Delicacy of Life

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Unspeakable Beauty

The innermost places of the heart are unspeakably beautiful.

I’ve wondered what is like to travel there, to taste the utmost delicacy of life.

This woman’s protective shield has allowed her to not feel the pain that might

deliver her to the threshold of this most honest place.

Until now.

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A Thousand Ears

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Moon

“There’s a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it. Give

more of your life to this listening. As
brightness is to time, so you are to

the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest. I should sell my tongue

and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.”

— Jalal al-Din Rumi

Image: Moon AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by WiderAngle on Flickr


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Fierce Times

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“There are many fierce moments in any one life span: times of turmoil, upheaval, challenge, and change. These fierce moments of grace are in many ways the most spiritually important moments of our lives.”
~ Adyashanti

Wood Line, a work of art by Andy Goldsworthy; photo by Julie Daley

Fierce times.

I’m personally in one of these fierce times.

I’ve left a relationship with a really lovely man. A man I love. I’ve left my home with him and moved into a new city, a city I’ve longed to live in for quite a while now.

Many have told me I’m courageous. I’m suppose there is some of that. And, to be honest, I simply could no longer stand the pain of avoiding what I knew was true in my heart.

It’s painful to avoid what gnaws at you during the night.

It’s painful to keep lying to yourself about yourself.

It’s painful to continue a relationship with someone you love, deeply love, when you get clear that it is no longer where you want to be.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all of me wanted to leave. A part of me was happy because I love him and I felt safe and secure with him. But that was only a part of it.

I also felt hemmed in by my own unwillingness to be true to myself…the real self.

And, I felt pain in my heart. The heart always knows.

This is where freedom really is…where there is no safety. I’m learning this. Not all of me believes it yet, but enough of me does to have brought me to this place.

The way does not reveal itself.

It doesn’t have to. It’s the way.

It doesn’t show up as a brightly lit, four-lane boulevard. Rather, it feels like the image above.

As I would lie awake at night, torn by this sense of needing to leave and a sweet love for the man lying next to me, I could feel the wild trees all around me, so thick I couldn’t see. It felt as if they were hiding the way, wrapping me in a darkness that felt frightening.

I was surrounded by the unknown, with just a small sliver of light and path ahead. Only a bit of the way was shown, and now, in hindsight, that bit was plenty. Always enough.

Somewhere in the midst of this wild forest of life is my wood line. The way is made from life itself, the wild forest giving over her bits of wood to be laid down end to end. A long curving line that snakes through the wildness of life.

Even the wild trees, the wild forest serves. I know without conflict, tension, friction, there can be no creativity. It’s in those sticky places where the desire for safety and the desire to be free rub up against each other. It is here where we can come to know the most humbling feeling of being the wild eye of infinite spirit living life through the limited reality of a human body.

As in the outer world, so in the inner world, so in the collective world.

This meandering path of Wood Line, forged by the death of cypress trees in a grove of eucalyptus, shows the way to a new life in a new world. The snake winds through me, too, beckoning me on to somewhere I can’t yet see, or that (as Marjory writes) “hasn’t been revealed to me yet.”

We are in an unshaped place.

This week I was on a call with Meg Wheatley. We spoke of her idea of hopelessness as a necessary way for these times.

In sitting with this sense, hopelessness is an invitation to let go of the ways I hold on to my old life. If this new life is to be truly new, letting go of hope means really letting go of my need for safety and security, of the ways I’ve known these things in the past. It means being with the shittiest of feelings that I have tried to avoid. It means beginning to trust in nothing but the ground that gives rise to existence itself.

And it is so in our collective world. The cypress trees of the old way, where greed, separation, and a wanton disregard for the earth were once cornerstones of how to be in the world, are taking their last gasps. As they die, the ground will again be visible.

“These fierce moments of grace are in many ways the most spiritually important moments of our lives.”

::

Wood Line by Andy Goldsworthy

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So Many Silences – part five

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“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you….

What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”
~ Audre Lorde

::

Everything around me shouts out that I should be afraid. My body feels it.

A part of me wants to believe it, because it is what I know and its a formidable opponent…especially when everything we see in our socialized world seems to thrive on fear, stimulating it through repeated application.

When I first created my Internet presence, I felt so much fear. I couldn’t quite find the words to say what I wanted to say. Yet, I persevered.

