It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender. ~ Jenny Holzer
The power of tenderness.
The tender skin of one touching the tender skin of another, causing an exquisite encounter, not possible in any other way.
The tender eyes that want nothing from the world, except to welcome and embrace all that generously spills into view.
The tender heart that loves simply for love’s sake, rather than for what one might get out of loving.
Some tender places of the heart can only be known in relationship, when one is willing to lay down arms, open the heart and wait, exposed.
I know the power of tenderness.
We all know the power of tenderness.
Revolution begins with changes in the individual. ~ Jenny Holzer
We already know, well, revolutions of domination, where ‘power over’ has all but brought the human race to death’s door.
We know the power of tenderness in intimate moments.
What if we were to realize that it is in our own self-interest to engage in a revolution of tenderness?
What if we were to realize that the power of tenderness is so much greater than the power of tyranny?
I, too, wonder how this might happen, how we shift from tyranny to tenderness.
Those that engage in domination and destruction stand in a perspective that sees tenderness as weakness, not strength.
But, I also know the only way to begin a revolution within is with a tender ‘yes’, a surrendered ‘yes’.
It begins with trusting that ultimately, the power of tenderness rather than the power of domination will be what saves us.
Which is the more powerful act?
Somewhere within each of us is a place that dominates and condemns – others and ourselves. This place is the most tender of places, because, it fears tenderness, yet longs to be showered with it. This place learned to dominate early. It learned to condemn and judge at an early age. When tenderness was what this place was longing for, instead it received judgment. Somewhere this place believes judgment and condemnation are the best way to be strong in an unsafe world; yet, if you check-in closely, what’s really going on is a longing to be touched with tender hands, to be seen, really seen, with tender eyes, and to be held and embraced by the most tender places of the heart. Hence, it is in your own self-interest to be tender.
We may fear being tender and loving will be seen as weak by those that continue to shower our beautiful world with hate, violence, oppression and greed. And as long as we see it as being weak, they will. When we know the strength of tenderness as a gift to ourselves, and when we see the powerful effects of the offering of tenderness to another, the perspective that ‘tenderness is weakness’ can begin to shift.
Try it. Feel the effects it has on you and others. Compare these to the moments when you judge and condemn others. Then, ask yourself, truly look to see, which is the more powerful act? Which way of being requires true vulnerability and fierce loyalty to love?
We’ve all judged and been judged. We’ve all condemned and been condemned We’ve all dominated and been dominated.We all know these experiences. What if we were to caress another’s ragged coat of life with the tender touch of one who knows these things intimately? This is the real revolution of tenderness that is poised to unfold.
This is the first post in a series of three on tenderness, power and grace. All three posts are part of the Summer of Love Invitational, where the lovely Mahala Mazerov has invited bloggers to write about loving kindness.
Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms. – Gloria Steinem
This body, this female body, is divinity all dressed up in robes of feminine flesh.
Too often, way too often, this beautiful garment has been shamed and humiliated, objectified and used, scorned and belittled – the most hurtful damage done by the very one who wears it.
I now experience something different. I know that I, the one that sees all this, is not the one who scorns. The one that scorns is the only self I used to be aware of…the false self that mimics all she ingested and ingests, heard and hears, saw and sees.
The true self, the self that sees this all with such love and compassion knows I am dressed in the finest of flesh.
Yes, flesh. Flesh is divine. This feminine flesh is divine. It robes a home where Spirit and matter are brought together in a miraculous way. Creation has made this humble home for life to come into being by way of this womanly body.
I used to apologize for myself over and over. It was simply a habit borne of some belief that I couldn’t take up space in the world. Somewhere I learned that I didn’t belong to this world that seemed to be a man’s world. A world run by men, where men called the shots. Men belonged. Boys became men, but girls seemed to stay girls in this world. At least that’s what I learned by way of listening and watching as grown men and women would refer to men as men and women as girls, even women who were old and wise and beautiful.
I rarely apologize for myself any longer, but I am still too polite. It’s a hard habit to break. Politeness has its place, but politeness can also be another form of apologizing.
I see women apologizing for themselves over and over. I hear them say such harsh words about themselves. I want to just hold them and tell them what divine and sacred beings they are, just as I longed to be held, while having these loving words whispered into my ear.
When I feel the old familiar pangs of not belonging to this world, I find the nearest tree, flower, furry being or baby…something that reminds me of the immense variety of beauty there is in this world. Something that reminds me of the innocence that is at the heart of life. Something that reminds me that the world is owned by no one and that because it is owned by no one, we all belong to this place. Every living thing belongs to this place. We all reside in this “house of belonging“.
When I remember this, I remember what I am. A sacred being. A woman. A creation created to bring sacred life into being in infinite ways.
