that begins “I am gracefully...” to repeat to ourselves whenever we need encouragement. So, even though I rolled my eyes inwardly at the thought of writing a Pinterest-worthy saying, I wrote down what is either my stupidest or most profound sentence ever: “I am gracefully remembering that I am an adult woman with wisdom and strength born of experience.” Smart or not, that sentence, along with the meditation and other self-care I’ve taken with me from the women’s circle, is helpful defense against the traffic, the family and the challenges both big and small.