Listening into Liberation

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Yesterday, I met a man – one man of many.

He was smart, educated, friendly. He was young. He asked what I do for a living, as we were in a somewhat business setting.

I told him I am working to empower women, that I coach and teach courses about creativity, and that I’m writing a book about women, creativity, sensuality, pleasure and power.

He smiled back and seemed interested. He then asked why the book wasn’t for men, too. He said, “You’re losing half your audience if you leave men out.” or something to that effect. I smiled and thought about that for a moment. Yes, that would be half the population. It could be half my audience if the book spoke to both genders.

I asked him to elaborate. I asked him to share what he meant.

He then told me that when he first heard me speak about what I am doing, his first thought was that this was about Feminism and he felt himself recoil, feeling that he didn’t want to hear it. But, he stayed with me.

At first, I was so surprised that he felt this. I told him so. I felt into what I had said, looking for where I might have interjected any sort of rejection. I couldn’t find anything, but then so much can be unconscious.

I then spoke to him about how I see things. That feminism isn’t about rejection. It is about honoring.

Feminism is  about women being recognized, witnessed, honored, respected, and treated as full human beings by all. It does not reject, it honors.

He then said something to the effect of, “You know, I ‘d love to talk to you more about this. I have a group of friends, men, that would love to talk about this.”

We continued to talk about women and men, and about how things can be generational – how women and men from different generations see this all differently. Makes total sense. And then our conversation ended.

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My Heart Knows

As the day came to an end, I continued to consider our exchange. I became very curious about this sense of recoiling, rejecting, ‘othering’ that happens between many men and women, even women and women, when we speak of feminism.

How do we work to end the institutionalized forms of discrimination in the world that so inhumanely treat women and children when there are so many tender feelings that get triggered between us?

I’ve been working to separate out my anger at how things are from the desire of the mind to reject, to separate, to make wrong. Anger can be a fiery force that fuels change. It’s not bad. If anger is here, it must be felt so it moves through. And as it moves through, it can fuel my work to make things better. But anger projected onto others just pushes away. It rejects. I know it because I’ve done it over and over and over. It doesn’t feel good.

My heart certainly doesn’t reject. My heart knows this is about wholeness, about the basic goodness of all beings. My heart doesn’t fear. It longs to connect, to heal, to create something new where all are honored. My heart knows this fiery force of anger can be a positive force, bringing forth a creative power from within.

My mind tends to ‘other’…meaning, it sees other people as something separate. When it fears, it wants to compare pain, compare injustices, compare anything just so it feels separate and better, and therefore safe.


Finding balance within ourselves

I looked in this man’s eyes and saw such a willingness to listen, to hear, to consider, to talk. He came back into the conversation, after feeling the quick pangs of wanting to reject. What a beautiful moment that was.

I know our hearts were listening to each other. Somewhere inside we actively chose to stay in it, to listen, to hear, to witness. And in this moment, my mind softened into my heart. I could see the humanness in him and his desire to know and understand, and his desire to be heard.

Somewhere inside of me, I reject my own masculine qualities. And, I reject that I am capable of heinous acts as well. Somewhere inside, I don’t want to see. This man’s gift to me was just this…he didn’t reject me. And in this act, something inside me was healed. I can’t speak for him, but I hope he felt a similar sense of acceptance and experienced being heard, witnessed, honored and respected.

Listening into Liberation

I’m going to take him up on his offer to meet with me, to hold conversation, to listen without separating and rejecting, to hear with an open heart.

Somewhere within, I know, we women must make the move to liberation – a liberation that begins from within, disentangling ourselves from the beliefs we hold that keep us snared and entangled in the old thought structures and paradigms that required the word feminism to come into being in the first place.

The real question is, how can we move toward this liberation, reclaiming the feminine inside and the feminine out there,  without rejecting the masculine out there and the masculine within?

Your joy is my joy. Your sorrow is my sorrow. Your success is my success. There is no separation. There is just One.

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Pleasure In Numbers

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Red Canna by Georgia OKeeffe
Red Canna by Georgia O'Keeffe

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I feel
there is something
unexplored about a woman
that only a woman
can explore.
~ Georgia O’Keeffe

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Something unexplored…

About a woman…

That only a woman can explore…

::

What is unexplored?
about you?
about me?
about us?
about woman?

