Forsaken Voices

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danuberivernearlinz

 
Audio version is below.
 

Forsaken Voices

 

Like a river
deep underground
pushed down into the depths
where they can’t be known
in the light of day
these forsaken voices
like clear-pooled water
collect together
woven in rivulets
meander through time
waiting for something
waiting for someone
waiting…

 

How rich is this water
generations of heartache
lineage of wisdom
matrilines of power.
I am the river,
now,
in this time
there is no other outlet
no other mouth
no other gateway
for these forsaken voices.

 

Generations of damming
centuries of cast-down eyes
ears grown cold
mouths sewn shut
and repeated lies told
the pressure pushes back against
walls too tired to hold.

 

When I am still, quiet, and alone
these forsaken voices
stir the marrow of my bones.

 

Deeper than the water
runs the grief untold
no one soul can tolerate
the pain of women who’ve come before
silenced
shamed
muzzled
maimed
and told to suffer it alone.
My mother, her mother, her mother, and her’s before
still woven like a river
gather underground
pool together in wisdom circles
where seeds of light collect
knowing spring
one day will come.

 

I lie in bed
signs of pleurisy all around
water pooling, collecting
in my lungs only to be known
when the grief takes hold
seeds deeply rooted in lungs
that reach back to
generations untold.

 

These forsaken voices
buried deep underground
can only breathe through
flesh and blood daughters
who now live in their lungs
breathing light into cells
waking oxygen
where none has been known.

 

I am the river
my sisters and I pool together
our collective voices now ready
to irrigate our parched world
with deep blue love from
aquifers too-long guarded
underground.

 

It is time to speak of
moisture
cool waters of knowing
deep rivulets of wisdom
flesh plump with blood.

 

There can never be wholeness when voices are silenced.
There can never be peace without dignity for all.

 
 


 

::
Image is ‘Donau-Seitenarm’  by Konstantinos DafaliasCreative Commons 2.0
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No Longer Spitting in the Face of God

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woman with a basket of mandarins

What is woman?

She is woman.
She is not an imitation of man.
She is not made from man.
She is unique unto herself.
She isn’t perfect, yet she is sacred.
She is the vessel from which life is born.
She isn’t superior to man, nor is she inferior.
She is the female human being.

::

To denigrate women is to spit in the face of God. ~ Desmond Tutu

We live in a culture that has, for centuries, maybe millennium, denigrated the Feminine…and as walking embodiments of the Feminine, women and girls are living, breathing targets of this fear and hatred of the Feminine – also known as misogyny.

Allan G. Johnson writes in The Gender Knot:

“Misogyny plays a complex role in patriarchy. It fuels men’s sense of superiority, justifies male aggression against women, and works to keep women on the defensive and in their place. Misogyny is especially powerful in encouraging women to hate their own femaleness, an example of internalized oppression. The more women internalize misogynist images and attitudes, the harder it is to challenge male privilege or patriarchy as a system. In fact, women won’t tend to see patriarchy as even problematic since the essence of self-hatred is to focus on the self as the sole cause of misery, including the self-hatred.”  (italics mine)

 

Allan Johnson also writes,

…patriarchy is not simply another way of saying “men.” Patriarchy is a kind of society, and a society is more than a collection of people. It also involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women.”

 

Patriarchy is NOT men. It’s a system. It’s a system we are born into. It’s a system we all hold up, and continue to breath life into, when we don’t question the assumptions we hold about men, women, and power, and about how we are in the world with each other.

It’s a system we give power to when we don’t question how we value ourselves as women, and how we value womanhood.

It’s a system we help to keep in place when we ‘hate our own femaleness’.

It’s a system that continues to control how we view ourselves when we don’t question these internalized misogynist images.

 

This isn’t about men vs. women.

Not at all. We often think when one attempts to have a conversation about this subject matter that we are blaming men, but if you read further into Johnson’s book (which I hope you will!), you will see that attempts to subvert these discussions are ways to keep this kind of system alive and well.

And if we focus on the self-hate, we are doing exactly what Johnson mentions – not seeing the mechanism of patriarchy at work.

 

This post IS about…

…the images we, women and men, carry around within ourselves of the Feminine, women, and the value of women.

This post IS about…

…the places within us that are outside of the realm of patriarchy.