Something in me needed, and continues to need, to find the language that will free me to express the beauty I see, the injustices that break my heart open, the truth I know in my bones.

Something pushes me to write about topics that aren’t comfortable or easy, that invite controversy, that challenge how I see myself and others.

I crave the language that will help me express the inexpressible, that will help you to know what it is that matters to me.

I long to see the connections between things I know and things I do not yet see, and I know that in writing, when I really let go into the fertile unknown, places can be illuminated if I am willing to write truth.

I hunger to know you, to know that place in you that is the same in me.

I yearn to connect women with the deep feminine within, for I know that when women finally make peace with their own womanhood, reconnect with our power that is present already, and come together in service of all of life we will know the sacred that is present in all things earthly and earthy.

Beautiful Epidemic

I notice how many women are writing, now. It seems to be an epidemic, a wild and contagiously beautiful epidemic.

For many of us, after a lifetime of being afraid to speak, words are now tumbling out onto the page and into the invisible connections that the Internet affords.

I see this wildly beautiful epidemic, and the sacred connections of the internet and social media, as a divine plan to bring our voices together into a beautiful chorus of remembering.

Sometimes, the tyrannies shout so loudly I can’t find the words I don’t yet know. All around my heart, I feel the walls that were erected, walls upon which those tyrannies were written. Sometimes, I long for enough room, enough space, enough solitude, enough of my own internal landscape so that I can alight on those words I do not yet know and tear down those walls I built so long ago.

Privilege

One of the ugliest tyrannies I have swallowed in my experience in this culture as a white, educated, woman of the middle-class is institutionalized privilege.

I’ve wondered what privilege actually is, and so have you.

In the comments to part one, Judith wrote,

“From my perspective, privilege is the freedom from having to think about your impact on another. Before I lost my hearing, I never really considered how important acoustic accessibility is to those who are hard of hearing. I didn’t have to think about it because it didn’t affect me. Now, however, it’s in the forefront of my consciousness all of the time. When I can extend my empathy and compassion to others who experience the world differently than I do, when I imagine how it might be for them and take action to rectify the inequity that I am causing people, the world will start to look a lot different to me and to those people known and unknown to me with whom I’m in constant relationship.”

Jeanie wrote,

This morning, I’m stunned by how “silence earns me privilege and costs me power….” and I’m thinking about how I need to take a good, long and bold look at that. What is privilege, anyway? Is it privilege or protection? And is privilege or protection based on distortions and out-right wrongs and maybe even evil really authentic privilege or protection, or just cover-ups and body bags, zipped around the parts of ourselves that are afraid to live loud and naked and real?

The cost of my silence is exacted from my autonomy and personal authority — and the price I pay for it is extracted from my body. Is it worth it to speak up? And how and where and with whom do I speak up so that my words and my effort matter and are not just lost in the quicksand pits of “the way it’s always been”?

I know privilege is defined as:

A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste. Such an advantage, immunity, or right exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.

It’s hard for me to look at. Yes, I was born into it. It wasn’t my fault. And, at least for me, I know that once I become aware of it, to continue to enjoy it at someone else’s expense will kill my heart.

It feels to me that privilege can only be found at the expense of someone else. That’s the dirty little secret I never quite saw before, as naive as that sounds. There is always some way to justify our own specialness. I know I have.

Privilege pits one against another. It holds one above and the other below. It makes one more valuable, the other less.

I have experienced painful, painful things as a woman. You can call it oppression or not. I do. I have experienced this oppression, and I have enjoyed a place of specialness, too. In this culture, my place as a white woman is literally crazy-making. That’s the best way I can explain it. I am at a loss for words when I try to describe the way it feels to know I am an oppressed citizen because of my gender and a privileged citizen because of my race.

Through a great amount of inner work, I’ve reached the place where I no longer want to hang on to my grievances with those people in my life who caused me pain in the past.

I can see I still have grievances against the system, against a system that continues to cause so much suffering. Yet, this system isn’t a thing. It is held up by each one of us who lives and breaths its structure into the choices we make.

It’s taken me some time to figure out when I fight the system, I only strengthen it.

What if, instead, I come together with you, meeting somewhere where we hold each other as women who no longer desire to give life to that which keeps us separate, whether it be comparison of pain, guilt for participating in a system that privileges one over another, or any other way we’ve been socialized to keep the hierarchy in place?

What if we walk in love, together, doing what we do with great love, not only for each other, but for life itself?