If we were to embark on an adventure of woman,
which way would we go?

::

This is woman’s terrain.

A place woman knows, but doesn’t yet know.

It’s where soft petals open to the light,
where sweet fragrance fills the air,
where we receive that which our hearts have longed for.

::

It’s right here…right under our noses.

Let’s discover together.

There is pleasure in numbers.

::

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Warriors of Love’s Wisdom

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Wisdom
Wisdom

::

Some time back, I became quite aware of where I looked for wisdom. Like the baby bird in its nest with beak wide open, clamoring for Mama Bird to feed it, I noticed myself constantly looking to others to feed me. I hungered for answers. I wanted answers to questions I wasn’t willing to live. I began to see I had to live them to grow the wisdom from within.

Sometimes, we’re thrown into the living of such. Like the fledgling bird that finds itself no longer in the safety of the nest, we too must discover how to get along in the world, and no amount of advice from others can begin to match what we learn when we navigate the new world on our own.

A few years ago, I taught what was loosely called a dating/relationship class to women who had lost their spouses in 9/11. In reality, what it turned out to be was a course on learning how to go ‘from alone to alive’ (how one woman named her experience after moving through it).

For 18 months, I commuted between California and New York to teach this course. It consisted of three day-long classes, each held two weeks apart. We structured it this way, so the women would have time in-between each class to practice what they learned, and even begin to dip their toes in the dating pool.

My colleague, Julie Saltonstall, and I designed the course based on my own experiences as a widow, her experience as a remarried woman with a blended family, on many of the coaching modalities we’d learned over the years, but most importantly on the realization that each woman had her own unique internal wisdom to bring to what she was facing as a widow, as a new single mother, and as a woman who wanted to love again. Because of the nature of the loss, there was no shortage of people offering advice on how best to raise the surviving children. Wisdom was key in supporting her moving back into life. Her body and her heart held this wisdom, so we gently encouraged each woman back into communion with this wisdom within.

The class was so much more than simply learning how to date; it was about learning how to be alive again, how to mother and nurture after deep grief, how to trust oneself, and how to allow oneself to know happiness, love and companionship again.

At the end of each class, we held a wisdom circle, using the indigenous tradition of a talking stick. In the circle, one can only speak when she holds the stick. As long she holds the stick, no one else can interrupt her or talk over her. When she holds the stick, if she isn’t talking there is only silence.

What happened in these circles was profound. Even though none of us knew what we would say in advance when we sat down to the circle, when the stick came our way we dropped down into our bodies and trusted what flowed forth from our hearts. And out of every beautiful mouth wisdom flowed. Remarkable wisdom. By the end of the circle, the air was so thick with truth and silence, tears ran down cheeks, eyes gazed knowingly, and smiles broke open. The wisdom was palpable in our bodies, in our circle and in the air.

::

The effect of the realization of internal wisdom spoken aloud in the presence of other women is life-changing. Being in relationship with women, holding each one as a wise being who knows something integral to the whole, something that is yearning to be spoken aloud completely shifted how I see women. I know our wisdom is needed, now, in this world.

I’ve learned deep things from being silenced. I grew up silenced for I learned silence from my mother. It was no fault of hers, as her mother was silenced. It’s a cycle. As Adrienne Rich wrote,

“The woman I needed to call my mother was silenced before I was born.”

The woman I needed to help me know I am wise from within, couldn’t know this herself. The silencing has been here for millenia. How life would be different if we had been taught the wisdom circle from birth, and now we can help each other remember it.

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In October of 2004, thirteen indigenous Grandmothers from all parts of the world gathered in the land of the people of the Iroquois Confederacy in Phoenicia, New York. The Grandmothers sat together for seven days, creating an alliance in service to the healing of Mother Earth and all Her inhabitants.

Carol Schaefer wrote a fantastic book, Grandmothers Counsel the World‘, collecting the wisdom of these Grandmothers, and includes many other wise women’s wisdom as well.

