Self-determined and Full of a Flourishing Sense of Self-worth

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“The roots of the word “wild” are thought to be found in welt, meaning forest or wildwood and willed. To be wild is to be wooded, to be willed. Self-willed, self-determined: not under the will or rule of another; unruly, uncontrollable.” – Kara Moses

 

Most of us, even those of us who’ve done ‘a lot of work’, are still somewhat far away from ourselves, still somehow tied to others, still living under their edicts that bind us to express ourselves in predictable and patterned ways. Even if those ‘others’ are long gone from our daily lives, their voices and faces are etched deeply inside of us. For the most part, we live out their judgments and injunctions unknowingly, carrying on many ancestral stories that no longer serve us or our ancestral lines.

We are raised into captivity, losing our wildness early on. In our lives, we move along lines of habit and routine, for the most part not realizing just how much we are still under the rule of the past.

I remember being a strong, passionate, and physical girl. I remember learning to reign myself in, to control myself, to un-unruly myself. Big, vibrant flowers have always been my favorite. Bright colors. A boisterous laugh. Early self-confidence eventually eroded into a predictable habit of cautious choices, always checking to see if my presence was too-much-enough for authority figures to frown, learning to be very careful. Learning to be controlled by myself. One frown became enough to reign me in. I didn’t always remember this. We forget over time. But we can remember. We can re-wild.

Over the past few decades, slowly but surely parts of my essential nature became known again. I began to feel more alive and in touch with that magical, mystical Soul Self within. Essential nature is what we are, essential as in fundamental, basic, important, and vital. These describe the simplicity of Self. It is what it is. You are what you are. There is great power in realizing this. Even though we learn to complicate it all, we never lose our essential nature and we can return to being self-determined.

I’ve come to see that self-determined is to follow our ‘bliss’ in Joseph Campbells’ definition – to express the ‘push out of our own existence.’ Our own existence is our wild, simple, essential nature. It is our life force. And it is the source of true expression. It is our bliss. It is love.

To be this SELF-determined is to be guided by the deep intelligence of Life that breathes us into being. THIS is true power, the power of creativity and creation to live as a Self-determined being. THIS is power-from-within. THIS is the power of love, to live as a powerful, loving, life-affirming presence on Earth.

THIS is a flourishing condition within, a flourishing Self-worth, aligned, rooted, and dynamically in vital expression.

When we reclaim and live Self-love, Self-respect, Self-trust, and Self-confidence, we are reclaiming these qualities of living that rise up out of our essential nature. Our Essence doesn’t lose these; rather, the part of us that learned to believe we were too much or not enough works very hard to keep up that story of being something else other than our fundamental vital self.

Recently, I remembered learning to fear my confidence and self-assertion specifically. Little girls who are confident – especially back in the 60’s – were taught to mute and quiet. Words like bossy and pushy were used. So of course, that energy went underground and turned into anger at not being able to be and express my essential Self. My Essence was never bossy and pushy. It is strong, determined, and powerful. Being told we are bossy and pushy are ways to get us to tame our power. Bossy and pushy, or muted and cautious, then become the way we use our power in the world when it is trapped and unable to be unruly and wild.

We can re-wild ourselves and we can find our essential Self-confidence and Self-trust. We can find, again, our essential Self-respect and ability to love the whole of ourselves, even the parts of us who continue to attempt to keep us contained. We come to know them when we come back into relationship with Self. And we do this by turning within and listening for what has always been here – that deep intelligence that breathes us into being and longs for us to remember our nature.

*****

PlumbTreePLUMB!
I recently began to sense a new metaphor to describe Self-determination and sovereignty. When you are rooted and aligned in a deep, rich sense of Self-worth, you are filled from within with dignity, strength, and a knowing that who and what you are at your core is worthy just as you are, regardless of your outer circumstances and others’ opinions of you and your life. This is what it means to be Plumb.

So how do you get ‘off plumb’? You come to distrust what is within you. You come to lose respect for who you truly are. You come to lose confidence in what you know, desire, and long to speak and express. You believe that you are under the power of another human being.

I’m offering a five-week course called PLUMB where we will turn our attention to our fundamental and vital nature while remembering and reclaiming all the ways we know respect, trust, and confidence for who we truly are. These things are within us and when we give our attention to them, bringing them into the light of awareness, they can flourish within us once again.