This being female is delicious. I’ve migrated down from my head to my heart to my belly to my womb. I feel the earth here. I feel my weightedness, the weightedness that connects me to the earth, the feminine to the feminine. It’s as if I am ripe with love, and the juiciness of the fruit weighs me down in a grounding, sensual way.
There is a fierceness here in this womb. A fierce love that protects life at all costs. A fierceness that ensures the life entrusted to this womb will be fed, nurtured, warmed and loved.
I’ve witnessed this fierce love in my daughters as they birthed their babies. Birthing is fierce love in action. Fierceness on the part of life as it charts its own course of labor and delivery, a course the mother has no say in. Fierceness on the part of the mother as she opens herself to the most vulnerable, tender and terrifying unknown she might ever experience. Fierceness on the part of the baby as it travels the short distance from womb to the world, but a distance that can take hours and days to navigate. It is all born from love, from the deep love of life wanting to birth itself anew in an infinite variety of forms and ways.
I’ve witnessed this fierceness in my daughters as they care for their babies in the day-to-day, doing whatever it takes to make sure their children feel safe, loved and cared for.
I’ve witnessed this fierce love in my mother, as she did whatever it took to raise her three daughters. I witnessed this fierce love in my mother as she fought to stay alive, to stay connected to those she loved even into the last hours before her death.
From this place, from this womb that is a microcosm of the big womb that is in constant creation, I know that the most important ‘job’ I am here to do is to protect and nurture life, all of life, all babies, all children, all men and women, all furry beings, and all the other myriad life forms. It is to live with this awareness, consciously infusing all that I create with this fierce love.
The awareness that I’ve found deep in my womb has brought me into the stark realization of all the ways I haven’t nurtured life, the ways I have added to the pain that earth, this home I belong to, is experiencing. This awareness has shown me that all my choices affect how the human race will continue to evolve, or not, and just how much power we humans have come to posess; power to love and power to destroy.
I don’t have some fancy big job. It’s insignificant and yet completely significant. Each of us has this capacity to bring forth this fierce love into being at this time. The ways in which we bring this fierce love for life into the world may seem small and insignificant, but when we all realize the capacity we have for fierce love, something can shift.
I am one of those older women now. I am not a girl, but a wise woman, a woman that knows she is more powerful than the culture would have me believe. I am a woman robed in feminine flesh. It is part of what it means to live and love in this ‘house of belonging’.
Tell me about your finest garment. I’d love to know what it is to be robed in your divine flesh.
“…the most beautiful thing a potter produces is…the potter.”
Sometimes I just get all hung up on what I’m creating…forgetting that if I really step into the destruction that must come before creation, what is transformed is not the creation, but the creator…me.
Every time I sit down to write, I can feel the death that’s imminent. I can feel the vortex of surrender. I fight it every time. Something pushes me to the edge, then I stand there waffling. I stand there knowing it’s what I want, yet fighting tooth and nail to not let go. Eventually, I do. I let go. I die to what wants to be born. And so far, I’m still here.
So what dies? What are these little deaths? I know my will goes away. Control goes away. My sense of how it should come out goes away. Thank goodness, because at the end of each process of writing, something complete seems to come forth, something comes back around to the beginning, something complete is born that never could have ‘thought’ its way out of me. I let go of my thinking mind, it disappears into the background. The words come. My hands type.
In these little deaths, the “I” is transformed. Who I believe myself to be changes. Each death changes me. And each one causes me to trust the process just a little bit more. It’s like building muscle memory, but instead its building trust…trust in the Creatrix. At the same time, each time we come to this place, we must know there is no guarantee the light will come again. It’s like when the moon goes to black, will it come back into view? Do we know this? If we don’t allow ourselves to let go that completely, the truth of what wants to be born will never come.
To hold that larger unknowing is terrifying. The vastness of it is terrifying…The Feminine is terrifying and it’s what we have to give ourselves to. ~Jerry Wennstrom
Standing on the threshold, I look into the darkness of what is to come, that womb of creation so vast…so, so vast. She feels enveloping – she is. She destroys. She transforms. She loves.
I crave the destruction. I know this. I crave it because I know, when it comes, for one brief moment I only exist in the largest, infinite sense. I crave it because something new, something real and alive comes through, something that the mind can not think into existence.
That’s what I love about blogging. It has transformed me in small bits, making me ready for the bigger plunge that is to come. Bigger in the sense of my creative projects on the horizon. And bigger in the sense of where we all are today.
The old way is dying. It’s been dying for a while now. What we see fighting this death are the last holdouts of patriarchy, the last holdouts of society as it has been, society based on hierarchy, dualism, and the belief of a separateness that allows us to stay insulated from the other’s pain. When I see into things, I see our society hanging on at the threshold, desperately wanting to let go of this bondage we’ve known for so long, yet afraid of what is to come.
