A Call to Connection: An interview with Women's Circle Facilitator Sophia Leone

Meet Sophia Leone. Women’s circle facilitator, ecstatic dancer, cacao lover and founder of Earth is a She. I met Sophia through attending one of her women’s circles in Melbourne and after having my mind blown the first time, have been a regular face at her circles ever since. Grab a cup of herbal tea (or perhaps some cacao!), catch some winter sunshine and read on to learn more about Sophia’s journey to becoming a facilitator and how women’s circles can be a powerful tool to help us stay connected in this new, COVID world.

Hi gorgeous Sophia, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me. In a few potent words can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start Earth is a she?

I’m 33 in September, I’m originally from Sydney and have been living in Melbourne for the last four years. I studied psychology at university and I wanted to see if I wanted to become a psychologist by starting to work in mental health but I got extremely burnt out so I decided it wasn’t for me. And a few things happened around the end of a relationship, I went travelling. I had always known I wanted to do facilitating of events but when I came back, I moved to Melbourne and I started my business, Earth is a She. I’ve been running that for about three years now… which has been awesome!

What are some of your favourite self-care practices at the moment?

This is a time (during lockdown) that requires a lot of self-care. I’m not normally one to watch Netflix but in this lockdown I have been watching Vikings (laughs) and I’ve been busy weaving out of wool I bought at the op shop and plastic bags. I’m always reading that’s part of my self-care practice too, along with exercise and meditation.

I think what’s really beautiful and powerful about women’s circles is that the space is created for you to take up space and that has been something that women historically haven’t been able to do.

Lets talk about Earth is a She! How would you describe what a womens circle is to someone who’s never been to one?

I would say that, very simply, a women’s circle is women coming together to share in our experiences as women. I think what’s really beautiful and powerful about women’s circles is that the space is created for you to take up space and that has been something that women historically haven’t been able to do. In many ways it’s like an ancestral healing and a historical healing of women being able to come into a space where what they say, feel and experience is important, valid and we’re all actually there to listen to that.

I think women’s circles can be run very differently and my way of running women’s circles, is that they have a strong focus on inter-personal relating and connecting women with each-other, whereas other women’s circles might be more mystical or moon-cycle based.

There was a period recently where I kind of lost track of why I was doing the circles and I think it’s really important to get clear on why you’re coming together. The other part of it of course is coming into a space that is held from the divine feminine.

I think the importance of women’s circles in times like this where we can’t physically come together, can still be extremely potent in the online sphere. It’s just allowing what’s there to be spoken and for us to connect in our shared experiences.

Can you tell me more about what that means?

Coming from (the divine feminine)… it’s a slow, yin space. It’s a nurturing space which feels safe. It’s got this element of warmth to it which are all aspects of the divine feminine and because we live in quite a masculine society as well, it’s really special to come into a space like that.

I’m so curious because I know how different each womens circle can be. What was your first experience of a womens circle like?

The first womens circle that I went to was when I still lived in Sydney and it was a really big one. It was maybe 30-40 women, which is massive! It was a group that had been gathering monthly for some time and it was very focused on singing and drumming. It was very confronting but I also felt very inspired by the women who were there, they felt very powerful.

I can’t really remember it that well, the one thing that I remember very clearly is that they invited us to take off our tops! So there was just a whole group of women singing and drumming mostly topless. I remember finding that extremely confronting but also very illuminating to see the different types of bodies that there were. It didn’t matter about what the women looked like, it was more about the essence that they had which was a bit of an eye-opening moment for me. It was this moment of… wow women can be extremely attractive, not just through the way that they look but in their way of holding themselves. That was my first experience and I at that point, never went back (laughs) and I defiantly didn’t think that I would be running them.

So what made you change your mind and decide facilitating was something that you would like to do?

I went to one more women’s circle in New South Whales where I felt a lot more relaxed in that space but it wasn’t until I got back from my trip where I had a bit of an idea of things that I had experienced over there that I wanted to provide to my community. Soon after I went to my friend’s yoga festival where people could run whatever they wanted. I’de come back from this trip thinking I wanted to run OSHO meditations and ecstatic dance, but they had no equipment to run dance so I thought maybe I’ll just run a women’s circle? So I put my name down!

A lot of women rocked up in the bush in this space that was a bit further away from the main building and we sat in a massive circle. We just did a simple ritual around letting go, it was so powerful and incredibly beautiful. I had so much anxiety about running it but there was this one woman in particular who really supported me. When I put my name down she said “I can help you, I’ll take photos and then maybe you can keep running them in Melbourne!”. Then after the circle finished, all of the women were like “you should keep running this!”. So it was then that I recognised the beauty and power of what a women’s circle can be in the support for one another. In the women holding me up and going “YOU CAN DO THIS!”. And from that point on I was like… “Yeah! I can and I will!”.

I would love to know, what is your favourite part about facilitating the circles?

My favourite part about facilitating the circles is when I kind of disappear as the facilitator and it’s the group holding the space.

Can I ask you, given that we’re all feeling isolated due to COVID and these continual lockdowns, what role do you think women’s circles play in helping to bring us together and feel connected?

I think they’re really integral in times like this. I think the value in what the circles actually offer is that they hold everything. There’s not anything that can’t be said in that space.

I feel that most of us and I’m speaking for myself as well, it can be hard to come to a space and divulge what’s not working well and ask yourself what have I been struggling with? What am I challenged by? And yet when we do, you recognise that you’re not alone in that experience. As you start listening to all of the other women sharing, they all have experiences that are somewhat similar to yours or you hear of experiences that are more challenging than your own and you end up feeling quite grateful that you’re actually not as deep in pain as some of the other women and you just have a lot of empathy for them which draws you out of your own pain.

I think the importance of women’s circles in times like this where we can’t physically come together can still be extremely potent in the online sphere in that it’s just allowing what’s there to be spoken and for us to connect in our shared experiences.

I feel like it’s just part of our humanness that we feel like we exist in isolation. It’s as if our pain and our suffering, our not wanting to get out of bed in the morning during lockdown are just so unique to us, we think we’re the only ones! Then when you come to the circle and you have the courage to openly express what’s really happening for you, it’s like you break the shield and everyone’s like “Me too!”. Knowing that you aren’t alone in your experience is a huge release and is so powerful.

What do you think it is about the circles that makes you feel like you can open up more than just talking to a friend?

It’s something about the fact that these women aren’t your close friends, they’re so different to you already because you don’t know them - they’re not in your direct sphere and yet they’re still having the same experience?! It’s like.. wow… crazy !!

If you are keen to join one of Sophia’s womens circles or learn more about Earth is a She you can head to her website, Facebook page or Instagram.

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