The early-bird price is good through Jan 1st, 2019. I sense this will be both a deep and pleasurable way into discovering and remembering our unruly selves and a palpable foundational feeling of Self-worth. I hope you’ll join us. And feel free to pass this along to women you sense might be interested.

Happy New Year!

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Love in a Time of Personal Power

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Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

 

“We have put the value of love — of life, self, and others, — in combative opposition to the value of personal empowerment. In actuality, these two values should be more like the Eastern concepts of Yang and Yin, which are not combative. Rather, they compliment each other as opposites while retaining their own identities, reaching toward a universal harmony. Love needs empowerment to have strength and substance, and empowerment needs love in order to have value, purpose, and meaning.”
— Massimilla Harris and Bud Harris (Into the Heart of the Feminine)

 

I grew up during the second wave of Feminism. I remember those years of women fighting for equality. And, I remember how they were treated for wanting equality.

Looking back now, I see that the call was for equality but not really for love for all of life, for justice for all, for the leveling out of the playing field for all.

It’s clear the feminine (as she appears in all human beings and in all of life) has been missing when we see the ways in which the power structures and institutions of our western culture values some lives more than others. When we discriminate against some lives and not others, when we commodify lives, when we don’t provide safety and care for all lives, we are witnessing the lack of the feminine in our institutional, systemic, and individual behavior.

Over the past two decades, many of us have found ourselves on this deep reclamation of the feminine.

She called and many of us answered, not really knowing what that meant.

The feminine (yin) can only be known in relation to the masculine (yang), and the masculine only known in relation to the feminine. In Chinese Medicine, this relational dynamic is understood as an elemental way of seeing and knowing life. Everything is related and nothing truly stands on its own. So when I speak of the feminine, I speak from this perspective. I am not speaking of women and men, but rather the energies of yin and yang.

The feminine is dark as related to the light. The feminine is moist as related to dryness. The feminine is non-linear as related to linearity. These aren’t moral leanings. They describe life and all life entails, including death.

The feminine is the mystery. She doesn’t reveal herself in clearly defined ways. Instead, she reveals herself through symbol, intuition, dreams, and the deep imagination of the inner world. But, the feminine has been revealing herself back into the world of form and we’ve begun to see the world in new ways. We’ve come to see how the feminine appears in this world.

We have so far to go to truly hold all of life as sacred, worthy, and equal. I believe one of the reasons we have not done so is that we don’t know the feminine. We don’t clearly see her. And, because we don’t see her clearly in relation to the masculine, which has had a greater presence in our world, we don’t see that the nature of life itself is to live not for itself but for the whole.

This is how the feminine moves in all of us — not hierarchically, but relationally. The feminine cares for life — all of life. Not some life. And not just life that is commodifiable. She cares for all of life equally.

The feminine is Eros. And Eros is love. Eros nurtures the impulse to live. And the living of Eros moves in such a way to ensure the preservation of the human species.

But the feminine is not moving within all of us because we haven’t become conscious of how she is within us. And we become conscious of how she is within us when we come to see what is hidden within us when we find the courage to face that which we haven’t wanted to see. When we do this, our hearts can break open. Our compassion can flow. And, our love can pour forth.

We can come to remember our wholeness.

While we’ve been seeking empowerment and equality, this twin ‘value of love’ has not been championed in the same way.

“We are liberating our empowerment, yet at the same time, we are denying our inherent abilities to like, nourish, and take loving care of ourselves and to make the love of ourselves, others, and life the dominant value we try to live by.”
– Massimillia Harris & Bud Harris

We want to be equal to men. We want to be empowered. But to what end?

Ultimately, it must be for the love of all things, all beings, all of life. For this is the nature of the feminine. She does not discriminate. She does not exclude. She does not favor one child over another.

Empowerment needs love in order to have value, purpose, and meaning.

What does empowerment do for us and the mess we find ourselves in if we aren’t caring for all beings if we aren’t using this power to liberate all of life from the effects of our out of balance, hyper-masculine western culture, exemplified by racism and white supremacy? The feminine does not hold any aspect of life supreme over any other, any expression of life over any other, any incarnation of life over any other.

Yes! Love truly “needs empowerment to have strength and substance.”