And She is there waiting with open arms. She is wanting to embrace us into a new way. She is inviting us to die into what wants to be born.
I know for myself, my masculine side is hyper-fixated on control, the succulence of ideas, the desire for order, the desire to know the outcome, the desire to have it all be one straight line from start to finish.
But, the feminine is this vastness, this darkness. Women are more comfortable with this vastness, because we are the embodiment of this divine feminine Creatrix. We are the Creatrix. In these times, it is critical women come down into our bodies, drop down into this vastness of this Creatrix, the divine feminine that lives through us. We can feel her pull. I have spoken with so many women who echo this knowing, this pull, this voice within that won’t be refused.
When we embrace this creatrix within, we invite ourselves back into right relationship with the divine feminine within. And IT IS FROM THIS PLACE that our divine masculine within will come forth, that masculine that can bring us into the world of action, speech, and relationship that comes from the sacred marriage within us, the sacred marriage of our divine feminine and divine masculine within.
In the end, transformation is impossible to avoid. It is always happening. The question is, will we want to let go willingly into her, into her embrace, so that something complete is born that never could have ‘thought’ its way out of us?
How do you experience this moment of creation? What helps you let go?
As a woman, can you feel her pull. Are you experiencing this knowing, this pull, this voice within that won’t be refused?
As a man, how do you experience this pull of the creatrix? How do you experience this vastness?
“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ~Arundhati Roy
I was introduced to this amazing woman when I read her first and only novel, The God of Small Things, in 1997. In this book, Roy writes about the many varied faces of love…and there are many. Her words are beautiful. They are real. They are alive.
When I first read this quote, so many things jumped out at me. I had to read it over and over, letting what she was really imparting, that transmission between the words, fill me with its wisdom.
What I love about her words is the raw truth she shares. In a world that is filled with so many ways to turn away from reality, including the one I’ve flirted with for so long, that of being a spiritual seeker, she calls me back to reality. Reality in all its rapturous beauty, vulgar disparity, unspeakable violence. Reality where I am utterly insignificant – simply one of billions of people existing on this planet right now, and just one of a gazillion forms of life on mother earth.
In most places, we’re encouraged to see our specialness, to pump ourselves up with our own importance, breeding a kind of hierarchical sense to one’s existence. To never forget my own insignificance reduces that sense of importance and specialness. Somewhere in this insignificance is true humility…
What comes to me from this quote is her pure love for this life. And her inviting us to open our eyes, our hearts to the fullness of human experience. Opening to life fully, all of it. To embrace the paradox of joy in the saddest places, opening to beauty in the most raw, painful moments of life.
My seeking began at a young age. I grew up in a family without religious dogma. We did go to church, occasionally. At the same time, Mom and Dad had their own belief systems about God. How could you not, growing up in this western culture? The wonderful thing they did pass on was a thirst to know, a longing to know the real God. I remember the longing in my heart, as a young girl, filling me with ache. A longing that kept at me, and kept at me, and kept at me….
Throughout my early adult years, I was busy raising a family, working, building our own home, doing things people do in everyday life. Normal, mundane things. Sometimes the longing would peek through in these simple moments of the day. My heart would ache, tears would well up, a sense of emptiness would make itself known. Immediately, my mind would jump in, wondering what was missing. Thoughts would jump in, convincing me that there was something I had to find ‘out there’, something I would have to do one day, something somewhere that would satisfy this longing. My mind always looked to the future as the storehouse of what my heart was longing for. My heart simply felt emptiness, some deep sadness, aching, hungering, longing…
When my late husband died suddenly, at 4 in the morning, my heart was torn open. His heart gave out, mine tore open. It was a place of no mind. Just sheer raw pain. Enough pain to put me in shock. I wandered in this desert for a long time. I wished I could be more there, more present, more mother, more together; but, I wasn’t.
I searched for a way to live with this ragged, jagged heart, ’cause it wasn’t going away. If I tried to talk myself out of this place, my heart would have no part of it. It knew. It knows. The heart knows the wisdom of grief, the intelligence of the process of moving through it all, the joy that is waiting on the other side, the broken-open heartedness that is waiting if one is willing to keep inviting it in.
I realized the profound beauty in this process of grief and in this place of broken-open heartedness. Others I shared this beauty with couldn’t understand my use of that word. Beauty in grief? Beauty in death? Beauty in such profound pain? Yet, the profound aliveness I finally felt after 38 years of closed-heartedness was breathtakingly beautiful, because of just that…the profound aliveness that poured out of my broken-open heart.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not romanticizing death. I’m not minimizing the pain my children went through, my husband’s mother went through, our family went through, or I went through. Minimizing pain does not bring beauty. Feeling pain does. Indulging in pain, does not bring beauty. Experiencing pain does.
