This morning I read about the Steubenville rape case. I read that Jane Doe, the woman who was raped, was receiving death threats. My heart broke.
I then went to Wild Writing where we write using certain phrases from poems that Laurie shares as prompts. The first poem read was “Prayer in My Boot“, by Naomi Shihab Nye. The following is what poured out of me. And as I read it aloud, I could feel waves of grief roll through me.
The phrase from the poem is in teal. The lines that begin with ‘For’ are the elements of my Prayer. May it be so.
Pray it is universally applicable, because it is. How could Delhi be any different from Stuebenville, India from the United States?
Rape is rape. It tears us all apart.
We are no different here in the US, except we seem to think we are, seem to be really good at turning away, pretending it has nothing to do with us, pretending we aren’t like them. We’re more civilized, more under control, more egalitarian. Everything swept under the rug. Pretending Jane Doe deserved it because she drank too much and tweeted questionable things. Pretending the two boys lives are ruined because they’ve been convicted of a crime that somehow wasn’t of ‘their’ doing.
I pray we see that itis universally applicable because it is and the more we don’t see, the more we refuse to look toward, the more this darkness festers in each and every one of us – Indian and American, woman and man.
For this is our doorway into healing.
For those moments last year in Steubenville when choices were made that led to this.
For that night in Delhi when she boarded the bus with her boyfriend, never suspecting what was about to take place.
For the man in Delhi who suggested she was a whore because she was out at night and suggested her sweetheart was at fault because he didn’t protect her.
For the boys in Steubenville, raised in a culture where we avoid talking about these things, avoid looking right at this rape culture we seem to continue to cling to.
For the girl in Steubenville who woke up the next morning not knowing what had happened to her.
For all the mothers and fathers of these children and young people who in some way tried their best and succeeded, and in other ways failed.
For every young boy and girl, including my four grandchildren, who are learning every day what they must do to belong in a culture that expects certain behavior from all of us so that we fit in and don’t bring attention to our society’s darkest secrets.
For these young girls and boys who still catch glimpses of their souls who know the truth about life, that it has the capacity to be filled with compassion and love, tenderness and integrity.
For all of us who know deep in our hearts that this is not who we are as a species, that we are capable of greatness even in our darkest moments.
I pray that we come to know that this it is universally applicable, because when we know this as a species we will know peace.
I came across this post today and my heart broke open. I began to cry. I read them again, and I began to weep. I was taken aback by the intensity of feeling. I had no idea I would feel so seen, so understood, so hopeful upon hearing words such as these for the first time in my life from men I’d never met. The chains are breaking.
What I love about this post, is that it happened spontaneously, on the street, between two men who were strangers. And, as they spoke of what was happening, they expressed such grief and love, and wondered how they could change it. Then, they went on their way.
I wrote to the author, Dan Mahle, and asked if I could share the post here with you. He said, Yes.
Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.
One Conversation: A Call to Men
I had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”
When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.
He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.
Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.
I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”
We talked about how important it would be for more men to have honest conversations about patriarchy and its countless negative impacts on us and on the women in our lives. Both of us acknowledged, though, that these kinds of safe spaces for male emotional expression are few and far between.
I gave him a hug and he said, “I love you, man.” We had met just 5 minutes before, but the moment of solidarity and healing that we shared in that short space was profound.
It got me thinking: Why don’t we, as men, seek out more spaces for truthful sharing about our feelings and our experiences with patriarchy? Why don’t we talk about violence against women, about sexism, and about rape culture? The ‘1 Billion Rising’ movement is based on a single, chilling statistic: One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
That’s 1 billion women worldwide. How can we say that we love the women in our lives, even as we are perpetuating (consciously or unconsciously) a culture of violence against them?” Every day that we are silent, the cycle of violence continues.
The Cost of Patriarchy
This is where shame often comes in. I’ve known it by many names: frustration, defensiveness, anger, aggression, rage, a need for control, etc. But it all comes back to shame. It all comes back to some deep-seated feeling of unworthiness that keeps us from meeting our most fundamental human need: the need to feel loved.