What would it take to trust in your own womanhood, so deeply, that you see that womanhood in another and know her as yourself?

Liberation

Freedom doesn’t come when I think I have to help you because I am privileged.

Freedom doesn’t come when I shrink away because I feel guilty about my privilege.

Freedom will come when we see that none of us are free until we are all free and, as a wise Aborigine woman said,

“If you are coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you are coming because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together.”

Commenting on part three, Rupa wrote:

“I understand, to the degree I can, the pain you’ve felt in birthing this series, Julie. Privilege, class and race as they relate to womanhood is such a charged subject, and I respect you for your courage to explore it with a wide open heart. Thank you.

My hope is that the conversation you’ve begun will bring us closer in our shared experience of being women, not so much in our pain as in our power.”

Our Power As Women

Our power will come when we come out from under the shadow of this system into the light of our true selves, connected by our ‘shared experience of being women, not so much in our pain as in our power’.

I do know it means we must come to know ourselves new, to know ourselves as autonomous souls, not in relation to any other. While that may seem difficult at first glance, we can begin with telling the truth, somewhere in our lives. Yes, it can feel risky, yet:

“What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” ~ Audre Lorde:

::

This post is the fifth in a series of posts on Silence, Privilege and Oppression. You’ll find part one, part two, part three and part four to be important preludes to this post, as well as this interlude a beautiful expression of how powerful it is to voice what is dying to be said.

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So Many Silences – part four

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“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~ Audre Lorde

I’m beginning to understand something that I wanted to understand when I began this journey.

I’m beginning to know why I am silent about so many things and about why I am silent about what is happening to our world.

It is giving me even more clarity about why men might be silent, one of the impetuses for this exploration.

Glimmering clarity.

Lest I get too ahead of myself, I also know there is still much that is hidden.

What is hidden keeps me stuck. Stuck consciousness. Stuck life force. Stuck power. Power in a good, strong, vital way. Power that is life-affirming, like the power the cherry tree outside our house is showing me, right now, as the buds of soon-to-be blossoms begin to take form.

You can get a sense of the power that is released when we speak up and out with truth from these powerful and courageous posts by Jeanne and Angela.

It is the raw power that fuels all of life, the power of truth not wielded over others, but truth spoken form the core of one’s being, in service to freeing consciousness, which in turn frees us all. I can feel it in the words and it is beautiful.

What has become clear,

are some of the limiting beliefs and feelings of shame that keep us silent. I know we all feel shame of some sort.

Amy Neal Miyamoto, who wrote of white shame in the comments, shared this with me. It’s about white shame, excerpted from a book by an African American woman, Thandeka, Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America. She was given the Xhosa name Thandeka, which means “beloved,” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1984.
“white shame is this deeply private feeling of not being at home within one’s own white community. (p. 13) Shame is an emotional display of a hidden civil war. It is a pitched battle by a self against itself in order to stop feeling what it is not supposed to feel: forbidden desires and prohibited feelings that render one different.(p. 12)

“the Euro-American child,… is a racial victim of its own white community of parents, caretakers, and peers, who attack it because it does not yet have a white racial identity. Rather than continue to suffer such attacks, the Euro-American child defends itself by creating a white racial identity for itself. It begins to think and act like its community’s ideal of a white self. When the adult recalls the feelings and ideas it had to set aside in order to mound this defense, it feels shame. More precisely, white shame. …

The parts of (the child) that were not white had to be set aside as unloved and therefore unlovable. (p. 13) Shame is the death of an unloved part of the self because it, apparently, is just not good enough to be loved. (p.17)

When I read this,

“The parts of (the child) that were not white…” everything just stopped. Stopped.

Then, pop.

Wait a minute, I thought. Parts of me that were not white. Parts of me that are not white. It sounded so foreign, yet so true.

So foreign, because I so strongly identified with being white. It seems as if it’s been a given, all my life. I’ve always felt different than those that were not white. There felt like a gap of some sort.

So true, because I can feel, have been able to feel, those parts in my psyche that aren’t white, that never identified that way, that were put to sleep, way down inside.

Such a funny feeling. That gap = those parts and places inside that I have denied of my own wholeness.

Then, the remembering that there is no such thing as race. No such thing as race. I remember when I first learned that race is only a concept with no genetic validity. It’s a social construct (destruct?) created at some point to differentiate, to separate, to categorize, to stratify.

