The WellSprings Story
Hello and welcome. My name is Linnette Dooley and below is the story of how the WellSprings Women’s Program was birthed from a simple question.
Introducing the journey – asking the question. . .
Asking the proper question is the central action of transformation—in fairy tales, in analysis, and in individuation. The key question causes germination of consciousness.Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes>
I am in High School. I am standing in front of my family home and asking the universe the question, What does it mean to be a woman? I do not understand the enormity of the question. But I do feel the vastness of the silence that follows. It was unmistakable.
The time was the early seventies, the middle of the second wave of the women’s movement (1960s – 1980s). Social upheaval was in full swing, challenging cultural stereotypes for both men and women. I gladly gave up wearing a bra, makeup, even shaving my legs. I felt drawn to an earthy, embodied feminism. There was a certain liberation in choosing not to conform to the images the culture projected on to women at the time. There was also the feeling that unlimited opportunity lay ahead.
In the fall of 1973 I entered college. I began my studies focused on a career in the para-medical field, switched midstream from left brain to right brain, and came out with a degree in art. An art teacher informed me that my artwork had a feminine voice. This was the first time that I became aware of valuing my feminine voice.
Moving through my twenties I find that I am wanting to hear from women. In a small spiritual group that I participate in I initiate a gathering of the women. I am wanting to hear women’s voices, women’s perspectives. I am not exactly sure what I am looking for. And I am not yet in a place to meaningfully facilitate so the gatherings disperse. But I find myself always asking myself how this or that affects women. It becomes a reference point for me.
I read some feminist literature during this period. I will be honest and say that it did not nourish my soul. It was work that needed to be done, women arguing themselves out of the hole that the patriarchal culture had placed them in. It was all very heady and while I agreed with the arguments, it was not a place that was easy to live with. I appreciated the work women were doing but it did little to help me embrace myself as a woman.
In the 1980′s I read From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson. Sonia writes of her participation in sit-ins and fasts to promote the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and her excommunication from the Mormon Church. I also read her follow-up book, Going Out of Our Minds, The Metaphysics of Liberation. Even though I found I could not embrace all the conclusions that she came to as a result of her experience, I did walk away with a lesson that I have never forgotten. You can use your energy to push against a system that you don’t agree with (Sonia’s experience in Housewife to Heretic), or you can choose to focus on creating the life that you want (Going Out of Our Minds. . .). Maybe it was time for women to change the system by changing themselves. But I still did not have a road map for how to do this or even know what that really meant.
Graduating from college I reluctantly enter the corporate world. I dread the 8 to 5 routine. Corporate culture feels very male and inflexible, especially after several years of exploring myself as an artist. I feel disconnected from my voice, especially my feminine voice.
In my mid-thirties, feeling restless in my job as a Graphic Designer, I left the world of corporate with no plans other than to “wallpaper the bathroom.” The head of Personnel gave me a wonderful review and even offered a referral. It made me realize that corporate had valued me even though it was not a place where I had felt inspired or nurtured.
I had accompanied a roommate to the Berkeley Psychic Institute for a psychic reading while I was still working corporate. She wanted to find her husband, I was having a new experience. One of the meditation teachers, looking over my reading chart, commented that it looked like I had difficulty owning my space and suggested that I might consider enrolling in a meditation class.
It was during the break from corporate that I enrolled in the Clairvoyant Training Program at the Berkeley Psychic Institute. I completed a year-and-a-half program that focused on meditation, healing, aura reading, and learning tools that nurture mind-body-spirit awareness. I became aware of how much I did not own my body or my mind.
It is at the Institute that I first begin to learn about and appreciate that things work differently for women and men. I learn that a woman naturally vibrates at a different frequency than a man does. A lot of this has to do with our ability to make babies. I see how much foreign energy ends up in women’s bodies, including my own, creating disease. There are separate healing spaces for the men and for the women. The Institute is the first place that I see women healing, protecting and valuing a woman’s unique space. I begin to have a sense of the sacred regarding women’s bodies.