While women in our society are taught that their worth depends on their physical beauty, men are taught that our worth depends upon our performance, our control, our accomplishments. At some point, like so many women, many of us realize that we will never be able to fulfil the expectations placed on us. But instead of questioning the patriarchal culture that has burdened us with these perverse and insatiable demands, we come to believe that who we are is not good enough.
In an effort to avoid feelings of vulnerability, we methodically replace emotional expression with emotional numbness. And so, in our disconnection from self and others, we unlearn what it means to truly love.
When we forget what it means to love, we often desperately search for cheap replacements: we work long hours at work in an attempt to receive praise and recognition; we watch porn or buy prostitutes in a distorted attempt to feel loved and sexually fulfilled; we buy an endless number of things in an attempt to fill the painful void of loneliness within. Until we, as men, face our fear of vulnerability and begin telling each other what we feel, nothing will change.
Right now, there is a powerful, growing movement of women who are rising up all around the world to demand an end to violence. This movement is a struggle for equality, but it is also a call back to love. It is an invitation to all people to transform the dominant culture from a culture of violence to a culture of love, starting from within our own hearts. We owe it to all women to stand beside them as they say “enough is enough!” We owe it to ourselves to finally invite love, in all of its fullness, back into our lives.
I’ve been not quite sure what to write. I have mixed feelings about this day.
On one hand, so many women need to know, in a real and grounded everyday way, that being a woman is a beautiful thing, and that they gifts we women offer to the world are worthy and sorely needed – gifts that we offer when we are being wholly who we are as women.
On the other hand, around the world, women still are far from sharing equal rights with men. Here in the United States, we’re seeing how much fear and distrust of women still lurks in the shadows, and sometimes stands in broad daylight. Having a day where we celebrate women can feel so shallow in the light of the atrocities happening each and every day around the world. Sometimes, it feels like we’ve been thrown a bone when in reality those who hold the strings of power have no intention of really offering women equal rights.
Speaking of strings of power,
have you ever noticed that women will most likely never have equal rights in this cultural paradigm? I mean, let’s look at the present day situation. In a cultural construct based on heirerarchy and patriarchy, with a system set up to keep this heirarchy in place, maybe it’s only possible if the actual structures crumble…
Everything eventually dies, including structures and cultural constructs. I see the structure of patriarchy most certainly is dying.
The structures that we currently see in the world as we know it, at least most of the world, are structures that were created with a mindset that the feminine is something to be feared and distrusted…the feminine in women, the feminine in men, and the feminine in the world – basically all of nature. So much of what we see in our human constructs were built on this.
And, if you’ve ever given birth, been witness to earthquakes and tornadoes, the feminine is most certainly powerful. I have birthed two babies, and watched each of my daughters give birth, and the power of the feminine is something to behold, something that brings forth complete awe in me.
The feminine is powerful and awe-inducing.
These structures based on fear of the feminine don’t just exist out there, they also exist within each of us. We’ve internalized them. And, we’ve probably internalized some kind of fear and distrust of the masculine as well, the masculine in us all. And, these internal structures are dying, too. Can you feel this inside you?
Can you feel a new feminine consciousness within yourself?
Why is this important today, on International Women’s Day?
A few months back, I met Marianne Williamson at an intimate gathering. She asked what I do, and I told her the varied things that fill my workday. She seemed to take interest in the course I teach on Creativity and Leadership in Business, and asked me what I would say to women about what they need to know around business.
My response? Two things:
“We are not men.” & “There is a different way to do business than what we see operating in our world today.”
We are not men.
We are not men. Even though most everything in the culture looks at the world through men’s eyes, we are not men. Thank goodness there are men, and thank goodness there are women. We all are here to be what we really are.
I am interested in you knowing this, not because I’ve written it, nor because it seems to be an obvious physiological conclusion. I’m interested in it because the new world coming depends on you knowing it.
Let me say that again…
The new world coming into being depends on you knowing who you are and expressing it through the female body you live in.
What I am interested in today is you knowing you, knowing who you are, knowing what delights your heart, knowing what it is to be fully alive in this world in your female body. Alive and erotic just like the cherry tree, just like the ocean, just like Mother Earth.
All of life is this wild eros, including you.
And, we could most certainly all use a shot of wild eros, don’t you think?
In our personal lives, our relationships, and even in our businesses.