It would have been so easy to die while I was alive. A part of me wanted to. Simply to numb it and get on with life. Many people encouraged that. But something, and it certainly wasn’t my mind, wouldn’t let me…my heart knew the pain was my doorway in, the doorway in to that which I had been longing for.
Nothing in life is a straight linear line. Instead, it seems to move in spirals, in every increasing circles of wisdom and understanding. As the longing grew, I became a seeker. A seeker of that which would satisfy this longing. A seeker of that which would end the pain. A seeker of that which would fill the hole. I was pursuing this ‘beauty to its lair’.
All along I thought “I” was seeking, that I had the power to find this source of beauty. All along I thought my seeking was going to bring home the bounty of beauty, as if I could really find this beauty in its lair and capture it for my own pleasure.
The seeking was trying to ‘do’ the longing in the only way my very humanness could. The seeking was necessary, but it was never in charge. The seeker can’t find the lair. But the pursuit brings forth beauty. It’s the nature of the paradox of our existence. Both divine and human. Both heart and mind. Both being and doing. The paradox of seeking is that in the seeking we find that which could never be captured, and we find that seeking is really keeping us from that which we seek.
All along what I was seeking was right here within me, surrounding me, hidden in the one place I never thought to look. What I was longing for has been here all the time.
Sometimes it takes going on a hunt for it, pursuing it to land’s end, to know it has been right here all along. Here in the midst of the turmoil. This is the goddess. This is discovering light in all our broken places.
Beauty’s lair is all around us, yet we’ll only catch glimpses until we open to the grace that is always here, the grace that invites us to open our hearts to our own insignificance.
We are swimming in our own insignificance. Just look out your eyes at the wonder life is. We are a tiny insignificant part of this life, yet the paradox is when we realize our insignificance we realize that our being here is immensely significant.
The only thing that causes us to lose this dream Roy speaks of is the belief we are separate. The illusion of separation is what allows us to turn away, to get used to the unspeakable happenings of our time, to believe we are more significant than another being, or even the earth itself.
The only dream worth having is the dream that is no dream. It is the awakening to what is right in front of us, behind us, all around us…the infinite that has no edges, top, bottom…the infinite that is missing nothing, that holds everything.
In this great infinite that is reality, what I am is insignificant, and completely significant. What I have to offer cannot be offered by any other. And in the totality of it all, I am but a drop in the ocean.
My humanness, that insignificance, is the great gift, because there I find humility and awe. To embrace it all, even those things I desperately want to turn away from, is to be in right relationship with life. Joy can be found in those sad places. Suffering can be our doorway in, in to a place of lightness of being, and broken-open-heartedness.
As Roy says, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”
This is the world of the goddess, the world we awaken to when we come out of our slumber enough to realize that all along we’ve been sleeping in beauty’s lair.
I’d love to know what you’ve discovered in beauty’s lair.
I want to do to you what Spring does with cherry trees. ~ Neruda
I’ve been contemplating Neruda for days now. Discovering this one simple quote, above, led me to this poem of his. And I melted. Oh, my, what this poem exudes.
I posted a few lines:
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
on Facebook and Twitter, and what came back was rapturous delight from women. Gasps. Oohs. Aahs.
I didn’t receive pithy statements about the beauty of the lines, but rather short exclamations of feeling.
Feeling. Something wakes up in us when we experience these words.
Life is erotic. Life re-creates itself, over and over. Life is an impulse, a continual impulse to come into existence. Life is birthing itself in every moment.
“What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth.” Meister Eckhart
Most of the lessons we’ve internalized about ‘what Spring does to cherry trees’ isn’t about life or God or ooh and ahh. Think of a nice big fat cherry pie. What we’ve been taught to believe is like taking that cherry pie and cutting the tiniest sliver out of it, then serving it up as the whole pie. The slice is so small, it can’t even stand on its own. And it doesn’t even taste like cherry pie anymore.
Pleasure, Eros, Sensuality, Sexuality. These themes are woven into Neruda’s works, but he speaks of life, of earth, of people, of longing, of creation, of love.
And in these lines, he wraps the oh-so-humble elements of this human earthly existence in robes of divinity:
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
We are sensual beings. We live in one big erotic field. Life is pulsing through our veins. Life throbs. Life longs.
In spring, we are in the outward, pulsating part of the cycle of life. Just as in the cherry tree, we feel this pulsing, this desire, this longing to create.
It’s actually really practical, too. When your creations and actions flow from this inner impulse, they come from the intelligence that is life. They are vibrantly alive and captivatingly juicy.
This impulse is a guide to truth and integrity. It is a guide to aliveness and to joy. It is a guide to feeling all of what life offers, even those feelings we’ve pushed away for so long. It is a guide to pleasure and the land of the unknown.