You know how it feels when something hits you that wakes you up? Wakes up a place that has been asleep for a long time? That’s what happened. Something big that had been stuck was now free.

Something important has been seen through.

I take it a step further from what I shared here of Thandeka’s words.

We all have all parts within us. Everything is within. The entire Universe, is inside each and everyone of us. The Universe is holographic, meaning the entire Universe is within. We each have all parts. Girl and boy; white, black, brown, yellow and red; straight and gay; dark and light; joyful and rageful. We all have these parts within us.

“The parts of (the child) that were not [insert quality not mirrored in family, community, country] had to be set aside as unloved and therefore unlovable.”

This very clear articulation of me having to disown those parts of myself that aren’t white fits. I know this somewhere deep inside. I feel joy in seeing this. There are parts of me that don’t feel ‘white’ at all.

For me, remembering these parts and knowing they didn’t die, is the key. I killed them in my consciousness, because that is how I created my ‘identity’. But, what is whole is whole. My unwhite parts, my gay parts, my indigenous parts, my rageful and bitchy parts, are still very much available to me and I celebrate this, because it means I am not so different than anyone else who has been classified as ‘other’.

Hallelujah.

We are much more alike

than we believe ourselves to be. And this is good news, for in releasing the illusion of separation, we find out that we are indeed one consciousness robed as billions of separate human beings.

Just this realization has released even more life force, more stuck consciousness, more remembering of my whole self.

My knowing I am more like you does not mean I know your pain, your experience, your oppression, your privilege, or your lack of any of these things. Rather, it has created an opening of desire to connect, to hear, to listen, to know and to love. It has opened my eyes and my heart ever more widely to my true nature, while also giving me a greater capacity to embody all these parts of myself that I thought I had cast away so long ago.

Many of you have written

about why you don’t speak up, why you silence yourself.

“I don’t dare speak up because i am not worthy. I am white. I am middle class. I am not worthy.”

“Thank you for this post. It made me accept that I need to remain part of the conversation. Sometimes I think I have no right.”

“My voice doesn’t matter. How dare i say anything? Me, who’s had it so easy.”

These words ring in my ears. “Sometimes I think I have no right.”

How many of us believe we have no right to speak up? No right to be in the conversation? No right to speak up for ourselves, the earth, all those who can’t speak, for all the world’s children that are, right now, suffering greatly?

How many of us hear a shrill internal voice, harshly berating us with, “Who do you think you are?”

I ask you

to think about this, something my good friend, Judith Cohen, shared in her comment on part one:

A thought just passed through my mind thinking about oppression and comparing oppressions. I wonder if comparison is just another way the patriarchy tricks us into believing that there is not enough heart and compassion to go around. Patriarchy is so much about hierarchy and power. Certainly, it’s convenient and an energy saver not to have to consider those whose experiences fall lower in the hierarchy. But hierarchy doesn’t exist in support of love. It lives to support a small number of people wielding power over others. We’ve “democratized” hierarchy by letting more diverse people in at the top but hierarchy is still a system that says “NO!” to most people. It continues to poison all of our relationships by asserting that some of us are better than others or that some type of pain is more worthwhile than another.

to feel what Niki Andre shared as a comment on part three:

I’m frustrated by the divisive undercurrents of guilt and blame that distract us
From getting down to the crux:

It is necessary for us
To dispell the silence as One.

Love.
This us and them mentality,
Their divide and conquer legacy…
This is it isn’t it?
This is what keeps us
Aching separately.
Achingly separate.
Alienated.
Alienating.
Too factioned and fragmented to effectively rise up;
Conditioned for infighting,
We are easily quieted or confounded to remain stuck;
The silenced majority remains

Underprivileged.

This system of patriarchy doesn’t live on its own. It can’t. Patriarchy is not a thing. It is not men. It lives in people and in the things people create out of patriarchal beliefs. We breathe life into it when we act from the beliefs and thoughts that habitually feed our choices.

Our internalized patriarch tricks us into making many choices the heart would never choose.

We are all very underprivileged when we allow ourselves to be silenced.

Who do you think you are?

Who do I know I am?

A woman infused with life, infused with the sacred light of love, infused with a basic goodness, living and breathing the sacred feminine. A woman who can, and must, choose in each moment to bring her full self to the conversation for the sake of what is being born.