Business budding with blossoms, business giving birth, business erupting and shaking and crashing its waves upon the shores. Business that neither fears the feminine nor the masculine, but works in tandem with all of life…including the earth.
So many times I see women thinking they have to make a mark on the world that is big and audacious. Nothing wrong with that, and that may be how your mark shows up…and, in reality, we affect the world in many small beautiful ways each day. And, sometimes what happens is those many small ways eventually move into big changes along the way.
In a day-to-day, personal way, my friend, Renae Cobb, sees International Women’s Day from her personal vantage point as a mother to two daughters. She writes of not really knowing what this day is about, yet going on to share just how important an impact she has.
Women are changing the world, everyday. There are many ways to do womanhood. And many ways to do manhood.
What if we found the courage to put down the project of who we believe we are supposed to be, so we can be who we really are, fully alive, powerfully real, wildly erotic in the fullest sense of the word…unabashedly female.
Part of this being truly you is discovering the rich love women have for each other. I’ve just written about it here.
I’d love to know what ways you are living womanhood. Consider sharing in the comments. We feast on each other’s wisdom.
I’ve recently released my new collection of posts, poetry and audio into a sensual immersive experience, The Best of Unabashedly Female. I’d love for you to take a look to see if it might be of interest to you.
“I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” ~ Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)
You may have noticed that I’ve begun each post of this series with a quote from Audre Lorde. The depth of her insights astounds me. In her life, she was an African-American, lesbian woman. I share that because I am aware that I have no idea, no sense at all, of the major amount of oppression she must have faced in her life.
Her words cut my heart open. Wide.
My anger, my rage has been hidden most of my life. Hidden way down. She knew her anger like the beat of her heart and the taste of her spit.
When I read these lines, my heart stopped at ‘the threatening universe of whiteness’.
It would be really easy for me to write something here about Lorde’s quote and how it affected me. I could leave it at that, but I can’t.
Let me take a moment to share something else.
In the comments
of part one of this series, a woman named Kierra D. Foster-Ba shared this:
Both a scratch and a gaping wound share some commonalities. This does not mean they are the same or that the only difference is the degree or severity. This is how I feel when people of privilege talk about oppression. Yes, everyone experiences being treated unfairly but this does not mean that they are oppressed. There are various statistics that reveal that white women have overwhelmingly (at least statistically) benefited from affirmative action, something that people of color have been demonized for. So while, I would not challenge your feelings, your feelings are yours. I think in 2011 oppression is a strong word for a middle class, educated white woman to use. To me oppression is when 97% of the images of people you share several identity groups with (race; gender; complexion; body size; shape) are buffoons; belligerent; and unbelievable ignorant. A recent commercial for bounce comes to mind. It is a series about different people and the way they use bounce. The large black woman announces “Ah put em…Ah put em in my shoes; Ah put in my drawers….Ah put em; Ah bin put em for years.” This is oppression. These images of the angry; unattractive; ignorant and large black woman have not changed from the antebellum period to now, but the images of priveledged white women have changed from fainting women too fragile to work to smart; competative; atheletic women who are equal to men.
When I first read Kierra’s comment, I was taken aback. In my experience, the oppression I have suffered has been very painful. And, I don’t think it helps to judge who’s pain is more.
Kierra’s comment has stayed with me. I’ve promised myself to really be ruthless with my own bullshit. Her words pull at me, telling me to stop, listen, feel.
Just before I posted part two of this series, my article, The Courage to Sin, was unexpectedly posted on the Huffington Post. I didn’t expect this, because I submitted the post a while ago, and the post is long. The team at HP told me it was too long. They asked me to cut it down and I chose not to. Suddenly, as I found myself knee-deep in this series, it appeared, and I received this comment:
I guess it depends on who’s doing the ‘sinning’, since all women aren’t held to the same standard.
For example, myself being black,for me and a white woman to commit the same ‘sin’ isn’t the same. I will always be looked at and judged more harshly, and the worst motives will always be attributed to my actions. It’s not fun, free or innocent when I do it, it’s seen as evidence of an inherent lowliness.
Her words, “inherent lowliness” caused my heart to hurt, again. Those words are a direct hit to the hierarchical bigotry of patriarchy.