“We must be warriors with the power of love, the Grandmothers say. The great goal of the Grandmothers is to unite the hearts of the world. We all share the sun and the moon, the planet and the stars, they say. Our blood is altered when we come together as one people, allowing the Divine Feminine within and without to unite us and free us from fear.

The Grandmothers tell us that together as warriors we need to hold the spirit of the land, the spirit of the ancestors, and the spirit of the people who are resisting the yearning in their hearts, which is the Light. Breathe the light of Spirit in, they say. Move with the Divine Feminine.” ~Carol Schaefer

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I’ve had this yearning in my heart for a long, long time, the yearning in my heart, which is the Light. There has been no logical reason for the yearning. It’s not about logic. I finally figured that out years back. In fact, trying to make sense of the yearning takes me out of my heart, out of the yearning. No, it’s about trust. Trusting that which is calling. Trusting that which moves through me, and you, and all of us. It is the Divine Feminine stirring within, returning now to bring us back into balance. Balance within and balance without.

The Grandmothers say we must remember our nature, our wisdom. They say that “women carry the ancient knowledge of the Divine Feminine deep within the very cells of their being”.

Our wisdom is unique to us, unique to each woman, just as unique as she is. This is another thing we must trust. That we are inherently wise, that our bodies hold this wisdom.

::

Learning to once again trust the body and trust one’s wisdom when we’ve been out of touch with them takes a community of women, where each woman is held by the rest. A community where she is nurtured, loved and supported simply as she is, without having to strive to be something she cannot be, a striving for perfection that keeps her from knowing what is already enough within her.

In reading the Grandmothers, I now look back on those women in New York and realize what was happening. We were holding each other in our hearts, and in this holding, our resistance was melting away. In community we began to move together with the Divine Feminine, both individually and collectively.

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“Remember, the Grandmothers say, we women have been gifted – we are all-knowing, the creators and makers of life, the seed carriers for the children of the Earth. We must walk strong and walk in our innate knowledge and power…women must wake up this great force they possess and bring the world back to peace and harmony…”

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Now we can find our community, trust the yearning in our hearts, and awaken to our deep love for all of life. We can awaken to our creativity, the sacred creativity that we’ve been gifted with.

The one thing that shakes me to my bones is looking into the eyes of my three grandchildren, knowing we’ve made an awful mess of things and wondering what kind of world they will have to live in. What will they face?

We are all mothers and grandmothers to all the world’s children. There isn’t time to worry about whether or not we qualify for the job. All women were made for this. As Joan of Arc said,

“I am not afraid…I was born to do this.”

If you get very quiet and listen to your body, it will lead you. Our bodies know the way.

So gather your community. Trust the yearning in your heart. Move with the Divine Feminine. Wake up this great force within. Hold each other in your hearts. Share the talking stick. Walk and talk your wisdom, loudly and clearly. I am honored to be waking up with you.

::

You can purchase this book at Shambhala.com

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Mother: You Are Enough

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“Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.” ~ Alice Walker

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I bet none of the Mother’s Day cards to be given this week include words like these.

My mother, Joan, died not quite two years ago. She wasn’t perfect. She did not hide her flaws. Yet, I didn’t know her obvious humanness was her gift to me until I sat with her body after she passed.

As I sat with her beautiful womanly body, a body that bore three daughters, I stroked her fine white hair, caressed her tender wrinkled face, and cradled her belly, the belly that was my first home. I felt awe for her obvious humanness and the strength she found as a single mother. The lines in her face bore witness to these parts of her life that were hard.

Like most daughters, I complained about the ways my mother was flawed. And I grew up fighting my own flaws, especially as a mother, especially when my life got very hard. I’ve really struggled with how I lost my way when my husband died. I wasn’t there for my children in the way I ‘should have been’ if I had been a good mother. I’ve held myself up to some standard that was always unattainable. I’m flawed. My daughters saw my flaws. They experienced my flaws. They can tell you in a minute all about my flaws.

What if I realized my flaws are my humanness? What if I simply accepted that I am flawed? human? real?

What if I saw my body now, while I am alive, like I saw my mother’s body when she was lying in the light that surrounded her moments after her death?