I could feel this in the women who responded with alive oohs and aahs. Our power lies in our bodies, in waking up to and living in the divinity that breathes fire into each and every female cell.
Do I dare live, love and create from this place? Do you? Do we?
I’ve become enamored with the idea of what can be created when we bring people, ideas and creations together, combining creative impulses, drawing upon each other’s spark. This is the first of two posts to explore this idea. Who knows, maybe there will be more!
In the past few days, I’ve stumbled upon two brilliant creative pieces. I loved them so much, I thought I would bring them together.
The first is this incredibly vibrant painting by Holly Friesen titled, “Dancing in the Flames”. When I asked Holly for permission to use her creation, she readily accepted. When I told her I had selected this one, she shared that it is ‘in process’. I’ve followed Holly on Twitter (@Holly59) for a while and love dropping in every now and then to see what she is working on.
I find Dancing in the Flames a stunning piece. It is full of so much feral, wild moon energy. Her body is strong and vibrant. She is open to life. As I sat with this image and read the second piece, a poem by Lisa Citore titled, “If You Want to Change the World…Love a Woman.”, I could feel the energy of both rising up to meet each other.
This poem spoke to me in a deeply profound way. It brought tears of recognition of something sacred that is possible when we realize, men and women, the immense sacred mystery that is woman. What might shift if we all came to love a woman, deeply, in this way. To realize woman as the gateway to life, to know we have all come into the world by way of a woman can completely shift how we see ourselves as women, how we see each other, and how we might more deeply honor and respect the mystery of life and the mystery of woman.
I contacted Lisa to see if I could put her poem her on Unabashedly Female. She, too, agreed!
So I hope you enjoy both of these works of art. What a gift each of us has to bring to this world, whatever medium we choose to create in.
On her website, Magdalene Women, Lisa writes about how the poem came into being:
“When a fairly spiritual male friend of mine who had finally found and was deepening into committed relationship with his soul mate confided in me he was thinking of being single again, and in the next breath expressed his latest idea for raising consciousness worldwide, I wrote this poem.”
If you want to change the world… love a woman-really love her.
Find the one who calls to your soul, who doesn’t make sense.
Throw away your check list and put your ear to her heart and listen.
Hear the names, the prayers, the songs of every living thing-
every winged one, every furry and scaled one,
every underground and underwater one, every green and flowering one,
every not yet born and dying one…
Hear their melancholy praises back to the One who gave them life.
If you haven’t heard your own name yet, you haven’t listened long enough.
If your eyes aren’t filled with tears, if you aren’t bowing at her feet,
you haven’t ever grieved having almost lost her.
If you want to change the world… love a woman-one woman
beyond yourself, beyond desire and reason,
beyond your male preferences for youth, beauty and variety
and all your superficial concepts of freedom.
We have given ourselves so many choices
we have forgotten that true liberation
comes from standing in the middle of the soul’s fire
and burning through our resistance to Love.
There is only one Goddess.
Look into Her eyes and see-really see
if she is the one to bring the axe to your head.
If not, walk away. Right now.
Don’t waste time “trying.”
Know that your decision has nothing to do with her
because ultimately it’s not with who,
but when we choose to surrender.
If you want to change the world… love a woman.
Love her for life-beyond your fear of death,
beyond your fear of being manipulated
by the Mother inside your head.
Don’t tell her you’re willing to die for her.
Say you’re willing to LIVE with her,
plant trees with her and watch them grow.
Be her hero by telling her how beautiful she is in her vulnerable majesty,
by helping her to remember every day that she IS Goddess
through your adoration and devotion.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
in all her faces, through all her seasons
and she will heal you of your schizophrenia-
your double-mindedness and half-heartedness
which keeps your Spirit and body separate-
which keeps you alone and always looking outside your Self
for something to make your life worth living.
There will always be another woman.
Soon the new shiny one will become the old dull one
and you’ll grow restless again, trading in women like cars,
trading in the Goddess for the latest object of your desire.
Man doesn’t need any more choices.
What man needs is Woman, the Way of the Feminine,
of Patience and Compassion, non-seeking, non-doing,
of breathing in one place and sinking deep intertwining roots
strong enough to hold the Earth together
while she shakes off the cement and steel from her skin.
If you want to change the world… love a woman, just one woman .
Love and protect her as if she is the last holy vessel.
Love her through her fear of abandonment
which she has been holding for all of humanity.
No, the wound is not hers to heal alone.
No, she is not weak in her codependence.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
all the way through
until she believes you,
until her instincts, her visions, her voice, her art, her passion,
her wildness have returned to her-
until she is a force of love more powerful
than all the political media demons who seek to devalue and destroy her.
If you want to change the world,
lay down your causes, your guns and protest signs.