I responded saying none of this is fun, free or innocent for me, either…AND, “I hear the pain in your words. I want to know your story.”
I know of my own experience, of friend’s and client’s experiences with oppression. There are experiences of personal oppression, group oppression, systemic oppression and god knows what other kinds. Yes, there are degrees of oppression. And, there are very loud and obvious forms, and there are some very silent, very hidden forms.
I do know, after 54 years of living on this planet, that I will never really know your experience, or Kierra’s, or this other woman who courageously shared herself. I can only know mine. And, I do know that I want to hear their stories, hear your story, while at the same time have you hear mine.
Somewhere it could be easy to slip into silence again, a silence that comes from believing my story shouldn’t be told aloud because I was born white. No one has said that. I just know me, the old me. A while ago, I did believe that. I didn’t speak of it. As I read these words of women of color and their experiences, I know all our stories hold something another woman needs to hear.
The privilege I have enjoyed,
has given me things other women have not had. Some who have read this series have wondered if I’m attempting to speak of privilege as something to feel guilt about. I’m not. What I am wanting to share, here, is my process of investigating into the story I tell myself about silence, privilege and oppression in my life.
I truly want to know where I am not telling myself the truth, where I keep myself separate, where my own consciousness is stuck, holding on to something that I think is serving, but that really is not.
Guilt isn’t going to help anyone. Ruthless truth-telling will. Compassion for myself and my fellow sisters will. A genuine hunger to know what will break the barriers of separation with my sisters, so we can join hands to voice our collective “Enough is enough!” will.
Going back to Audre Lorde’s quote, I was shaken by the realization that an extremely intelligent, insightful, beautiful woman saw whiteness as a “threatening universe”. I am of this universe. I am a part of this threatening universe. I am of this whiteness.
When I read this, “It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.” my eyes light on the words, “worth wanting each other”. I don’t know the exact context that led to Lorde’s words, yet I am deeply touched by the depth of her heart. I do know that when I read them, I realized all women, no matter what complexion, race, socio-economic background, religion, nationality, age, sexual orientation, are worth wanting.
I know I am worth you wanting me, and I know you are worth my wanting you.
I now so clearly see that one of the most important ways I give up my power when I continue the deceit of privilege, is the power of connected women. When I speak of power, here, it’s not power over, but power with, and I know I am most powerful when my voice is joined in Sisterhood.
The old way is of hierarchy, the new way is not yet known.
And, the way of the Feminine is connectedness, relationship, weaving and circles. I can’t stand together with other women when I hold onto privilege out of fear of what might come if I lose it.
These past days of living this series of posts have brought many moments of synchronicity. I know, when we are doing what we’re here to do, symbols and offerings show up directly in one’s lived experience. I discovered this poem on Louise Rooney’s blog. The poem speaks to what is happening right now in our world. It speaks to the power that privilege and silence robs us of, the power of women united, voices rising and heard.
This World (by Rose Flint)
In Sudan, a Muslim woman journalist
faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in a restaurant.
In Afghanistan, the family of Nadia the Poet
who wrote of love and beauty, said she shamed them –
she may have died with her scholar husband’s hands
around her throat. Sometimes lipstick is a crime
And Shakespeare, maths, and the desire to dance.
And still a woman’s unbound hair incites a man
to sexual violence – she must be covered up
in darkness, top to toe, to keep her safe.
So. In America, loving mothers give their daughters
breast implants for graduation. Thirty-two thousand
women seek breast surgery every month.
And in Africa, mothers, grandmothers, take the little girls
to the rusty knives of genital mutilation.
All this is fear and desperation,
the last acts of Old Order who is dying on his feet
But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. ~Kate Chopin
The other day, surfing across the web in no particularly linear or rational way (I guess that’s what surfing is), I came across this quote from Rush Limbaugh:
“Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”
It was 2008. A long time ago. He was referring to Hillary Clinton. With a masterful stroke of the mouth, he attempted to dis-empower this woman by using one of the patriarchy’s greatest weapons, the deeply held belief that age makes women ugly, worthless and powerless.