 

We are all, men and women, given images when we are young of what a woman is and what a man is. In a world (for the most part – some indigenous cultures do not do this) that has denigrated the Feminine for centuries, it would make sense that our images of the Feminine would be less than helpful at best, and downright misogynist at worst; and our images of men would be championed (although as we’ve explored coming to terms with equality for women over the past decades, there’s been a lot of mud slinging both ways.)

Of course, as I’ve been writing this over the past few days, the writing has been working on me. What initially began as a more cerebral exploration and post, soon became very personal and emotional for me. As I sat with, something I try to do when I am writing a post, these images that I hold of myself, these misogynistic images I’ve ingested over my lifetime, I began to truly grasp the depth of this programming by a system that is misogynistic to its core.

Some of the images I see in my own psyche about myself are deeply misogynistic. Of course they are. I’ve been swimming in this system my entire life. I’ve been ingesting these images from the time I began to be conscious of what was around me. We wonder why it is so hard for women to love themselves. We don’t have to look far. We just have to be willing to look inside, into the depths of what we’ve come to believe, and feel, about our womanhood, and about our female bodies.

And, men do not escape the pain of this culture. Not at all. The Feminine is within them. And, their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends are women. When they hold these misogynistic images within their psyches, they must deaden the pain of knowing that the women they love deeply are walking, breathing, embodiments of this Feminine that is so feared and so hated.

 

Instead, if we are willing…

What we can is come to know the images of what it is to be female that lay outside the realm of patriarchal conditioning. These images come to us as we honestly, and wholly, ask the question, “What is it to be female?”

We can question what we’ve believed to be true. We can look directly at the images we hold of ourselves as women, of other women, and of the Feminine itself.

Inquire into the images of the Feminine that YOU are carrying around within you. Look inside. What images are YOU holding of woman? What images do you believe to be true about you and your femaleness?

This is what matters, because when we hold images, and we all do, they are the images we offer to others about ourselves. They are the images we give to others, mostly unconsciously, that tell others about who we believe ourselves to be, how much worth we believe we have, and how the people in our lives should treat us.

The images of self and gender we hold that speak to self-hatred are not natural. They are not native to us.

Images of self-hatred are not native to us. Images of self-hatred are not native to that place within us that has never been under the control of patriarchal thought and conditioning. 

We are love.  And, we can be fierce love. When we begin to hold images of ourselves as women worthy of dignity, respect, and love, we begin to view ourselves differently. I’m not talking band-aid images – I’m talking a real and true transformation of the images we hold about ourselves, other women, and the Feminine. When we find these places of dignity, respect, and love within ourselves, we begin to know something new, something real, something sacredly creative.

Anne Baring writes,

“The recovery of the feminine principle is the key to the transformation of our world culture from decay and disintegration and progressive regression into uniformity, banality and brutality, into something longed for and extraordinary.

Woman’s own awakening to the realisation of her value is part of the recovery of the feminine principle. It is as if a momentous birth is taking place in the collective psyche of woman. This birth may be experienced as something that is deeply perplexing and difficult as well as something exciting and challenging. As woman gives birth to herself, to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man), the feminine principle will also emerge in the consciousness of humanity which for so long has suffered from its repression and rejection.

Woman, whose essential nature is to respond to suffering and need, is now responding to life’s own need and is experiencing herself as the vessel of transformation in which a new consciousness is being born.”

 

A woman is reborn as she gives birth “to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man).

We are reborn when we ask the question (with a longing to listen so we truly hear the answer), What is it to be female? We are reborn in the space from which we listen. This isn’t woman as imitation of man, or woman born from man’s rib. This is, as Rilke wrote, “the female human being.”

 

 As Woman

When I come to know myself as Woman,
as sacredly female outside of patriarchal control,
I am held in the lap of Love,
I am back in the garden of Earth,
I breathe in the fragrance of Life,
I eat of the fruit of Wisdom,
I am no longer a stranger in the holy land,
the only land in which I am truly alive,
the land of my own body,
the realm of my own Soul.

