This article was originally published by Esalen Institute regarding the 2018 WisdomWomen Visionary Gathering at Esalen.
In the middle of a career shift, WisdomWomen founder Michelle Stransky took a huge leap into the unknown. As she navigated the transition, she followed her curiosity and soon pinpointed her next endeavor: to create an experimental space for women to develop and share their gifts as leaders. WisdomWomen was born, and Esalen — with its long history as fertile soil for breakthrough ideas and social movements — was a natural place for it to emerge. In January 2016 Esalen hosted WisdomWomen’s first gathering. The weekend of January 26 WisdomWomen will return, convened by Michelle and WisdomWomen steward and social justice visionary Mutami Rose Imani, for a new property-wide workshop.
“WisdomWomen truly has been an evolution because, rather than repeat a formula or structure, we follow an emergent path of where the vision is taking us,” says Michelle. “The process led to creating relationships and building a sisterhood of women who were ready to experiment.” Eva Iglesias describes her experience at a previous WisdomWomen gathering at Esalen as magical. “From the beginning to the end, I felt I was in a state of perfect flow and harmony with the land and women participants. The program is designed to tap into the natural surroundings and the wisdom of each woman, so I was able to connect deeply with myself and with other women,” she says. “There was time to reflect, time to share, and time to play. It was a very powerful experience that helped me set new intentions, bring new awareness, and develop deep connections.”
Today WisdomWomen has formed 13 Visionary Councils on topics ranging from governance, the earth, media and technology, health and well-being, diversity, and others. “Each of our Councils manifests in a different way,” Michelle explains. “In 2017, we held gatherings on two specific Council topics: Earth and Sacred Sexuality. This year we are planning follow-up gatherings for these topics. I believe the focus helps members of our community root into the earth and our bodies as we explore other areas like the New Economy, Diversity, Health and Well-being.” In addition to their numerous ongoing Council initiatives, WisdomWomen projects include the Collaboratory, an incubator for actualizing new social models, and the WisdomWomen Fund, developed out of the community’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.
WisdomWomen attracts participant co-creators from all over the world. Whether you have an established leadership practice or are taking the first step on a new path, there is a place for you. “I knew I wanted to do something good in the world, but wasn’t having much luck achieving that within a regular top-down organizational structure,” says self-compassion teacher Kristy Arbon. “I had a sense there was another way to do things where competition gave way to collaboration, and where I could truly be me without having to wear a persona.”
Beatrix Bliss, a Wisdom Woman in the United Kingdom, elaborates: “When the wider world doesn’t seem ready for the vision you are brewing under the surface, the courage you need to birth it in the world comes from connection to others who are doing the same. When we come together as women with intention and in a sacred manner, something extraordinary happens.” WisdomWomen Community Director Leslie Frame-Crowley believes her outlook has changed as a result of her participation. “Both my experiences at Esalen, and as a part of WisdomWomen, give me hope and vision for what our world could be,” says Leslie, “and is.”
The 2018 WisdomWomen gathering is shaping up to be a powerful time of inspiration and renewal, chock-full of peer sharing, exploratory conversations, creative collaboration, and ample time to rejuvenate in Esalen’s hot springs. “WisdomWomen is experimenting with an emergent culture and way of being in the world,” Michelle adds. “This is our opportunity to experience our village in person. I hope this gathering catalyzes increased stewardship by our members who will help shape the journey forward for our community and for the world.”