Finding Happiness in Sisterhood with Jalaja Bonheim (Video)

Do you know what will make you happy?

Is it finding that special someone? Being in a warm, loving relationship?

Or maybe it’s something different altogether. Like feeling supported by a group of women who accept you just as you are.

Western culture idealizes the romantic relationship to the exclusion of all others. Romeo and Juliet are an island unto themselves. They need only each other to be happy.

But Jalaja Bonheim believes there’s more to happiness than finding Mr. Right.

Jalaja is the founder of the Institute for Circlework, which brings women together in circle gatherings to support peace and healing.

In our latest YBTV interview, she discusses the power of sisterhood.

Yes, relationships are wonderful. But no person can ever hope to fulfill all our needs. We have better relationships when we have many strong arms supporting us.

The Magic of Circlework

What You’ll Learn

“We have this outer image of what’s going to make us happy, but what we really want is the experience. We want that experience of feeling love, feeling loved, feeling happy.”

Yet how many of us go after the things we THINK will make us happy…

Instead of setting our sights on happiness itself?

We believe that happiness requires certain things, like a home, a husband, or financial security. But what actually makes us happy can be quite different.

What we want is a certain experience. And I think we’ve all been raised with this story that, when you find Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right), then you’re going to have that inner experience [of happiness].

And we all know it doesn’t always work out that way… Not everyone finds Mr. or Mrs. Right. So, if we hang onto that story—that it’s got to be this person; otherwise, I’m not going to feel that wonderful feeling—I think we’re cutting ourselves short.”

So what might make us happier than finding our one true love?

In Jalaja’s experience, the answer is community.

Romantic love is a fairly recent development in human history. Long before the Middle Ages, before those gallant knights and French troubadours, our ancestors lived in tribal groups. Everyone relied on everyone else—rather than JUST their special someone.

The need for community is built into us. It’s powerful and primal. But it’s also hard to find in the modern world.

“Around the world, this is a really important time for women,” Jalaja says. “Women right now are standing up and claiming their power. And they’re realizing they cannot do it alone.”

That’s why “we need community, first and foremost,” she explains. “For women, especially, we need sisters who will really stand by us and support us. The joy that comes from that—and the knowing of our own specialness and our own worth—is incredible.”

She discovered the power of the sisterhood through her work facilitating circle gatherings.

“Circlework—the methods that I teach—is all about creating a sanctuary, creating a place where we feel totally safe. Because it feels so safe, women start to reveal themselves. They become so authentic. There’s no mask. There’s no needing to pretend. We can be exactly who we are.”

This can be terrifying, because, deep down, we all have the fear that we’re not good enough.

So when women show up in a circle and take the risk of revealing themselves, they are amazed to discover that they are not only accepted but loved even more by the women around them.

“You just bask in this field of love, which is powerful and at the same time not so personal,” Jalaja says. “I really wish that every woman could experience that.”

She’s taken a step towards that with her latest book The Magic of Circlework, which trains anyone to facilitate circles in their community.

She feels “passionate about empowering women, in terms of creating a kind of sisterhood that really allows them to know how valuable they are—and that they don’t need to improve themselves. They don’t need to become different. We are so beautiful just the way we are.”

Many of the women who participate in her circles are married or in relationships, but they say they’ve never felt that quality of love and connection before. The circle gives them something their relationships can’t provide.

“We need to expand where we look,” Jalaja says. “It’s true we need intimacy, we need connection, we need love. But we need to look at a bigger picture of how we’re going to get that.”

Not only does connecting with other women give us something we’ve been missing, but it also strengthens and supports our relationships at home.

It takes the pressure off a romantic relationship. Your partner doesn’t have to be your everything when you have a sisterhood supporting you in uniquely feminine ways.

“There is no one person who can meet all our needs,” Jalaja says, “and we ourselves can’t meet another person’s needs. When we have that basis of sisterhood and community … then I think that our expectations towards our partner become more realistic, more easily fulfilled. And that benefits everyone.”

She concludes:

On so many different levels, we need sisterhood. Our relationships will only benefit from it.”

Jump to Topics of Interest

3:13 What is going to make us happy: finding Mr Right … or finding community?
6:49 How the need to feel special may come from our family structure
7:38 How community can improve relationships
9:11 What is circlework?
11:06 Jalaja’s new book The Magic of Circlework
12:43 Why we need sisterhood
14:13 The erotic life force
17:11 Jalaja’s invitation

jalaja bonheim

Jalaja is an author, speaker and workshop leader who inspires audiences around the world. She’s a global citizen who studied temple dance in India before coming to the United States. Today, she is the founder of the Institute for Circlework, which brings women together in circle gatherings to support peace and healing. Find out more about Jalaja’s work.

Originally published at