Flawed is a whole world away from sinful. I know sin is not real. I’ve seen too many babies born to believe one comes into the world as a sinner. Those tiny pink toes. Those cherub arms and legs. Those eyes that look at you from the other side of the mystery could never be marked with something such as sin…the kind of sin pill we keep being forced to swallow.

Flawed is where the light shines through, or as Leonard Cohen sings:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

And that’s how the light gets out, how our light shines into the world, through our flaws, through our humanness.

And when we teach girls they must grow up to be perfect mothers, it’s a set-up for the never-ending striving for perfection, the never-can-be-reached destination that is exhausting and robs women of simply being themselves, and the opportunity to model to their children what it means to be content with oneself.

Oh, to feel myself relax into the shape of who I naturally am, flaws and all, so I might hold my daughters with the softness of self-love and acceptance.

Oh, to see my daughters relax into the shape of who they naturally are, flaws and all, so they might cradle their babies with the same softness of self-love and acceptance.

What if we gave our mothers a soft place to land, a place where they were showered with the praising words of “you are enough”?

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Creativity is Truth

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I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it! ~ the Pointer Sisters

Why? Because I have just read five different women’s words in the last 24 hours, both written directly to me or in a blog post, express their deepest passion and desire to let go and express what they know is inside, the deepest yearnings and longings of that voice that speaks from the depths. That voice that has a hold of them and won’t take no for an answer.

Why does this excite me so much?

For one thing, this is what I do, I help women who, while they both fear it and hunger for it, surrender to this voice and express it in the world. I guide them turn to listen to it, to see it, to trust it, to honor it, to let go to it, this delicious, yet insistent, voice of sacred creativity.

For another, I know, deep in my heart and belly, that this voice that won’t let go is the voice of an intelligence far greater than our thinking mind. It is an intelligence that knows everything. Each woman and man expressing this voice is bringing this greater intelligence into manifestation, into the world where we so desperately need it, into a world that is thirsting for the wisdom, the passion, the eros that is this voice.

Dig a well in the earth of this body, so that God can draw the divine water up. ~Rumi

This voice comes from the depths of the deep well inside. That place of darkness that germinates the seed we each came into the world to bring forth. It’s a seed of divine grace that can blossom forth into beauty if we stop damming the flow. It takes so much life force to hold it down, to stop it, life force that when set free shouts out in glorious song the praises of the beauty that life is.

Creation not only exists, it also discharges truth…. Wisdom requires a surrender, verging on the mystical, of a person to the glory of existence. ~Gerhard Von Rad

For another, I know this voice is the voice of truth. Not truth where telling it feels hard and heavy and a reaction to the status quo, but truth telling that is a natural flowing response from the passion and expression of the heart, because living truth is what a creative life is all about. It can feel dangerous. And it is. It’s dangerous to those other voices that are doing the damming…both inside you and outside in the world. Because the truth will set you free and those other voices don’t want that. Truth brings you into right relationship with yourself, it grows you up, it takes you from victim to creatrix.

And for yet another reason, and this is most likely the biggest, because if women are speaking this desire aloud, that means the voice inside is being heard and acknowledged. This is huge. Acknowledgment is a necessary, for it is when we acknowledge this voice that we begin our deepest relationship to it. When the ego says, “Yes, I hear you, I want to follow you, yet I’m scared, or confused, or not sure…” then it is turning within to listen, to learn to trust, to begin the process of finding the way to serve the truth that lies within.

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Think of the Pointer Sisters, women letting their voices be heard. They grew up in West Oakland, not far from where I live. They were blood sisters. Yet, we’re all sisters. Soul sisters. When we support another woman to speak up and out, to love herself, to own that powerful voice within, we heal ourselves in the process.

There isn’t a limited amount of love for women. That is an old lie of the patriarchy. There is infinite love for us all, for all of life. And we swim in a deeper, more splendid pool of love when we inspire another to let go and share her beauty in its most raw and vital power.

So this day, and everyday, make it a point to inspire another woman, to encourage her to bring her voice into existence. Notice, when you do, your own vitality and passion grow exponentially.

I hope this has inspired you to know you are not alone in this sense that it is time to bring your creative truth forth into being.

::

And, You?

I’d love to hear of your experiences with inspiring women and how it has affected you.

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