::

This post is the fourth in a series of posts on Silence, Privilege and Oppression. You’ll find part one, part two, and part three important preludes to this post, as well as this interlude a beautiful expression of how powerful it is to voice what is dying to be said.

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Hot From Our Sacred Lips

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As we are right in the middle of a who-knows-how-many-part series on Silence, Privilege and Oppression, I thought I would post an interlude, if you will. I think it has so much to do with the entire series. See what you feel.

I found this video, today, and heaven, did the tears come down. Tears of joy, tears of grief, tears for the sheer beauty of this woman’s words and her ability to say them with such ferocity and love.

Her name is Mayda del Valle.

This was taped at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009.

::

“Grandmother, how did you pray? Did you store your memories of the creator in strands of hair tucked into scented soap boxes or placentas buried under avocado trees?

“Grandmother, what secrets do your bones hold?”

“Abuela, how did you pray before someone told you who your god should be?”

This is one of the most amazing spoken word poetry experiences I have ever encountered. I’ve watched it at least five times now, and each time I grow ever more amazed.

I feel so much grief over what has been done to the earth, to animals, to children, to women, and to men, in the name of domination and control.

I feel so much grief for what we’ve lost, and yet, so much hope for what is being born, right now.

May we come together, as one people, One Source, in service to Life itself.

May we speak up and out with the pure and beautiful truth, fully aflame, dancing hot from our sacred lips.

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So Many Silences – part three

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“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.

Yet,

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:

Well,

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

and punching blind. This is when it changes.

The Goddess wakes. Everywhere, there are women

finding courage, taking action, speaking out, risking

their own lives for other women, refusing to collude.

This is Feminism now: becoming Sisterhood –

politician, priestess and protester working together,

sharing what it means to be Woman, everywhere.

Our linked hands and strong hearts are a power;

the Goddess is returning through each one of us

and we are bringing deep changes. We are dreaming in

a future that gives hope to the World, we are

women’s voices rising: strident, beautiful – and heard.

(c) Rose Flint 2009, published in We’Moon Diary 2011

This post is written in honor of International Women’s Day, 2011. I would love to know your reactions, experiences, insights or anything else you feel you would like to share.

I want to know your story.

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This post is part of Heather Plett’s 100 Years :: 100 People :: 100 Changes project. Today, she is offering a free ebook, Sophia Rising, with contributions of 20 people from all over the world. I am honored to be a contributor to Heather’s book.

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This post is the third in a series of posts on Silence, Privilege and Oppression. You’ll find part one and part two an important prelude to this post.

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So Many Silences – part two

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“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”  Audre Lorde

There is power in truly wanting to see through your own bullshit.

Since I opened the door to wanting to know about silence, privilege and oppression, so much has been shifting and churning. I am already wiser for this exploration. Your comments have touched raw nerves. My own words are doing the same.

Over the past six days, I kept writing and sitting. Nothing clear would come out. I spoke with my writing partner, Jeanne, and clarity seemed to show up for a bit. But the next morning when it came time to write, fog and confusion, again. Something here doesn’t want to be seen. I don’t want to see it; but, I do. I want to be free.

Silence, privilege and oppression.

Three pretty powerful topics, and I’ve lumped them all together. They are intertwined.

Some of you have asked why I’m exploring this topic. Something is pushing me to see what I don’t want to see. I want to know what keeps me silent. I want to know where I am blind. I want to know where I am ignorant. I want to see what I haven’t been willing to see. I want to be free. And, it is foggy. It feels like something painful is coming to light.

I know that what stays hidden, what stays in the dark, hurts us all.

A few nights ago,

after opening this can of who knows what, anger and grief finally came pouring out. I kept yelling, over and over, out loud, very out loud, from someplace deep inside, “I don’t understand men’s silence.” “I don’t understand.” “How can you stay silent about what happens to women, when there are women in your life you love? Your mother, your sister, me?”

I was saying it to him, my partner…and at the same time, I was saying it to all the world’s men.

After so many years wondering what it would be like to simply say what had been kept inside for so long, I experienced it. It wasn’t clumsy at all. It was clear. It was alive. It was powerful. It came from someplace deep within my body.

The anger was a deep and boiling. It’s been cooking for some time. It burned its way through. It burned itself out of me. After it subsided, grief began to spill out. A deep, deep grief about the way things are in the world. So much grief.

