Mancato, Minnesota (PressExposure) October 14, 2008 -- The 27th Annual Women & Spirituality Conference at Minnesota State University, Mankato represented the combined efforts of several hardworking people and resulted in an amazing affair. The Department of Women's Studies underwent relentless efforts to make this an unforgettable event, making preparations for almost an entire year. The Planning Committee included Katie Bowman, Cindy Veldhuisen, Maria Bevacqua, Rita McEvoy, Carol Mackel and others, including students from various departments of University.
The first Annual Conference occurred in 1982, one simple evening lecture with only seventy-five people in attendance. The purpose was to provide a supportive and nurturing setting for a dialogue of caring and mutual respect between and among women and interested men from many spiritual and religious traditions. Since then, attendance at the Women & Spirituality Conference has grown to average approximately 800 participants from around the country to the weekend event at Minnesota State University. Some participants are veterans of Conference who have returned year after year, while others are first-time attendants who will be likely become permanent visitors also. When asked why they participate, most guests said, "I like the atmosphere, topics of keynote speaker, and the variety of workshops to choose."
The agenda of the conference has remained the same over the years and has obviously been a successful one. As it was said by Maria Bevacqua, Chair of Women's Studies, "The Conference is a tradition."
This year, the beautiful theatrical opening ceremony was presented by the different Goddesses: Shaula Heston, "The Crone"; Dona Rushtold, "Mary Goddess of the People"; Carol Mackel, "Luna"; Shellie Mackel, "Aphrodite"; Diane Vezina, "Demeter"; Tory Vezina, "Isis"; Lisa Carroll, "Mirror Goddess"; Kim Smith, " Brighid"; and Marianne Kollar, "Maia." The Goddesses and all Conference participants opened with a chant of "I am Woman.. . .I am me. . .I am Goddess. . .She is me." After each Goddess said, "I am you. . .You are me. . .We are one," all of us repeated this back to them with obvious pleasure. This interactive, interesting entertainment went on for quite some time before keynote speaker Dr. Riane Eisler appeared in the Student Union Ballroom to an expectant crowd who greeted her with enthusiastic applause.
There is good reason that the crowd at the Conference so heartily welcomed Dr. Eisler. Her ideas have inspired thousands of scholars and social activists. Her pioneering work in human rights expanded the focus of international organizations to include the rights of women and children. Her research on cultural transformation has impacted many fields including history, economics, psychology, and education.
Dr. Eisler is also an eminent social scientist, attorney, and social activist and is best known as author of the international bestseller, "The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future." Riane Eisler is the only woman among twenty great thinkers (including Hegel, Adam Smith, Marx, and Toynbee) selected for inclusion in "Macrohistory and Macrohistorians" in recognition of the lasting importance of her work as a cultural historian and evolutionary theorist. She has received many honors, including honorary Ph.D. degrees, and is included in the award-winning book "Great Peacemakers" as one of twenty leaders for world peace, along with Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King. And she is also co-founder with Nobel Peace laureate Betty Williams of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) and president of the Center for Partnership Studies, dedicated to research and education.
As a keynote speaker at the Conference, Dr. Eisler presented to us a "Partnership Spirituality: Putting Love into Action." Her speech was outstanding, and many times applauded by listeners who valued her every word and were amazed at her knowledge and remarks about the role of women in the world, in spirituality, and the topic of feminism. Among the attendees of the conference were many men as well, and they also seemed to enjoy Dr. Eisler's presentation without the slightest degree of skepticism. Her presentation followed with a book signing, where a long line of her male and female admirers politely awaited for her autograph.
The Conference continued with offering more than 120 workshops on a variety of papers, experiential, discussion, interactive, and ritual-based topics. The title of the two-day workshop I presented in Armstrong Hall was a "Miracle Healing Power Within." During my workshop, participants were invited to explore the foundation of their own healing sources, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and useful experience with attendees. Those who participated in my workshop learned to use the opportunity in full range to discover the source of healing from within and realized that our bodies and minds are not two entities to be treated separately in the healing process, but are woven into one. I was amazed by the warmness and kindness of participants who came to learn for their own benefits. They actively participated in all exercises and took many notes. After the program, most of them followed me to the exhibitor area to purchase signed copies of my books, "Symphony of Your Karma" and "Create Your Own Destiny." Some of the participants of my workshop and the people I met at the Conference will stay in my memory for a long time because I had the opportunity to guide them into finding what their souls most needed.
My colleagues were able to participate not only in my program but others as well, including "Mysticism and Resistance: Rabia of Basra, Rumi and Knowledge-Difference Power" presented by Alice Maung-Mercurio; "Living a Soul Directed Life: A Kabbalistic Perspective" presented by Lisa Lillemoen, BS, IKH; "Living in Harmony with the Spiritual Laws of Life" with Sue Valdes and Cecily Lloyd; and others. While it was a difficult choice for the participants considering all that the Conference had to offer among its more than 120 workshops, everyone seemed to find the right workshops and presentations to attend during the two days. Participants enjoyed the opportunity to learn useful information at this peaceful place full of interesting women and some men. This was a great chance for networking with people with the same approach to body, mind, and spirit.
The exhibition area in the Shellberg Gym was full of booths and vendors who presented a wide cache of different kinds of art, jewelry, clothing, crystals, oils, and clothes. There were also many book vendors, including Amazon, which was hosted by its proprietor, Rita Skujins. Aura photography was welcomed into the exhibit. I had an opportunity to stop at the Angel Artwork filled with many nice pieces of art created by artist Paul Klages through his meditation, while he battled leukemia, and observed the creation of drawings by Paulette Salo of Angelic Impressions, and I chatted with Mary Denis, owner of Mary Dennis Designs. I was impressed by her knowledge about gemstones. I personally enjoyed music by Celtic/Indian Jazz on the Native American flutes played by Duke Addicks--it was beautifully performed. The exhibition area even hosted volunteers for the campaign for the upcoming Presidential election. There were so many vendors with a variety of products and handicrafts that it is impossible to describe them all--even brooms could be purchased here! Whether they wanted art, books, jewelry, or spiritual advice, the Conference participants had time and a chance to peruse the booths and visit with the vendors and service providers.
The two days fled quickly, and the 27th Annual Conference of Women & Spirituality came to an end. We left the campus of Minnesota University filled with unforgettable memories of meeting so many nice people, leaving behind new friends and a strong desire to come back next year. Copyright Â© Rachel Madorsky