The Health Benefits of Sisterhood


People laugh at me sometimes, with how obsessed I am with book club. More than guiding my current reading habits and being an outlet for intellectual curiosity, it takes up priority space in my calendar. Some would say I’m almost religious about it. Could be.

One thing I know for sure: that one night each month feeds my soul.

I used to have a similar take on a choir I’d joined for a time. About the art school office I worked in for 10 years. About natural health school. About hanging with my friends – girls’ night dinner parties being the cherry on the cake.

The common denominator in all these enriching scenarios? Female community.

(Maybe my need for such circles is a bit religious. Being part of a value-based collective certainly adds appeal to any religion. Having stepped away from the Catholic Church I was raised in, my need might be greater than someone who’s stayed more fully connected to a specific faith.)

My girlfriends, and the other clutches of women I mention above, were key to my survival post-divorce. Over 5 tumultuous years, I first learned how a non-judgmental circle of women (& a few special men) grants me

  • the courage to surrender the masks/labels and be myself;
  • the safe space in which to pour my hopes and fears;
  • shoulders to cry on, buddies to dance with;
  • the permission to put myself first (not that we women need it, but we think we do).

I learned that a strong group makes each individual woman stronger.

Being immersed in a community of like-minded, supportive women is the most direct route to knowing and loving yourself.

This solid container works for anything you want to improve really, however, in terms of health, the support of a group is proven to speed recovery and reduce risks of recurrence.

As part of a community, you have a built-in buddy system – someone to hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to hold your hand when things get rough, and to celebrate with you when they go well.

Knowing someone has your back in that way makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.

On my own, I doubt I’d have had the energy to find another man, let alone explore the world of online dating. Without the love of friends and colleagues, jumping full-tilt into a new line of study might not have been so effortless, and I may never have discovered a new career – one that continues to stretch and fulfill me 14 years later.

A healthy relationship and enriching work serve to nourish you in mind and soul – essential pieces of your health picture.

More than just having a body free of disease, health literally means to be whole. To have balance in the lifestyle choices you make, so you can enjoy balance in your life.

That “being healthy” umbrella covers every part of your life – relationships, heart & soul, mind, work, money, society. It’s not just about the perfect body or a body free of disease. In fact (this is a discussion to explore further another day), it’s possible to be healthy even with a disease.

Every part of your life stands to improve with the health-giving support of a collective.

Community also means a place to ask questions and learn from the experience of others.

In recent years, I’ve discovered pockets of loving circles online. Some of the small Facebook groups I belong to hold the same magic as I’ve experienced in person. They might be a network of colleagues and other alternative health practitioners; financial advice; business support for solopreneurs; accountability and cheerleading through a challenge or a course. I’m also a part of deep spiritual circles through the internet.

I have connected with like-minded women all over the globe who I now consider good friends.

No matter the area of life, my book club, my friends, these online groups all prove to me yet again that it takes a village to raise a healthy woman.

Which is precisely why I have opened a community of my own. The Whole Health Dinner Party is a closed Facebook group for members of my community. It’s a place to talk about food and body and soul and life. For asking niggling questions and sharing thoughts. A place for conversation about health in all its shapes and forms.

Won’t you join us? Enter your email in the box below and I will send your invitation.

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Dinner Party Invitation

This week is Friday the 13th: Women’s Power Day.

That’s right. Not bad luck at all. That whole idea was made up by guys in the Middle Ages who feared the “witches” – those pagan wise women, who would get together on the 13th of the month to celebrate the female aspect of the Divine. (1 for the Goddess, standing equally beside the 3 of the male Holy Trinity.)

Friday became the unlucky day in Christian tradition as a reflection of Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified. Hmm, and that was the day that the 3 Marys, the 3 aspects of the Feminine, gathered at his cross to support him in his journey.

My intention wasn’t to give a lesson in Christian mythology, but it seems a good place to start.

Because today, I want to tell you about my belief in the strength of female community.

Here’s the story:

My favourite social activity is a dinner party. It’s one of the most lyrical ways my husband and I get creative together. Even the book club I belong to is more like a literary supper club. Fresh out of university, my roommates & I discovered that a dinner party was the cheapest way to have fun – especially if someone else brings the wine!

13 years ago (there’s that number again), when I was on the verge of divorce, I threw my own birthday party: supper with my best women friends. I cooked yummy food for, and surrounded myself with, the ladies who would become my regular guests, and my support system to this very day. I have a girls’ night at least 3 times a year. It’s the most grounded way I spend with my girlfriends.

These women are the people that I would choose to have with me on a deserted island. They cheer me on, they hold me up. They’ve seen me at my best, they’ve loved me at my worst. When they come over, I celebrate their beauty, their passion for life, their dedication to work and family. They inspire me to bring the best manifestation of myself forward. They are the safety net I can rely on, no matter what.

I couldn’t imagine a fulfilled life without them.

Little did I know that this tradition was nothing more than part of the natural evolution of my soul & its yearnings.

Flashback to 1979: Flipping through my parents’ copy of Time, I came across a column about an art exhibition that had opened in San Francisco. Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party, the iconic feminist installation, that honours over 1,000 women in history. The triangular table holds 39 place settings (3 x13); each one represents a pivotal character in the herstory of the Feminine, starting with the Primordial Goddess and ending with Georgia O’Keefe.

The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago

I had no idea who most of the women/goddesses were. I had no overt interest in the feminist movement. My love of drawing & art hadn’t yet gelled into anything more than occasional sketches and lots of crafts.

Yet I was fascinated.

Being 12 (yup, I was in my 13th year – I’m not makin’ this shit up!), other things quickly veiled that fascination, until maybe 7-8 years ago. Working in an art school, I came across an article about the piece. It had been bought by the Brooklyn Museum and would be permanently installed there. By this time, my own dinner party ritual was deeply established, I’d discovered my creativity, I was studying holistic health with the aim of serving women.

This time it felt like fate.

It took until 2010, but on a trip to NYC with my husband, I made a beeline to Brooklyn and spent a morning in utter adoration of this altar to the Feminine.

Inspired by Judy Chicago, I’m creating my own virtual dinner party.

Part of my blog will be dedicated to celebrating women who I want to share my table. It will be a way of expanding my soul’s community and sharing it with the rest of you.

So, I’ll write the occasional post about a woman I want to celebrate. They may be famous or fictional characters. They may be women I know or women I’d like to know. They will all have personal meaning for me, yet their significance carries weight for you, for us.

Each woman at my virtual table will have a lesson to teach, even if it’s simply to inspire with her ability to hold greater aspirations for ourselves than we’d ever thought possible.

Each one will be a manifestation of the Goddess, a Wise Woman, a pilgrim on the road of the Sacred Feminine. I want to share the wisdom of these women as part of a community of support. Because, that’s what we do for each other.

This circle serves me daily: Whenever I hold the space for a woman, be it personally or professionally, my capacity to provide support expands into a glowing container of Love because I tap into the energy of the whole community.

Welcome to my table!

Leave a Reply and tell me who you’d invite to your dinner party.