But as everything came tumbling out of my body, the rage, the grief and the tears, I also felt something inside me become stronger. It was as if I found a part of myself that I had lost a long time ago. It’s the part that I silenced.

It is still a bit hazy,

but I’m going to try to write it in hopes it will become more clear.

I don’t understand my partner’s silence. He is a good man. I love him. I feel so much anger and so much love. It was a sign that something was up in me, something coming up to be seen through, something that was ready to be set free.

There is an old, worn out relationship between me and men. In opening the door to seeing my complacency and silence, I see even more clearly how these things are fueled by my conditioned loyalty with men, especially the men in my life that hold power. The men in my life who hold power are white men. Educated men. Middle-class men. Men I love.

If you asked them, they might not feel powerful. In fact, I bet they don’t feel powerful. So many men have said they feel powerless in this culture. Yet, in relationship to me, they seem powerful. They seem to hold the power. What’s that about?

As a girl, I learned I held no power. Small body. Big men. No way I could hold my own.

As a girl, I learned my role was to take care of men, and to try to help them feel good about themselves.

As a girl, I learned to be silent about the things they did that didn’t feel right to me, that didn’t feel good.

As a girl, I learned to stay silent: silent = safe.

As a girl, this was survival.

As a woman, it is no longer survival, it is conditioning, habitual conditioning that covers old fears. old betrayals and very real oppression.

The conditioning played itself out until, one day, the urge to know the truth, to be free of the conditioning, became stronger than the urge to stay safe. As Lorde wrote, we can incite our own learning, if we follow the urge for truth.

So what is the relationship between silence, privilege and power?

You may already know this. I didn’t know, until these past few days, how they have played out in my life.

Over the last few days, every time I tried to write about this, I would feel sick to my stomach. Something really uncomfortable was coming up. I could only see fog, and writing didn’t clear it like it usually does.

The morning after so much anger rose up and burned out of me, I went for a walk in the woods across the street from our home. I could hear the birds calling, the water rushing down the stream, and the rustle of the early morning breeze. As I walked deeper into the park, I could feel the earth alive. I could feel her holding me, Mother earth. I felt so much love from everything alive around me. In that holding, more grief tumbled out. The tears literally poured from my eyes.

As the grief subsided, I could feel something shift. It was as if a distancing had happened, a distancing between me and men. Then I saw it clearly.

My silence earns me privilege, and it costs me my power.

Let me say that again. My silence earns me privilege, and it costs me my power. I give away my power to have privilege.

I may feel I have power, but as long as that power is based on a privilege that is hollow at its core, the power is hollow, too.

Any privilege is hollow at its core.

Privilege is not the way Spirit works. It is not the way of soul. It is not the way of the Earth. And it is not the way of the Mother of us all.

Privilege is the way of patriarchy.

It’s an exchange. A pact. A very unconscious pact. Unconscious in me, until now.

This pact between privilege, power and silence upholds this system of domination and control.

Yuck.

As the tears poured from my eyes, I felt grief rise up and leave. I felt a letting go of this pact of silence. I felt my own autonomy grow. I felt a solidness in myself take hold.

I want to be free, a woman liberated from her own silence.

This is part two in a series of posts on silence, privilege and oppression. You can read part one, here. I don’t know how many more there will be. Thank you for walking beside me through this exploration. I would love to know your reactions, comments and experiences with these very tender places.

Blessings, Julie

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So Many Silences – part one

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“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
Audre Lorde

Privilege

Privilege, handed out at birth.

White privilege: Yes.

Gender privilege: No.

Born into color. Born into gender. Born into a system.

I am white. I am a woman. In reality, I am neither of these things. Yet, I live in a system, a system full of institutions that are insidiously laced with privilege, domination and oppression.

I don’t know…

what to do with this. I know I’ve been handed privilege. I know I’ve used this privilege and enjoyed its benefits. I know part of me would rather not talk about it.

Yet, I must.

Why must I? Because, not talking about it keeps me in a silence that needs to be broken.

Not talking about it keeps me from seeing my own humanity, keeps me tangled up in a fog of complicity and complacency that go against the nature of what I really am.

Not talking about keeps me from fully waking up to the light that is at the heart of every cell of matter.

Not talking about it keeps us from solidarity, soulful human connection that can help to break apart this system that we all uphold, both consciously and unconsciously. And I no longer want to uphold this system.

