Is it possible to create a TreeSisters Grove Online?



The short answer is yes, absolutely! Online Groves are perfect for women who are spread around the globe but who want to come together in sisterhood in this way and support each other to step into Feminine Nature Based Leadership.

How do you practically set up an online Grove?

There are really simple meeting software downloads that you can put onto your computer. Some are available for free and others have a charge. We have links to some that we have experience with in our Groves FAQs page on our website.

Decisions on how often and how long you will meet for will vary from Grove to Grove depending on how many members your Grove has and what you want to cover in your time. Deciding whether you will stay open as a Grove or whether you will become a closed circle Choosing the focus of your Grove and how you will review it will also give some stability and cohesion.

How do you create safety in an online Grove?

rawpixel-256641-unsplashIn some ways, it is similar to when you meet in person. You can agree on things like the confidentiality, time and attendance boundaries, you can operate a 'virtual talking stick' when sharing - ie you imagine that there is an object like a shell or a stone at the centre of your circle and then when each person speaks they are 'holding' the shell which is a sign for no interruption. When they finish talking they can pass the shell to someone else or place it back in the centre.

'I feel safe in an online Grove when I am welcomed in with all of me, just as I am in the moment and invited to share my wisdom, my tears, my creativity, my heart'. Lure Wishes ~ Grove Tender

As the facilitator of an online grove, you have a particular role in creating ways that the group can connect. This will be much easier if you yourself feel connected and embodied. This doesn't mean that you always have to feel on absolute top form, but rather that you are in yourself and speaking from a connected and true place.

'For an online group to be welcome and feel safe, women need to feel the moderator is present and connected. It needs to feel alive'. ~ Sara Steffey McQueen ~ Grove Tender

Being aware of the differences between having a video online or just working with an audio. Both these options are available and to some extent will depend on people's internet access as having a video requires a stronger signal. Both are workable but can benefit from some consideration as to how best adapt to the different mediums.

If there is a video component, this seems easier, as something like a smudge can be seen, a drawing can be shared, and looking at faces gives so many more options.

rawpixel-661923-unsplashIf on the phone, I prepare for the call by setting my own intention, making prayers or offerings at my altar for me to deeply listen, to give my energy into the group 'crucible'. I envision each woman in advance and feel us as one circle, and send blessings'. Ruthe Schoder-Ehri TreeSister & Online Group Tender

As a facilitator, it can easy to miss some of the more subtle cues from members that you might spot or tune into in person. To compensate for this you can invite people to be more transparent about their needs and give more overt feedback when things come up for them that they need support with.

For example in a room when someone becomes distressed it is natural for other group members to move closer and offer physical comfort. It is easier for this to get missed online so it can be helpful from the outset to really encourage transparency in sharing and for people to raise their hands and let others know if they are needing something specific. And as with in-person Groves, a really important element of facilitating these circles is for those attending to know that whatever they share in one moment will not define them in subsequent ones.

'For a trusting and intimate online group, women need to feel allowed to show up and they are in the moment. And with this, it is important that they not be held in this image. We move, we change, as the wind sometimes. To feel safe, we need to know we are received but are not stuck in a projection or stereotype.' Sara Steffey McQueen ~ Grove Tender

brooke-cagle-edit195777-unsplashAnd, over time it is very possible in an online circle for the trust to deepen to a place that allows for the quality of connection that is found at in-person gatherings, and so that spaciousness and silence can also become part of the richness of the sharings.

" We have come to value the lulls in our conversation, the quiet 'pregnant pauses' as Ruthe calls them. These are not to be filled up because we are anxious, but we have learned that these are rich times of energetic connection. Over the years we have actually called them forth, especially when one woman is in particular need for something more than kind words, counsel, etc. Or sometimes, we have this sacred space of quiet connection directed to some particular person or world event. I guess it could be called prayer, though we don't always use that word." S - participant in Ruthe's online group.

How can I create that feeling of togetherness and support when you are not physically with each other?

It can really help to offer some kind of practice at the beginning of online gatherings that supports everyone to arrive and connect as a circle. Something simple like having some silence, sharing gratitudes, doing a brief check in or a meditation that brings your energies together will create of feelings of presence and togetherness that will support a stronger feeling of holding and connection.

"We have a lovely practice of beginning each call with going 'round and sharing a gratitude (sometimes more if it's an overflowing time!). This simple ritual has emerged from our meetings organically as we each know how GOOD it is for us, and how gratitude creates the container that we wish to be in together. Other than this, we don't have any 'format' or 'structure' other than we meet for an hour and speak from our hearts." Ruthe Schoder-Ehri: TreeSister & Online Group Tender

What might be a set of golden rules that I can lean into as an online Grove Facilitator?

Create more pauses between sharings so that everyone can feel the energy as it shifts and changes.

~Invite 'temperature check' check in's a couple of times during your gatherings (where participants say one thing about how they feel and one thing that they need).

~Agree a way in which conflict or disagreement gets processed. (Sistering can be a great tool for this).

~Agree how communication between members between sessions can support the Grove (facebook group, group email group, buddy partners to check-in between meetups).


What might be a good inbreath activity to start with on an online Grove?

The TreeSisters practice of Sistering is very adaptable to an online gathering.

Starting with something that brings the women into a deeper presence such as silence or breath meditation and then facilitating a timed sistering share using the virtual talking stick has the potential to create a depth of sharing.

How would we navigate the outbreath element of Groves if we are spread across the world?

There are lots of ways that you can take action together online and having been together for a while an idea might naturally arise from your circle.

Simple starting suggestions include Growing your own Forest with your monthly donations; promoting TreeSisters and inviting women to become monthly members, raising awareness of reforestation through blogs and personal online posts, overseeing a shared online fundraiser, offering online support to another Grove circle that is working on a particular element of Women's empowerment or Reforestation.

If you'd like to find out more about becoming a tender please go here or join us on our Nest community here.

Please note if you are new to the Nest you will need to set up an account before you can access the group..

By Jenny Smith

Photos courtesy Upsplash:
Top photo by Ellyot
Photos 2, 3 and 5 by Rawpixel
Photo 4 by Brooke Cagle



JennySmithv2Jenny Smith is a very experienced facilitator having trained multiple teams to work on front line services; being a facilitator of Joanna Macy's Work that Reconnects and co-facilitating the annual Eartheart Women's Initiation with Jewels Wingfield.

Jenny is the outward co-ordinator of the Groves project – the groups through which local Treesisters gather. She supports women to call Groves into being and to help grow themselves and each other through the process.




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