Lay down your inner war, your righteous anger
and love a woman…
beyond all of your striving for greatness,
beyond your tenacious quest for enlightenment.
The holy grail stands before you
if you would only take her in your arms
and let go of searching for something beyond this intimacy.
What if peace is a dream which can only be re-membered
through the heart of Woman?
What if a man’s love for Woman, the Way of the Feminine
is the key to opening Her heart?
If you want to change the world…love a woman
to the depths of your shadow,
to the highest reaches of your Being,
back to the Garden where you first met her,
to the gateway of the rainbow realm
where you walk through together as Light as One,
to the point of no return,
to the ends and the beginning of a new Earth.
The body is like an earth. It is a land unto itself. It is as vulnerable to overbuilding, being carved into parcels, cut off, overmined, and shorn of its power as any landscape. The wilder woman will not be easily swayed by redevelopment schemes. For her, the questions are not how to form but how to feel. The breast in all its shapes has the function of feeling and feeding. Does it feed? Does it feel? It is a good breast. ~Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I picked up my old and tattered copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves again, just the other night. This book carried me through a tough time in my life, a time when I was hurting from a break-up that took me by surprise. In my healing process, I decided I needed to learn how to stay by my own side, no matter what, no matter how shiny the object of my desire was over there. That need to hop the fence can be so seductive. Reading Estés’ classic, I took my own hand in mine and walked deeper into the wild forest of me. Her words spoke to my soul in a way no other author has…except, perhaps, Marian Woodman.
So I picked up Estés’ book again, let it fall open, and it opened to the quote above.
The body like earth. A land unto itself. Vulnerable. Overbuilt, overmined, cut off, carved into parcels. Shorn of its power. Wild women. Breasts. Feeling and feeding.
Ahhhhh. Back in the land of the wild.
My mind went back thirty years to motherhood, to the times when I nursed my two babies. Such wondrous moments those were. I loved being a mother to babies. I loved nursing. I can still remember the feeling of the milk letting down when my babies cried. The connection between cry and breast, hunger and milk. All on its own, my body responded to my little ones’ cries for nourishment. The wisdom of the body, especially the female body that can bring life into life, can hold it while it grows, and can then birth it into being, is a mystery. It is sacred.
But even if we never feed our children from our breasts, or never have children, they are still wonderful parts with which to feel. Yes, our lovers can enjoy them; but we get to feel life through our breasts, sensations that let us know we are sensual creatures, that we love what we love.
When we are no longer focused on being the object of desire, but rather the subject, we can enjoy our bodies as the wild woman, the woman that knows her instincts, feelings and body from the inside out.
Desire, pleasure, feeling, aliveness. The body brings us into direct experience with life, back to our senses.
There is no ‘supposed to be’ in bodies. The question is not size of shape or years of age, or even having two of everything, for some do not. But the wild issue is, does this body feel, does it have right connection to pleasure, to heart, to soul, to the wild? Does it have happiness, joy? Can it in its own way move, dance, jiggle, sway, thrust? Nothing else matters.
These words go right to my soul.
When we see the body as an object to be manipulated and controlled, we are cut off from our wildness, from our instincts and intuition, from our power as women.
When we know our bodies as sacred flesh and bones, blood and heart, we open to how we can experience life through this body. Each cell can awaken to its divinity when we are willing to begin the descent, from our heads where we’ve been taught to live, back into the body, the only place where aliveness dwells.
It is through right connection to our own pleasure, through honoring the sacred within us, through embracing our design as women, that we find right connection to the wild and step into our power. Yes, others can enjoy our bodies, and their enjoyment will be so much greater, when we first are the subject of our own desire, when we hold ourselves as sacred, for we are the sacred feminine in physical form.
Does your body have happiness? Does it know joy?
How do you experience right connection to pleasure, heart, soul and the wild?
“We are the only species on earth capable of preventing our own flowering.” – david whyte
This quote floated across the Twittersphere yesterday, and grabbed my attention. When I posted it as my status on FaceBook, a lovely male friend commented in response, “Yet we are drawn to flowering. Such a juicy existence.”, causing me to pause and consider the dynamic tug of war between closing and opening, concealing and revealing, preventing and surrendering.
So many ways we fight what is. Human beings that is. Only human beings. At least as far as I can see, human beings are the only ones who try oh so hard not to be what we are.
Then, I thought of how much energy it would take for a plant to keep itself from blooming. Oh my. Can you imagine if a bud could keep itself from blooming? I can just see it trying to scrunch everything in, holding itself back and in as if holding its breath, trying so hard not to be what it is meant to be.
Or at the other end of the spectrum, if the plant desires to blossom, gets to the height of its bloom and then tries really hard, incredibly hard, to keep the bloom beautiful. forever. without a flaw. without losing its perkiness. without fading.