I remember hearing it then and it made my blood boil. Yesterday, when I saw it again, I wondered about it. About Rush. About men. About women. About being a woman and growing old. About why watching a woman grow old scares the hell out of people. His statement is still a powerful window into how women who are growing older are perceived in our culture.
I am reminded of my mother as she grew fail towards her death. She showed such dignity. Even when she could hardly stand up, she wanted her hair combed, her lipstick on. She didn’t want anyone, including her children, to see her use the commode. She walked towards her death with grace.
I thought of Robbie Kaye and the amazing work she is doing with women and aging at Beauty of Wisdom. Robbie takes photographs of women getting their hair done; beautiful, proud women.
Photo by Robbie Kaye, all rights reserved
I wonder about how Rush felt watching his mother grow old, how he feels watching the women in his life that he loves growing older. How do we feel when we fear the crone out there, and in here, while we are in relationship with our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, and wise old women friends? While we are in relationship with ourselves and our own aging bodies?
And, (this is a ‘big’ and) somewhere a part of me is fully capable of saying something just as hurtful. If I push that away in him, I push it away in myself. I’ve grown up ingesting this patriarchal pabulum every day of my life. I’ve adopted the fears and beliefs and admonitions of a culture steeped in ageism, sexism, racism, and any other ism that has been the foundation of this patriarchal thought structure. It takes a deepening awareness and an opening consciousness to begin to see what I project onto others, how I push others away, how I say stupid things because of my own conditioning.
The structure of patriarchy is insidious. It causes men to oppress all women, because it is ‘linked to a cultural devaluing of femaleness itself.” (Allan G. Johnson, Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy) It causes men to oppress even the women in their own lives that they dearly love, for you can’t uphold a structure of beliefs, and act within that structure everyday, and somehow not inflict that pain on some women and not others.
“One of the deepest reasons for denying the reality of women’s oppression is that we don’t want to admit that a real basis for conflict exists between men and women. We don’t want to admit it because, unlike other groups involved in social oppression, such as white and blacks, female and males really need each other, if only as parents and children.” (emphasis mine)
Think about it: men and women are inextricably linked. We can’t not engage with each other. If we no longer engaged, life wouldn’t continue. That’s what makes it so hard to look at patriarchy and the oppression of the feminine. And yet, we need the reemergence of the feminine to heal ourselves and to heal the earth. We need the nurturing, nourishing, wise and instinctual, wildly creative, and fiercely unconditionally loving feminine to heal ourselves from our ways of destruction and domination. We need this reemergence in women and we need it in men. We need to find balance within ourselves, the balance between the masculine and feminine.
The old woman was once revered, when people revered the Great Mother, when they saw the beauty of birth, death and rebirth, the power of transformation. Now, we sit around and pretend we don’t get old and we don’t die. We feel the shift happening and we dig our heels in and pretend we can’t be touched.
As I’ve aged, I’ve felt invisibility creep in. The older I get the more invisible I become, in a culture where youth and external beauty reign. All the while, I’ve become more beautiful to myself, because I am embracing and honoring the wisdom that my life experiences have brought, and the kindness, compassion and tenderness that grief and loss have engendered. It takes a certain amount of awareness and effort to keep coming back to what is real, what is true. It isn’t easy at all. Yet, there comes a time when no other way is palatable. I can feel the energy of the crone. I feel her power. I feel her fierce love.
It’s not that I don’t have moments of grief and sadness around aging. Some of those moments come when I get caught up in the never-ending bombardment of the advertising blitz. I notice my body growing a little stiffer, I am aware of the years passing, and I know death is always a breath away. But, so is life. Life is always a breath away.
Women’s power in the patriarchy is youth, physical beauty, a sexy toned body, the ability to become more like a man than a woman, so how we act and what we do will move us up the ladder of what this culture deems is successful.
But in an entirely different way, we women are powerful beings, especially as we age. Not powerful in the patriarchal paradigm, but powerful in the sense that we are more authentic, more real, more truthful and more beautiful. And, powerful as the crone. The wise woman, the woman that embodies crone energy. The crone is the woman who no longer sees herself only in relation to others, but as a woman unto herself, a woman who stands alone in the center of her own beingness, in the center of her own truth, and from this center relates to the people in her life from what is real for her.
