In the circles where I live and work and have my being, I hear the same three longings on endless, aching repeat.
- A desire to have a spiritual practice that is genuine and authentic to the person practicing it.
- A desire to include feminine ways of knowing and creative impulses into that practice.
- A desire to not feel alone in that practice â€” to have a soulful tribe.
I believe that being withmates to one another can move us into places where we complete all of these desires.
What is a withmate?
â€œWithmateâ€ is the gender-inclusive term Iâ€™ve come to use to describe what Margaret Guenther calls a â€œmidwife to the soul.â€ In Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Guenther reminds us that, â€œThe literal meaning of the word [midwife] is â€˜with-woman,â€™ that is, the person who is with the one who is giving birth.â€ When you expand the metaphor of â€œbirthingâ€ to include giving birth to a new kind of spirituality, the idea of being withmates to one another resonates with possibilities.
What does a Withmate Do?
- Is present to another in a time of vulnerability, working in areas that are deep and intimate, in a relationship of trust and mutual respect.
- Does things with, not to the person giving birth.
- Invites questions and takes time to engage with them.
- Sees the event she is assisting at as a natural, normative eventâ€“not as a â€˜crisis of faithâ€™ or a sickness.
- Notices times of transition and realizes that â€“ even though painful â€“ they are a sign of breakthrough and progress.
- Encourages another when they feel out of control or that they have failed. Redefines progress, success, and failure in more functional terms.
- Tells you when to push and when to hold back, when to breathe deeply and when to do something shallow.
- Rejoices in the arrival of that which was working to get itself born.
What about you?
- What might get born in your life with more ease and support if you had a withmate?
- Who has been a withmate to you in the past? What did they do that was helpful?
- Go on an imaginary journey where you are following a leader. Now go on a journey where you are traveling beside a withmate. Whatâ€™s different?
- Who has been a good traveling companion for you? What did s/he do that made them a good withmate?
- Looking for a withmate? Who can you be a withmate to? (Pay it forward and watch the Universe meet your needs as well.)