Letter from Sue Monk Kidd


In April 1996, while living in a small town in upstate South Carolina, my book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter was published. Shortly afterward, a letter appeared in my mailbox from a woman I did not know. She was Carolyn Rivers from Charleston, SC. In her letter, she told me that she had just read The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and had been moved by it. "I believe we are kindred souls, she wrote. "And if you are ever in Charleston, I hope we can meet." Well, it just so happened that the day before her letter arrived, a book signing had been arranged for me in Charleston at a bookstore on the same street on which Carolyn lived.

I wrote her back, saying that I would indeed be in Charleston and would love to meet her. On that day she pedaled her bicycle to the bookstore, where we met. I did not know then that a year later my husband and I would move to Charleston, where Carolyn and I would become close friends. During that interim year I visited Charleston many times. On one of these visits, as Carolyn and I walked along Society Street, she told me about an idea she had, which involved offering programs in Charleston on Mind, Body and Spirit. Would I, she asked, consider leading a workshop? So it was that in the summer of 1997, my friend and colleague, Terry Helwig and I offered the inaugural workshop at Phoebe Pember House on Mind, Body and Spirit.

The Sophia Institute grew from that tiny seed, which sprouted from the fertile places of Carolyn's heart and soul. It grew into a vision so large and luminous that frankly it took my breath. And I rather think it took Carolyn's breath away at times, too. I believe it was Gloria Steinem who once observed that at least once in our lives we ought to do something that takes our own breath away. Well, Carolyn, you’ve done that now.

Perhaps it is needless to say that there is a new spiritual consciousness breaking into the world. We could call it a Feminine consciousness, even a Sacred Feminine consciousness. It has the potential to bring healing, balance and a new paradigm of wholeness. It has the potential to do something that has never been done before: To open the immense common heart of the world. The particular genius of the Sacred Feminine is in its valuing of the wisdom of the heart, of interdependence, empathy, relational thinking, compassionate community, intuitive intelligence, peace, creativity, and the sacredness of the earth.

Now... how perfect is it that such a spiritual evolution would take root in Charleston? Recently I traveled for five weeks to twenty-seven cities on the paperback book tour for my novel, The Mermaid Chair. In city after city I found that people had gotten wind of The Sophia Institute and of the cutting edge work happening here. It came up repeatedly, sometimes with surprise. “My, imagine this going on in Charleston?” people would say, clearly impressed.

The birth and integration of Feminine consciousness at this necessary moment in history has been referred to by scholar, Joanna Macy as “the Turning.” It is a privilege to witness this immense, though sometimes anguished Turning in human experience. And it is especially thrilling to witness its emergence and flourishing at The Sophia Institute in Charleston.

Toward the end of Dance of the Dissident Daughter, I wrote about a dream I had. When I woke from this dream, I knew that my life would not ever be the same. It would never again be as safe, or as secluded, or as small. In the dream a wise old woman came to me with a mandate. She raised her hand over my head and said: “Your heart is a seed. Go, plant it in the world.” I think this moment of mandate rises up in every life. It is the moment when we are compelled to embrace our world. The truth is that every heart is a seed. In these tumultuous times, as the Possible Future struggles to be born, it will all come down to one precious thing: the collective planting of our hearts.

How glad I am to plant my heart at The Sophia Institute.

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