To open the doors that the culture had closed to us, women in the sixties and seventies had argued that there was little difference between men and women. We could do any job a man could do. Now that we were inside, if was safe to embrace our differences.
I returned to work by starting a small business as an independent Graphic Designer. My creative process thrived in the environment I created in my home studio. I loved the flexibility of working for myself. There was enough distance between me and my corporate clients to maintain my creative flow. After years of struggling with the corporate work-place I was finally able to embrace myself as a creative professional, attracting a diverse client base, finding my creative process.
I complete a 75-hour volunteer training program with the women’s center in the county that I live in. For several years I act as a volunteer advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in the ER. Even though I have done some personal work on myself I go into this experience fearing “the blood on the walls.” But, like all “good women,” these women in crisis who range in age from young girls to senior women, are quiet, taking what comes their way. This experience teaches me that all women have the same issues, those I meet in the ER are just a little further down towards the crisis end of the scale.
In my personal time I began working on a project for women. I had become intrigued by a fellow designer who had used the Rhythm Method as a contraceptive, successfully. She was aware of when she was ovulating. I became curious. I got a book from the library and plotted my body temperature for six months to see if I would see noticeable spikes. At the end of my experiment I realized that I loved having a dedicated place to chart my periods. In the past I had discreetly marked my cycle on a general-use calendar. It astounded me that something so central to women’s lives, menstruation, did not have a dedicated product. I created a menstrual calendar for my personal use, printing out charts on colored paper and having the pages spiral-bound at Kinko’s.
Having this dedicated space to chart my cycles held so much meaning for me. I knew that other women would also benefit from this experience. I envisioned creating a menstrual calendar, imagining it as a place for women to chart their cycles as well as read inspirational quotes that would ground them into the feminine. At the Library I looked for books that approached women’s health issues from a broader perspective than strictly AMA (American Medical Association). I wanted meaning. I left the library with a tall stack of books to browse through. To my amazement, in that stack of books, I found what I was looking for. One book was actually speaking the language of the sacred woman. Dr. Christiane Northrup’s newly released Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.
To this day I am still moved when I think of finding Dr. Northrup’s book. Her book was the only book covering women’s health that broke out of the “strictly medical text” tradition. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom felt alive. Dr. Northrup was speaking my energy language, she was speaking to my body. It was the beginning of a journey that I always knew was there.
Women’s voices speaking from a woman’s perspective. Back at the library I found Blood, Bread, and Roses—How Menstruation created the World by Judy Grahn. Women sitting in the center of their lives. When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone. I feel like I can finally throw off clothes that don’t suit me. Marija Gimbutas and The Language of the Goddess. I no longer have to buy into a system that I have no affinity for. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Women Who Run With The Wolves. I am home.
These women, and many more, not only earned their right to have a voice in the patriarchal culture, but also found the courage and the necessity to speak from their feminine perspective. They were changing the status quo. This is the next step for women, the current wave. To come home.
I am now in my fifties. I understand the resounding silence in the culture in response to my question, What does it mean to be a woman? I still have not created that menstrual calendar. Instead the journey has become a powerful program. The path of remembering what it means to be a woman and honor the divine feminine in my life has so profoundly affected my sense of self that I decide to share the journey so that other women may come home too. Home to our bodies, home to our minds, home to our spirits. Home to a world of thought that supports our experience. Someday soon, once again, young girls will grow-up knowing what it means to be a woman. It is time, once again, to honor the divine feminine in each of us and watch our lives, our communities, and the world, come into balance.
The journey of remembering is ongoing as I continue the work to develop the courses for the program. Walking the path of the divine feminine continues to deepen and enrich my life. I invite you over to The WellSprings Program page to explore the courses in the program. Be sure to join in the conversation on Facebook. I encourage you to Opt-In to be on the WellSprings list for priority notice of course releases, updates and new blog posts. I hope to inspire you on a journey of your own, unearthing the divine feminine within.
With divine appreciation, Linnette Dooley
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