The patriarchy fears the crone. She is truthful, she is powerfully creative, she is intuitive and instinctual, and she loves fiercely. The patriarchy does everything it can to deny this, even to denigrate this and the women who embody it, because old women are wise women are powerful women. They have gifts to share, gifts that this world desperately needs.
What if we could be with ourselves in such a way that we no longer projected our deepest fears onto an entire portion of the earth’s population, a group of people that has gifts to share with the world right now, gifts of wisdom, grace and beauty?
What if we could be with ourselves in such a way that we no longer projected our deepest fears onto each other, woman to man, man to woman?
Being with ourselves is the first step.
Being with the misogynistic and misandrist thoughts that ramble around our own minds and consciousness, and questioning if they are true, do we know them to be 100% fact.
Being with our hardened hearts, with the walls we’ve built around them that allow us to engage in such a way where we are just as complicit in this fear and rejection of the wise old woman, and wondering if our hearts really feel this way.
Being with ourselves, with the feelings we don’t want to feel, the feelings we numb ourselves to, day in and day out.
Being with the beginning of something, a beginning of a world where we honor and respect each other as men and women.
As Kate Chopin reminds us, the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing.
A world where patriarchy is a distant memory begins with the chaotic, the vague, with the tangled mess of people willing to engage differently, even when we don’t yet know how to do it or what it might look like.
It may feel exceedingly disturbing, but then don’t the happenings in our world right now disturb you greatly?
My last two posts have been about gender healing, feminism, and what it means to come into balance within and without. Balance between the feminine and the masculine. The coming together of two aspects of ourselves, and of life.
I don’t yet know where these issues will take me, us, or our world. There is so much more to come, I can tell.
For the past week, I’ve been struggling a bit with writer’s block. Nothing is flowing. So, I thought I would share with you this poem I wrote to my love, way back when we were first finding our way with each other. As I read it anew, it seems so fitting to our conversation about women, men and healing.
The Messiness of Human Love
Lying here beside you,
I feel you struggling with the weight of this.
I hear your words and feel their harshness,
and experience them as unforgiving of the messiness of your own love.
As I lie beside you,
Your body says something else.
It speaks in a muffled voice of the freedom it longs for
To simply let go and weep.
It speaks of its most earnest yearning
To let go its armor
So it can reveal the supple fragrance of your true existence.
How I long to know you this way,
And long to show you my own supple fragrance.
Supple body to supple body,
Fragrant heart to fragrant heart
Pressed up against each other,
Close enough to catch the fleeting opportunity to become One;
Feeling and felt, sense and sensed, observer and observed.
In these imagined moments,
We are free to explore each other in the ripeness of the present
Where the touch of our souls
Explodes every particle of the Universe
Just as Love intends.
What is the illusion that lies within,
Telling us fibs about our true identity?
What is this illusion that hangs between us,
Stopping us from knowing each other,
In this most sacred way?
My own rigidity flares when I experience
the clear outline of your boundaries,
But I choose to challenge my own harshness,
For something from within you calls me forward.
Feeling my way along your ridges,
I look for an opening, some entrance into that
Sweet, sweet spot I see so clearly
On my heart’s radar screen.
I know there is a way in.
My fear of rejection suddenly voices its objections,
“Not too fast, not too hard.
We’re walking the line between invitation and invasion.”
I sense the opening I know is close at hand.
What greeting do I speak to let you know
I am here at your doorstep?
What is my heart’s invitation to your heart,
One that I know will find the center of softness longing to accept?
We are like two bumbling fools,
Crashing through the dark,
Feeling our way towards something that is already here in our company.
It waits for us to forgive ourselves the messiness of human love.
What if we could just let it be messy?
What if we let go into the unknown, so we might find the place where we can stand side by side, two equals, yet different in our own uniqueness?
It seems as though my last post, Listening Into Liberation, resonated with many of you. The comments you left were insightful posts unto themselves. They touched me deeply.
“The future of humanity will be decided not by relations between nations, but by relations between men and women. ” D.H. Lawrence
I realize that I know very little, if anything, about the answers to how liberation into wholeness can unfold. And at the same time, I absolutely know that wholeness is our inheritance, and that our true nature is already whole.
I know that consciousness is seeking to know itself, to awaken fully into wholeness.