::

image from Flickr Commons: Woman with a basket of mandarins, 1920-1930,
Photographer: Unidentified, Location: Queensland, Australia; No known copyright restrictions

 

 

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Living the Magic and Wonder of Her

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rubis

 
 
 

It was midday on Sunday…

We’d just arrived at Rubi’s restaurant in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Three of us sat down at a table in the back room where the welcome sunlight was streaming through the upper windows. We were to be joined by three other women we’d just spent three days with at the Red Bird Inn, the site of our retreat, Opening to Her. We’d been dancing in the Feminine for these three days. We’d opened to Her, and felt Her there, always there.

I’d co-led this retreat with Amy, and it was the first time we’d worked together. I felt light. I felt full. I felt a great love surrounding us.

At a table next to us, two women were deep in a conversation that was marked with quiet voices and intense feelings. I felt drawn to one woman in particular. In fact, I kept looking over in her direction, then would call myself back knowing it didn’t feel right to keep looking at her. But something in me felt drawn. I was to find out later that the other women I was with felt the same thing.

 

The other three women from our retreat arrived at Rubi’s, and…

We settled in and began to talk. Our conversation was light, filled with interesting things. We were talking about what we were returning home to, and shared stories about synchronicities, connections, and family. We laughed together. There was a sweetness to how we were with each other after three beautiful days together.

I hadn’t noticed that the women next to us had left their table until one of the women, the one I’d been so drawn to, approached our table from the direction of the front room of Rubi’s. She and her friend had begun to leave the restaurant, but she returned to speak to us. She approached the table looking at us, then at me, and asked,

“Are you teachers or something?”

We all looked at each other, and then I responded,

“Yes”.

She then shared with us that she could tell there was something ‘special’ about us, about how we were with each other – (connected and strong) – and that she was drawn to speaking with us because her friend was going through a very hard time and she felt we might be able to offer her friend something that she couldn’t.

Her words implied that she wanted her friend to feel held.

She then asked if she could bring her friend over for us to simply hug and be with. We answered, “Yes”, and then Amy and I stood up to greet them, together.

Amy hugged the friend, and I hugged the woman we’d spoken with. We exchanged names. Then I hugged the woman, and Amy hugged the woman we’d spoken with. As I hugged her, the woman having a difficult time told me her young-adult son had passed away just five weeks before. She said the words with a lot of presence and was clearly still in a great amount of pain. I was struck by her strength. I was struck by the strength of her friend, too.

The woman who’d initially come up to us to ask to connect with her friend hadn’t asked us for help, but rather had seen that there was something in us that could hold and be with her friend’s grief. She said she had been able to do that to a point, but she said she didn’t know what else to do and felt that her friend would benefit from being held by other women who were living something she couldn’t quite put into words.

At this point, the other four women at our table rose up, and one-by-one each hugged the other two women. They were slow, full-body hugs, not sideways hugs we many times offer in our world. The rest of the women at our table didn’t yet know what this woman was experiencing, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t ask. They simply put their loving arms around each woman and held her.

 

This moment was one of the most beautiful and amazing experiences of my life. There was longing and trust. There was connection and love. There was a lived and palpable presence of Love, of Her. It was a loving, nurturing, fully-accepting presence. It filled the room.

We then all said good-byes. The two women left the café, and we sat back down together. We all looked around our circle, a bit speechless at what had just happened. This loving, nurturing, fully-accepting presence lingered, fruitfully and spaciously.

 

One of the women at our table said she felt like she had just witnessed a miracle.

Another woman expressed something similar about our weekend together – that it was filled with magic and wonder.

The feminine is mystery. She is magic. She brings a sense of wonder.

At the end of our retreat, I offered the invitation to live Her, to live this expression of a presence that is life-affirming, real, and true, a presence that comes from being fully awake and alive in our female bodies. When we live this, we know it, and we know it and feel it in others. Even if others are not aware of it in terms of these words, they are still aware of it. We are all longing for it in our world. We hunger for Her. And She is here, holding us all.

The six of us didn’t have anything ‘special’. We were simply aware, in that moment, of this deep presence of Her. We had spent three days together remembering something we’d already known before…Her. And because of this remembering, we were embodying Her. We were living and breathing the dignity of Her.

One of the women at our table shared this as she reflected upon the experience:

 “…That we can be who we yearn for in the world. I cried at the memory of the experience, the privilege of being a part of it.”

She, the Feminine, wove us together, and then we left to go our own way. But now we know we are no longer going separate ways, but rather…

We move in the world woven together, always together, always connected.

 

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