Once,

a woman told me this story. She was talking with her boyfriend about gender oppression, about what it’s like living in this culture as a woman. He replied to her that she couldn’t know oppression because she is white. He told her she couldn’t be gender oppressed because she was privileged by her skin color. He negated her experience of gender oppression because he determined that her whiteness denied her the very real and direct experience of gender oppression.

I once had a man, a white man, tell me that my whiteness automatically made me an oppressor. The first time I heard this, I was stopped short with surprise. Then anger. Then confusion.

I asked myself,

“What do I do with this?”

So, I sat with it. It churned. There were no clear answers, no short and sweet snippets of wisdom.  And then I forgot about it.

Until now. Until my deep, deep desire to see men break the silence about gender privilege invited me to break my silence about what I’ve been privileged with – racial privilege mainly, as well as financial privilege, class privilege, etc.

As a white woman, I know both privilege and oppression. And, yes, I know I experience both, that one does not negate the other.

We were all born into a system that oppresses. We didn’t’ choose it, yet it is our responsibility to see it for what it is. And, for the sake of our children and grandchildren we must come to terms with the insidious ways it keeps us doing things that I know are antithetical to our true nature.

We’ve been born into it through no choice of our own. AND, we have a choice as to whether or not we continue to uphold it, because the system doesn’t do it to us. It works through us. The system is just a collection of beliefs that we internalized. Everything that we create from these beliefs continues the system. Everything that we create from knowing that we are simply many expressions of the One source of all of life will create a new infrastructure based on the love that is  this One source.

I no longer want to know separation, because I know I am you and you are me. I know this. I see this, and it is only my internalized idea of the way the world is, and my habitual response pattern to these ideas, that keep me upholding something so painful.

I am angry about what has been done, and continues to be done, to women and children, to the earth. I am angry about the continued degradation of the feminine.

I am outraged at my own complacency.

My love for life, for this beauteous wonder that moves through me, calls me to live something greater than my habitual fear and confusion.

Am I willing to look here? Yes, I am willing to look. And, I hope you’ll look with me.

This post is part one of a series on privilege and oppression, and compliance and complacency. I don’t yet know how many parts there will be, or how and where it will end.

I hope you’ll inquire with me and leave rich comments here. Let’s begin a discussion. Let’s find a way through the fog of not wanting to see and know, so that one day we will meet in the place where there is no ‘other’.

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Fire and Soil

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Brighid's Dawn, by Sandilee Hart
Brighid's Dawn, by Sandi Lee, @WakingDreamart

Fire.

I awoke this morning with fire on my mind.

Perhaps it started, not the fire, but the thinking of fire, last night. Before I went to bed, I posted this:

Sometimes, fire burns.

And in response, a man I went to high-school with replied,

So does the sun, but it doesn’t keep us from wanting it to shine on us.”


The truth does shine…

and it burns. It burns away all that is false, all that keeps the truth from being lived, if we are willing to stand in the fire. I’m not claiming to be a fire-walker. I don’t like the burning one bit. And, I’m noticing it keeps coming, regardless.

When I see this, I see an image of a forest fire that rages through, and how that fire prepares the soil for the seeds to pop and grow. Some seeds will only germinate with the help of a forest fire. These particular seeds need the heat to begin their growth.

During my time in Santa Fe, something very old was burned out of me and something that’s always been there, always waiting in the wings, began to move with new life. It moved in because I was willing to begin to stand in the fire of the truth. I was willing to speak, aloud, stories that had been buried in my body. First, though,

a side trip to Kildare, Ireland.

Last summer, I traveled to Ireland. I wrote a few posts about it here on the blog, but some of what happened has been working inside, gestating, growing and finding root.

Some of the most profound experiences centered around St. Brigid and the goddess Brighid. To be honest, and maybe someone more aware of the historical nuances could fill me in!), I am not all that clear about the connection between the two.

A little history:

Cill means cell or church, and Daire is a type of oak tree, so Kildare means “Church of the Oak.” This is one of many ways Brigid the Saint echoes a pagan goddess of the same name, since the oak was sacred to the druids. In the pre-Christian period of Celtic history, Brighid (a derivation of the word Brig, meaning “valor” or “might”) was the name of one of the most beloved goddesses. Both solar and lunar, Brighid guaranteed the fertility of the fields, sheep, cows, and human mothers; and she protected all bodies of water. Her principal symbol was a perpetual fire, representing wisdom, poetry, healing, therapy, metallurgy, and the hearth.

