Originally our Vision could have been described as a result of the Women’s Movement which flowed through NZ during the 1980/90’s.
Towards the end of the 1980’s and my 20 years of travelling New Zealand and Asia working with young people and their leaders, my colleague and friend, Wynsome Diprose and I, began to realise that women’s spirituality and wellbeing required a very different environment for its flowering than that offered by our then culture and institutions. We were increasingly aware of women’s oppression collectively and individually, past and present. We talked of possible ways women could discover more of their unexplored potential. We imagined how possible it would be to begin firstly a Women’s Retreat Centre at Piha, Wynsome offering her music and creativity and I psychotherapy and spirituality. When Piha was ready Wynsome and her husband would develop their Retreat at Little Huia. Then Wynsome shocked us all with her death from cancer.
Also in the late 1980’s, at a personal development weekend workshop on Journaling, I drew a diagram of my Piha property that I had purchased from my parents some 15 years earlier. In meditation participants imagined their future and then wrote of it in words and pictures. I completed the exercise and then my expensive folder was put away (with all my many others) and not re-discovered for another 5 years!
During that time, Te Wahi Ora began to grow slowly then, especially after Wynsome’s death, to grow very steadily. Only when that expensive folder re-surfaced, and I saw how similar Te Wahi Ora was to the vision drawn and forgotten in a meditative workshop five years earlier, did I realize that more was happening than originally realized by Wynsome and me!
At the same time, worldwide, thousands of women began leaving the patriarchal religions looking for safe places to explore their own natural spiritual awareness, their desperate need for sexual abuse healing and the development of their innate female wisdom. Women’s Retreat Centres were springing up – I visited as many around the world as I could even being part of the formation of the Samraksha Society in Narasaraopet and Secunduabad, India – over the years, few have survived! Samraksha in Narasaraopet continues strongly with women from Te Wahi Ora giving financial support as they can.
We believe that our liberation and wholeness as women is all tied up with the liberation and wholeness of all women throughout the world. Te Wahi Ora will always seek to keep and encourage compassion for the women of the world.
Yet, another level was also being worked out through Te Wahi Ora. From the age of three I was an asthmatic child! My mother despaired of ever raising me. And she never had a break; never had the chance to sit quietly and reflect, or walk the beach without children! She told me in later years, “You don’t know what it’s like to have a sick child in the family”.
Only in 2015 did I gain the insight that one of the ‘driving forces’ behind Te Wahi Ora, was that I desperately wanted to provide exhausted mothers with a place where they could have a break from their 24/7 job! A place comfortable enough for women yet financially viable for all mothers, so that they could then return to their amazing task of raising the next generation with renewed energy and vision……and not be so cranky!
For the first decade we had the philosophy, “we are committed to living simply (i.e. without a salary), in order that all women could simply live! I have always had the means to keep to that philosophy but as the work has grown larger and I have grown older, I have been deeply moved by the amazing band of women who have come to our aid by joining the 400x$10 and other financial projects and thereby enabled Te Wahi Ora Charitable Trust to have fulltime paid staff for the first time in its 25 year history.
Our first mission statement adapted from Maya Angelou’s poetry, was “Our aim is to explore the spirituality of life with passion, compassion, humour and style!” To that we have added, as printed on our Letterheads, “Strengthening communities by supporting women”.
Ultimately, we would like to see Te Wahi Oras developing at beaches all through New Zealand and perhaps even throughout the world! The need is there!