The Words of God do not Justify Cruelty to Women

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Place: Mosebo, Ethiopia Date: Sept. 15, 2005 Credit: The Carter Center  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter shakes hands with a young girl in Mosebo, Ethiopia, during a visit to commend the efforts of the Amhara Region to prevent trachoma, a painful and debilitating disease that causes blindness.

“The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.” Jimmy Carter

Wow. When I first read the title of the July 12th Observer Op-Ed by President Jimmy Carter, “The Words of God do not Justify Cruelty to Women“, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

As I read the piece, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. A man who was president of the United States stepping into the minefield of women’s rights with courage and conviction, enough conviction to leave his church of six decades, the Baptist Church.

As I let what President Carter had written seep into my awareness, I felt something hard to put into words. It’s the feeling of having another human being express, aloud, something that I have known to be true, all my life, deep in the recesses of my being, even though the established ideology of the many cultures of the world denied its truth. Here was a man speaking it with such strong conviction and courage.

All my life I have witnessed this falsity played out, the falsity that women are lesser beings. It is a belief that is ingrained in the culture I live in, and in many of the cultures of the world. I imagine there are still some small pockets of indigenous people who continue to honor women as equals to men, encouraging the gifts women bring, as well as those of men. But, I grew up in a culture where this falsity was a part of the system, and so, I internalized this belief. I internalized the sense of not being as good as, not deserving the same opportunitties, not, not, not …

I grew up as a middle-class white girl in the United States where I had so many more options that others. I had, and have, more options than so many women and men; yet, and here is the crazy-making part, I witnessed the gap between what I was told and what I experienced.  If the world believed women were lesser beings, then I must have been crazy for knowing, and believing, something different. I internalized a sense of distrust of my own knowing. I internalized all the crazy-making thoughts that seemed to support the cultural belief that women are second-class. At a young age, I adopted the belief that the world around me fiercely held to.

My process of awakening to an innate sense of self-worth and self-trust as a woman has taken decades. It has been necessary to look deeply within, to inquire into my own self-limiting beliefs, as well as those beliefs held by the culture I live in. It has been critical that I ask myself, with fierce truth-telling, if what I hear and see reflected out there is real, is true. In this process, I have come up against all of my internalized beliefs about my worth and the worth of women. I saw where I was telling myself all the lies that I had been told. I came to understand that those lies were illusion. I came to know that I am created in the image of an intelligence far greater than anything my mind could comprehend, an intelligence that does not create flawed and sinful beings. I came to see the beautiful light and life that lies within the female body.

More recently, I came to understand that men are not the enemy, women are not the enemy, there are no enemies. We are all part of the whole. We are all dis-illusioned, conditioned by beliefs that keep us separate and at odds with each other; somewhere within, we know these are illusion. And, we are all capable of seeing clearly, if we choose to question our own belief structure with fierce truth-telling.

Fast forward to yesterday: here was Jimmy Carter finally, in plain and simple English, saying what I know and feel as true, know by way of my own experience, that women are not lesser beings. A feeling of rightness and peace came over me, a rightness that happens when what you see and hear outside matches what you know inside.

You might read President Carter’s Op-Ed, and even this post, and say, “Of course women are equal”. But, it is one thing to know this intellectually, but another thing to know it emotionally, to no longer believe those old feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth, or to no longer feel a sense of being better than or less than. When I read his piece, his words resonated with what I feel inside.

I feel something big is shifting in the world. I believe in the power of the truth. If we wake up out of this illusion that women are lesser beings, and realize mutual respect and honoring between the genders, this same feeling of rightness, of peace, can pervade the world we live in. And, perhaps we can realize true honor and respect for all of life, the earth, animals, plants, ocean…all living beings.

Thank you, President Carter, for taking this courageous action, and speaking it out into the world, for in your speaking it aloud, we take one more step forward to a world where men and women bow down to each other with mutual respect, dignity and honor.

Photo credit: The Carter Center

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Make Love to Life as if It Were Your Beloved

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Maui, Highway on the Back-side

Make love to Life today as if It were your Beloved, for It Is.

We live in an erotic world, a world full of the sensual. We are sensual beings. When we are here, in this moment, we experience life by way of our senses. This is the nature of the sensual, experiencing life through one’s senses.

The word erotic might seem strange to describe our physical world, but when you really open to and receive Life into your senses, a natural love pours forth into you and from you, a connection between the sacred in you and the sacred in all of life.

The origin of ‘erotic’:
1615–25; < Gk erōtikós of love, caused by love, given to love, equiv. to erōt- (s. of érōs) Eros + -ikos -ic

This world, this Life that we are swimming in is ’caused by love’, is ‘given to love’, it IS erotic in the largest and deepest sense. We are swimming in love, we breathe it into our cells with each breath we take in, and we breathe love out into the world with each breath out. We take love in with our eyes, when we really look, and when we are open to it, we give the look of love back to Life as It holds us in It’s Gaze. The other senses are no different – they are the vehicle to give and receive love to the All that holds us in each moment.

I took a moment to look the word sensual up in the dictionary:

sen⋅su⋅al

–adjective

1. pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
2. lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
3. arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
4. worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
5. of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.
6. pertaining to the philosophical doctrine of sensationalism.

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Some of these simply describe the simple nature of the word: pertaining to the senses. Others contain judgment, judgment that you have probably grown up with and internalized, because we live in a culture that equates sensuality with sex, and the culture has much judgment and condemnation about sex and pleasure as well.  Sometimes, we are made to feel that our love of the sensual is bad or wrong, or that we are bad for enjoying pleasure.

But, what if that judgment was the illusion and the reality what you experience through your senses? What if Life expressing itself through your sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing is reality, and the illusion is the judgment that your mind attaches to your experience and thoughts? How might your relationship to the present moment be different?

What if Life were your Beloved?

Stop for a moment and take Life in through your senses. Be with Life as you are with a Beloved, someone you feel unconditional love for. Open to It. Receive It. Feel Life caressing you, tenderly, not wanting anything from you except your undivided attention, your unconditional love, your rapture with its exquisite beauty and simplicity. As you receive It, simply notice how you feel.

Now, for just a moment, make love to it. Caress it back with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your touch. Simply allow yourself to love it without judgment, to receive it without aversion, and to witness the miraculous mystery that It is and that You are.

How might your day be different if you made love to Life in each moment, awaiting Its expression as if awaiting a beloved’s embrace?

Spend today, and perhaps tomorrow and this week, (maybe even the rest of your life) making love to Life. I would love to hear what you discover.

With love and great respect,

Julie

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