Fighting one’s design is exhausting. I know. I’ve done it all my life. Especially my design as a woman.
I’ve hid my deeply sensual nature. I’ve kept myself small. I’ve taken on others’ shame as my own. I’ve apologized over and over and over simply for taking up space, for being in the way, for reasons I didn’t even know, even as I was in the midst of doing it.
I’ve been really, really nice, keeping the anger and rage down inside where it won’t be seen so I won’t be seen as threatening or angry or a bitch.
As far as I know, flowers can’t choose. They do what they do because their intrinsic design is to do that. But people, we get to choose. We get to self-reflect. We get to do this dance between ego and soul, a dance between pretending and being.
Fighting one’s design is the never ending staircase, the infinite treadmill, the highway to hell, but you never get to hell, because no matter how hard you pedal, you end up exactly where you started. I call it ‘the project’.
Preventing flowering IS hell.
As I let myself feel my exhaustion, when I stop and allow the full force of my dance with the illusion of my not-enoughness to flow over me, something else makes itself known. It is always there. It’s just doesn’t clamor for my attention. It doesn’t have to. It’s just what is.
It’s the wake up call to remembrance.
It’s the quiet, yet insistent, push to bloom, to flower, to be the one I know I really am. The one I allow myself to see in rare fleeting glimpses. The one that flashes across my face sometimes when I’m caught off guard looking in the mirror. The one that scares the hell out of me because of its persistence. The one that scares the hell out of me because of its beauty.
You know the one I’m talking about… the you that takes your own breath away.
My project has exhausted me for years. And, it shape-shifts. Just when I think I am being real and truthful and risky, I can feel the oh so familiar tightness and constriction of the project taking over again.
Let me make something really clear. The project is NOT bad. It is a ingenious survival strategy to stay safe when young. It’s filled with well-meaning parts that will do whatever it takes to keep safe. The only thing is, if the urge to bloom is there, then the project is standing in the way of blossoming. And, hence, creating exhaustion.
It can feel really risky to be the you that takes your breath away. But, in my experience, it hurts like hell to keep hiding it. The body suffers. The soul suffers. Hiding this you is fighting your design as a soul, as a human being, as a woman.
Beauty appears when something is completely & absolutely & openly itself. ~Deena Metzger
Beauty is something being what it is – completely. Sometimes this learning to allow beauty it is messy. Sometimes I don’t feel beautiful, but then I remember THAT beauty was the beauty I was taught to believe in…not the beauty of something being real. messy. powerful. strong. This is the beauty that pushes the seedling up to the light, the bud to open, the petals to fall, the flower to die.
Right now, there is a force calling us forth to be beautiful, to be completely and absolutely and openly ourselves. Yes, it is very persistent and fierce force, like truth always is, because, as Andrew Harvey says,
“Everything is at stake, and everything is possible.”
This force is compelling women to blossom. Fully. In all our feminine majesty. It is time.
How we fear the descent into the depths of our own bodies.
We’ve been well trained to fear our flesh. All the lies we have been told about our bodies, and most especially our female bodies, rise up to face us when we decidedly choose to descend into our totally human, yet utterly divine, bodies. But, the descent is the most necessary thing we must do to become completely alive. Awareness from the shoulders up is like living powered by a 15-watt light bulb. It makes life dim and makes it hard to really experience the fullness of the world we live in.
This new work, presented by Karuna and Andrew, was profoundly transformational in how it opened the heart through the gentle yoga moves and beautiful poetry of the masters, such as Rumi, Mirabai and Hafez. As I moved slowly through these Heart Yoga postures, glimmerings of light began to make their presence known from deep within my heart. The experience had a very ephemeral quality to it, a quality that contrasted starkly with the seemingly solid nature of my body. I was aware of the gentleness of the moves and how this gentle nature invited the heart to open, rather than pushing anything to happen.
Sometimes things in life seem so static and solid. So fixed and unmovable. So unrelenting. I know I have concretized so much of life, especially the places I fear – like the body – like my body. And, I’ve done a lot of embodiment work – and I still know there are many nooks and crannies where I harbor feelings of shame and dislike towards this most amazing temple that houses my soul.
Which leads me to another thing about Oak Park. This beautiful Mid-western town just outside Chicago, is the home of many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural beauties, including his masterpiece, the Unity Temple.
Yesterday, the Monday morning after our long weekend filled with work with the body, I took a last walk through town, making sure to make it to Wright’s Unity Temple, as I hadn’t yet seen this famous iconic work. I am a huge fan of Wright, having studied his work at length in my year-long foray into the study of architecture.
When I came upon it, I was transfixed by the totality of concrete Wright used in the temple.
So much concrete.
Such small windows.
