, ,


The Millionth Circle and 5WCW
Changing Ourselves and The World

by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD

The Millionth Circle is about circles with a spiritual center, a slender book that inspired the formation of the Millionth Circle Initiative through which I first came to the United Nations and was appalled and inspired to become a grassroots activist as an advocate for a UN Fifth World Conference on Women (5WCW), not as an end in itself, but as a huge step toward reaching a tipping point though equality and empowerment of women. I believe that if women are in circles that support them to believe what they know to be true, and to act with courage and wisdom, the circle becomes a transformative vessel for personal and cultural change. This is especially so for circles with a sacred center.

The intention to be in a circle with a spiritual center invites the invisible world of spirit or soul to be in the center of the circle and in the center of the psyche of each person in the circle. Through meditative silence or silent prayer, wisdom and courage grows. Circles foster both the ability to voice what matters and say out loud what is in the heart and mind, and an equally important ability, to listen with compassion. Women’s circles evoke a sense of sisterhood, and also a feeling of being in a maternal space. There is a deep sense of being connected to one another, at an archetypal level.

It is this sister archetype and the mother archetype in women that make it possible for most women (but not all, because these are not the active archetypes in some women) to identify with other women across national, racial, and religious boundaries, without even meeting. It is empathy that makes women able to imagine what it would be like to be on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, or be a woman under the Taliban, a refugee or an abused mother in the United States or a vulnerable and abandoned child. A critical number of women gathered together in circles with a spiritual center could bring the feminine principle into consciousness and action. Just as consciousness-raising groups did in the late 1960s and 70s, which transformed women’s roles and opportunities in the United States, became the women’s movement which then rippled out to influence the world.

Women have never been given rights, nor have they used violence to get them. They have made demands to get the vote and succeeded, worked together for social and economic justice, and broke through resistance to change by peaceful means. Women’s movements are grassroots, they are not financed from above, and grow through the invisible and non-hierarchal network of women’s friendships and the ability of women to bond with each other through the medium of conversation and then to have an influence on men and institutions.

The “millionth circle” is a metaphoric number, it will be the one that when added to those that have been and are formed, becomes the tipping point.