I will never forgot the day in March 2013 when I met Emma Tivey at the Tree Room Open Day, in Colchester. She expressed her desire to start a Red Tent group in Essex, and with the dedication and support of Clare James Take Shiatsu, it wasn’t long before I went to my first Essex Red Tent in Clare’s home.
I was keen to attend because for some time I had felt very isolated in my field of work. This was an opportunity to meet like minded women, who shared similar values and were keen to share their knowledge and skills in a non-competitive, nurturing environment.
We sat on cushions in a circle on a red carpet around a shrine of flowers, a couple of themed books and chocolate. An intention was set for the group, that all women present may feel included, and whatever they wished to say would be heard in confidentiality and without judgement. Each of us then introduced ourselves, and expressed in a couple of sentences how they were feeling in that present moment. Many emotions were expressed, including those of the shadow self, as well as light, and all were given the space for reflection and acceptance. Much tea and chocolate was consumed as simple meditations and yoga practices were offered by different members of the group, including myself. Towards the end of the session, we gathered again in a circle, and each expressed how we felt as the group was coming to a close. There was a sense of real communion amongst us, that we had shared something intimate and sacred – that all of us had been given an opportunity to be heard – a rare blessing indeed in this modern world that is built on a foundation of competitiveness, hierarchy and achievement.
Red tent is the antithesis of this. In a circle we meet together, and for a few hours are able to simply be, without pressure to be anything other than who we truly are. The first red tents in Essex followed the original idea, as practised by the nomadic tribes of the Middle East, and Indians from the Americas. In these indigenous tribes, tents were/are erected solely for the purpose of menstruating women to be together during their bleed and find the quiet peace that is often desired and necessary at this point in the monthly cycle. Within this closed nurturing environment they were/are able to restore their energy, and return to the community fully replenished and able to offer their best to the community. The modern western red tent movement has adopted this principle, and on an agreed time in the monthly cycle (as close to the new moon as possible), the group meets, and recreates this practice as laid down by our ancestors.
It is amazing to see how the Essex Red Tent movement has grown over the past few years, but not really surprising. It is so important to have this space for women to come together from all walks of life, to have the time to simply be, and a quiet moment for reflection and self enquiry. As the world increases in pace, and stress levels rise, as we are socially driven to compete and achieve, it is a welcome place of respite. During this time there is an opportunity to deeply replenish ourselves, and return stronger, with a sense of sisterhood, to the jungle that is modern life.