St. Brigid’s double monastery at Kildare was built at a location previously sacred to her pagan namesake, and the inner sanctuary of the Kildare Church also contained a blessed fire perpetually maintained by the nuns of her community. Some have speculated that St. Brigid herself once served as the last high priestess of a community of druid women worshipping the goddess Brighid, and that she led that entire community into the Christian faith.

Site of St. Brigid's Flame, Kildare, Ireland
Site of St. Brigid's Flame, Kildare, Ireland

In Kildare, I stood in the place where Brigid’s perpetual fire burned. The story goes that, after St. Brigid’s death, the fire was kept burning for over 1,000 years by women determined to keep the flame alive (I imagine not just the flame itself, but what it represented). This realization blew me away, that women could, amidst all sorts of attempts from the outside to put out the flame, keep it alive.

With a little inquiry, we found our way to where the current flame is kept alive for St. Brigid, by sister Mary. She invited us in to the room where the flame burns today. I sat down, and within minutes a complete peace came over me. The only words I could find to express how I felt in that moment were, “Full. There is nothing I need or want.” Sister Mary echoed this, saying that almost every woman who comes to the flame feels this, or something akin.

This sense of upholding life, keeping the fire lit, helping to usher in change without losing the old wisdom is so much of what the feminine is about.

Back to Santa Fe:

In my time in Santa Fe, I was surrounded by strong, wise, spirited women: Danielle LaPorte , who is “interested in liberating truth, raw reality, and grace.”; Jennifer Louden, a woman inspiring us all to serve and savor the world; Dyana Valentine,  who is, in her words, “an instigator. Seriously, I’m not for the weak of heart.” ; Susan Oglesbee Hyatt, a Master Certified Coach who describes herself as “Energetic. Honest. Motivating”; Dr. Diane Chung, a wise, Harvard-trained clairvoyant Naturopath, who has a healing approach that is brilliant; and of course, Gail Larsen, the woman who was leading us to tell our stories straight from the soul.

In the circle of strong women, strong sisters there to gain wisdom on how to speak wisdom from the stories of our lives,  I re-experienced the strength of the feminine fire. In this fire, it was as if words flowed directly out of the ground of being. They came out raw and untouched by the overzealous mind that wants to manage and package the words in some way, for ensured acceptability. I shared stories in this circle that I have told only to a few, very close, people in my life. And in the sharing of these stories, something shifted, transmuted and transformed. We were, and are, a circle of alchemists, turning lead into gold.

As I stood in front of my sisters, waiting for the words to emerge, I could feel their love, their devotion to the truth, their willingness to hear me, wide-open to the wisdom I had to offer. As I sat in the circle, waiting for my sisters to speak, I held them and witnessed the wisdom emerging through them.

Something here, so wise and so powerful.

Even though St. Brigid’s flame was extinguished, what I imagine it represented, the light of the sacred within matter, is still alive in each woman that lives. And, it is this light that is asking to be reawakened in the world.

As a woman, as an embodiment of the Sacred Feminine, this light is alive within you. It is the fire of your sacred light. We can help each other to reawaken to this light within. And, it is this flame, this light that the world needs to remember its sacredness.

The Wisdom That Holds Us All

To underscore the wisdom that is holding us all, let me return to the fire that I opened with, the fire that burns.

As I sat at the keyboard this morning to write this post, all I could see was fire, an image of a seed, and Sandi Lee‘s image of Brighid. I planted the seed and began to write.

As I wrote, two things became clear. In finding a little history of St. Brigid, I stumbled upon this: that today, February 1st, is St. Brigid’s day in the Northern Hemisphere.

The First of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer over-lights both pagan and Christian celebrations.

Then, as I researched Imbolc, I discovered that one symbol of this time is the candle and flame, mostly from the celebration of Candlemas.

I began with fire and truth, and a wee feeling of Brigid, and lo and behold, everything coalesced in a way that my mind could never have figured out.

Learning to trust the seed, to trust what wants to be told, said, written is a way of the feminine. She emerges through symbol, through what is ripe in the moment. She speaks to us in many ways.

As Gail teaches, we each hold original medicine, something that others receive from us as we share from the deepest places within. Danielle shared with me that she experienced my original medicine as “Dark rich moist soil, like the kind that seeds crave.”

There’s that seed, again.

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