In my life, when days feel difficult and I feel stuck and find myself thrashing around trying to make sense of the world and what’s happening in it, I tend to think of my body as this solid form, much like the concrete walls of Wright’s temple. Sometimes, I even feel like I have these tiny openings to the world, so small that only a little bit of my light shines out (and, conversely, only a little of the world’s light gets in.
In gazing at Wright’s Unity Temple, I wondered why he would have created such think, heavy walls, and I suddenly sensed this analogy between the human body, and its gross layers of tissue, bone, muscle and blood, and the more ephemeral quality of the subtle body within, made up of energy and life force, and the ephemeral quality of the heart. I don’t know what Wright was thinking, but the correlation between his design and my embodiment work of the weekend was profound.
The church as temple – the body as temple. Gross layers of seemingly heavy and solid matter that, from the outside, look like a fortress within which darkness prevails.
We humans tend to concretize our bodies, meaning we believe ourselves to be solid and simply bodies, when in reality, according to quantum physics, our bodies are really billions of cells, that contain mostly space. When we concretize our bodies, we see them as objects. We can’t be in them, meaning we pretty much live with awareness down to about our necks. In a concretized body, there is no fluidity, no sense of the life force within and no connection to all that lies outside of it.
In the Heart Yoga, we were tenderly led through a series of poses and instructions to awaken all the cells of our body to the light that is within, to fill the cells with this heart light that is sourced from the sun. The light is without, and the light can fill all that which lies within.
As I stood outside the church, imagining what the interior space was like to inhabit, I remembered having the same experience as I envisioned the light from the sun filling the cells of my body. Somehow, as I envisioned the light filling my body, I had begun to experience my body, not as a bunch of bones, muscles, and blood, but rather as a billion cells dancing with light and life force. Now, seeing the temple and imagining it filled with light from the sun, and light within, I wondered about the temple itself, not as defined by the concrete walls, but rather defined by the space within it, by the light and life that makes up the intereior of the temple.
Then, as if by divine magic, I walked past a sign indicating that the temple was open for tours. And, on this sign was a quote by Wright that seemed to align with what I had experienced:
Is this the reality of the body when we open to it as a temple of our divine nature? Is the reality of the body the space within? I suppose in everyday life, as we walk down the street passing each other, we only see the concrete walls of each other’s bodies, with small bits of light emanating from within, usually through the twinkle of an eye, or the flash of a smile. And, in our own experience, we only sense small amounts of light, if any at all, of our true nature.
Do the walls of our bodies, simply help us to know that another unique being lives within? What if we were to shift our perspective and see the body, not as the exterior characteristics available to the eye, but instead to the space within, to the vibrant creative life-force that infuses it with creativity, with love and with compassion?
Is the reality of our building, our human body, simply the materials we have been taught to believe it is, or are we really something more, that space within the body, and within the cells of our body?
Marion Woodmanspeaks of the goddess as the luminous, ephemeral nature of the light filling the earthly cells of the body. In other words, the goddess is not something that we take on, another role we play, where we wear flowing gowns and flowers in our hair. It is the awakening in the cells of matter, the billions of cells in the body, to the light of the source from which all life comes. When we open ourselves to the light that is the love and compassion that emanates from our own radiant hearts, that light floods all parts of our bodies and is the experience of our divine, sacred nature merging with our immanent earthly body.
This is the transformation of consciousness that we must make if we are to awaken to the sacred nature of earth and all that lives here. When we know that all of life is the goddess, the sacredness that we yearn to know, then we’ll realize it is within us and is without in the entirety of the world around us.
On Wright’s Unity Temple, above the entrance door, the following is inscribed:
For the Worship of God
And, is this body, this profane human body that takes so much abuse and punishment, so much self-hatred, and so many centuries of criticism from culture, religion and society, really for the worship of God? Are we here, in these bodies, to experience life on earth in its entirety, with hearts that are open and embracing of the simplest moments?
If we look out the eyes of our own body, onto the world around us, what if we were to gaze with eyes that know the divine spark within? What if, as light-filled beings we could see that light in everything around us, realizing that our temple is not simply a place of worship, but also a place where we gaze onto life with eyes of love?
In the past, we have separated out a house of worship from the profane space around it. That has led to the belief that everything outside of the temple is profane. But not all peoples have believed this. Indigenous cultures have worshiped life itself, the sky, the earth, all living creatures, and the four elements that make up our world.
As I contemplate this understanding that came from my experience this weekend, I know what I have understood for some time now, but in a deeper way. The human body is built for the worship of God, not the God that sits on high and judges, but the God that is the light, is the heart, is the ephemeral love that resides in every atom that comprises life.
It is only by way of this divinely human body that we can experience the multitude of blessings that life brings. It is through this doorway to life that we taste, hear, touch, see, and smell life. It is through this body that we become fully aware of the sacred nature of all of life.