I know that my rational mind can’t understand it, even if it thinks it can.
I know that I have a deep longing to heal into wholeness, and to be liberated from these ties and snares that keep me falling back into the false beliefs of our culture, that:
women are secondary to men,
the feminine is something to fear,
the masculine is bad
women have to apologize, constantly, for something not quite known
men must be taken care of
men and women can’t trust each other
women are inherently jealous of, and hostile to, each other
I, as a woman, will be more safe and secure in my relationships, and in the world at large, if I ‘pretend’ to be good, compliant, selfless, small…in short, something I am not.
These are just a few of the notions I (and others I know) have believed in the past, or continue to believe right now. Is there anything else you might want to throw in here?
“…re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.” ~ Walt Whitman
We’re told many things about women, about men, and about our worth, our value, how we should be with each other. We’ve been conditioned by parents, by our schooling, by the church, by the culture, by the media…
I can see the most necessary and important thing I can do to begin, is to question all of my beliefs. Period. Even my most treasured beliefs, the ones I cling to that give me a sense of righteousness, or a sense of safety and security. This is really about questioning the small, yet sometimes very loud and insistent, roommate in my head that wants me to believe these things so I will stay ‘in the tribe’.
I know liberation into wholeness will not come by hanging onto my beliefs. It will not come if I hang on to anything I have to believe in, because if I believe in something, it means I don’t really know the truth of it. If I did, I wouldn’t need the belief.
All of Life is Sacred
One thing I know is that all of life is sacred. I know this. I don’t have to believe it, because I experience it. I witness the sacred looking out your eyes. I hear the sacred in your voice. I feel the sacred in your touch. I taste the sacred in your kiss. Everything is alive with the sacred. Everything.
We are breathed, we are fed, we are loved, and we are held by the sacred. All is infused with the sacred. When we don’t see this sacredness, it’s because we believe the conditioning that tells us differently.
Patriarchal conditioning teaches us to fear matter, to fear that which is here right under our noses. Patriarchal conditioning is about fearing the feminine in us all, but most especially in women, because we embody the sacredness of the feminine life principle. Patriarchal conditioning tells us to transcend rather than embody. Yet, it is through the body that I experience, that I enter into relationship with you, with woman, with man, with life.
I know I begin here, with my own experience that all of life is sacred. Somehow it’s easy to see this sacredness in children. I see their innocence. Yet, this same innocence is alive in us all.
I begin with this innocence, this wonder and amazement that are naturally a part of being alive and aware. The only thing I can know, truly know, is what my experience shows me.
I long to know you, to listen to woman, to listen to man.
Wholeness is about Oneness, about no longer experiencing division within and division without. I have to begin here, where I am, seemingly still ensnared by beliefs, but willing to look to see what is here, what is true, what is so. And, then acting on that knowing, to move with truth, rather than shrink away from it.
The roommate believes it won’t be easy. Yet, the longing is much stronger than the roommate’s resistance.
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.
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.
Some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but of life and existence: the female human being.
—– This advance will (at first much against the will of the men who have been outstripped) change the experiencing of love, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to woman. And this more human love (that will fulfil itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and good and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are with struggle and endeavour preparing, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” ~Rilke
For me, the hope of all this work is for woman to become that which she naturally is: sacredly creative, wildly passionate, compassionately loving, innately life sustaining, and vibrantly alive.
This natural being flowers when she is not keeping herself small, apologizing for her existence, silencing the words she knows must be spoken, and dismissing her own value.
This woman values what she loves, deeply and reverently.
This woman sustains life, in whatever way she must, because that is her life currency.
When woman realizes she is already this woman, the world will change.
And in turn, for man to know himself as he naturally is, by his inherent design. Fully loving, protective of life, all of life. Naturally honoring, respectful, and vibrantly alive.
Ultimately, for me, the goal is for woman and man to bow down to the sacredness in each other, to stand alongside each other, each in their own fullness and independence, each honoring the natural design of the other, in order to provide a loving world for every child, for every animal, for every being we share this amazing earth we call home.
And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and good and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are with struggle and endeavor preparing, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” ~Rilke
What other goal could there be other than to become what we are capable of becoming ?