the revolution is not being televised: why I lead retreats for women

23rd November 2016


On Thursday evening before our opening ceremony, I felt like I was straddling two worlds.

I’ve found this can sometimes happen as I prepare: I’m both earthy and practical – is this room warm enough, do we have fresh water, fruit, flowers, candles, are there enough coloured pencils for everyone?

And I’m also somewhere altogether more ethereal: breathing into the energetic space of the women gathered, saying a prayer of sorts that everyone in the circle feels safe and included. That the presence of each person, is both no accident and necessary for another’s learning.

I lit some incense and put on some music and burst out laughing (our classroom was a vast domed space called ‘The Hilarium’. I know).

It was a moment of pure giddy joy that this Retreat, for so long a theoretical concept was really actually happening, right now.

And here I was in my slippers, lounging trousers, t-shirt and cardigan, smelling of palo santo.


We laughed a lot over the weekend. And cried. We ate between naps. We sat around the kitchen table and the various blazing fires and shared.

We had the space and time to pause from ‘doing’ our busy lives, to explore who we are being in them.

We spent four days delving into all of the parts of ourselves that we find unacceptable.

One afternoon back in May, I wrote the outline of our retreat programme.

And then I resisted looking at it again for months. It felt quite dangerous to be exploring shadow and light in a group context over a four-day Retreat.

People spend bloody years in therapy looking at this stuff! Heck, Jung spent most of his career trying to understand the shadow and the tentacles it weaves into our lives.

(I even wrote an alternative programme but frankly, it was a bit shit).

But I sensed that this work wanted to be in the world.

However edgy it felt to me, this was not about my comfort at all.

It felt very different to being out of my depth: this was about being willing to be with my own stuff – of really owning this work that I believe in, to my core.

And then the Retreat places all sold out, and there was nothing to do but show up and trust the circle would hold all of us.

Which of course, it did.


On Sunday night I drove home from the Retreat, replaying the many moments that had moved me.

It struck me that in order to become whole, we need witnesses. We need others who are willing to sit with us and be open and vulnerable to our discomfort; people who can make space for our uncertainty and doubt without needing to help. Who can hold us in our shadow, and in our light.

And we need this more than ever.

I wholeheartedly believe that we become whole, not by imagining the light, but by making the darkness conscious.

Because when as women, we make peace with ourselves – when we can feel compassion for the shadowy parts that we learnt to see as unacceptable, when we feel supported to claim our place in the light – we become more of ourselves.

We stop shutting ourselves down to protect other people. We stop distracting ourselves with the acquisition of stuff. We stop literally and metaphorically starving ourselves.  We stop trying so fucking hard to be likeable. We unhook ourselves from needing the approval of others.

We stop being afraid of our own power and we start having opinions.

We mobilise. We act. We lead.

This is the revolution.

Because the shadow is rising all around us, I believe it is the last gasp of the wounded masculine. It is made of scarcity, protectionism and fear. And frightened people make terrible decisions.

I am profoundly and fiercely concerned about the state our world.

But I am not afraid.



‘We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.
We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are’ – Parker Palmer



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Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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