We must do what it takes to free the Love within ourselves, otherwise, we are still stuck in the old paradigm of ‘what’s in it for me’ where there is little true value offered to the whole of life through our work. And when we do free ourselves, we then have the strength and substance to bring Love to the forefront of our work in the world.

When we face all of the intense conditioning within us — everything that feels so hard to face and own — we often feel guilt and shame when we finally do. But here’s the thing. It is through feeling these very things that love frees up within us. When we truly stay with everything that comes to call on us, asking for us to face it, our hearts can open to the life that is here — to all of life, not just some of it.

This is how we do the deeper work we must do. We do what is ours to do. We face what is within us so that our hearts can do what our hearts know is true to do. This is how Love moves.

And for those of us who’ve said yes to Love and have been uncomfortable saying yes to power, myself included, it is time to bring these two together. Power-over, how we see power playing out in our world, is a zero-sum game. But power born of love is power-from-within, and this power is the expression of our deepest being into the world. It is our life force. It is Soul born from the deep Love that moves all things. It is generative. It is inviting. It is intelligent in the way of Life.

It can be frightening to live our power when our true power has been suppressed. We’ve feared our power for suppressed power fears harming others. We know somewhere that if we unleash it, it can be harmful. Yet, by not addressing it, we harm, too. Our true strength and power are of life itself. When we come to trust life itself, we come to trust that which flows through us and that which flows through all — the Source of life itself.

We cannot have true empowerment without having the conscious understanding that we are given our lives as a gift, that all of life is of equal value, worth, and beauty, and that we are here to serve the continuation of life itself. When we are willing to see what is standing in the way of this knowing and willing to do the work to dismantle it, I sense we will be able to live for life itself and to live life as the gift that it is.

Again, the feminine is the mystery. When we sit in what we don’t yet know and are unwilling to face what we must feel in order to know it, we’ll suffer and cause suffering. Everything is conspiring for us to end this suffering and liberate ourselves and the whole.

Originally published at JulieDaley.com

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You are your own Oasis

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Photo by Max Guillaud on Unsplash

Eyes that wanted to take
frightened me so

I hid the most beautiful parts of me
But that only grew my own thirst.

I am my own Oasis.

 

There are many reasons we hide the most beautiful parts of ourselves.
Many of us humans learn to be takers. Takers of all that is not ours. Believing that anything can be ours if we simply decide we want it, then doing whatever we must do to get it.

Big things.

Little things.

We take to fill holes inside.

And we hide in order to not be taken.

Not everyone does this. But so many do.

 

I hid my most beautiful parts. Parts that seemed to be wanted the most. Prized parts according to some. Parts that I thought must be most beautiful because they were what others hungered for.

And I learned to take, too, to fill holes. And, I’ve learned they are unfillable. Because nothing can be owned and no one’s stuff can fill another.

If you grow up in a world where there are few boundaries, you find a way to inhabit that world and still stay {relatively} {hanging by a thread sometimes} sane. Look at so much of this patriarchal culture — few to fewer boundaries.

When there are no to few boundaries, all sorts of taking and giving away goes on. We learn how to survive…well…until we can no longer survive that way.

At some point, we see that we’ve hidden ourselves. From others. But mostly from ourselves. Those luscious, soft and tender, vulnerable places long to be revealed again. Those hot and fiery places long to express. We are full and glorious creatures. There is a lot to us.

The thirst can become so hot and so big until we see that nothing can quench it. Nothing outside of ourselves can. But the places and parts were hidden and so we don’t know where to go to be quenched.

Until…

Until all else fails and we are left with ourselves. And our thirst is hot and big. And we come to see there is a great well inside of us, a well that is deep and lush and verdant. And, we see there is no need to thirst any longer if we’d only go within, bow down, and drink.

Go within.

Bow down.

Drink.

The well awaits.

You are your own Oasis.

 

(Writing Raw begins April 3rd)

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The Force that compels us to Rise

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Rising for Justice

For many people around our planet, February 14th is becoming associated with One Billion Rising, a global campaign to demand an end to violence against women and girls. We rise as women, as men, as human beings who know another world is possible and who are willing to speak out to help bring about this new world.

onebillionrising2014This year, One Billion Rising was about rising for Justice.*** One Billion Rising is a tidal wave of change IF we understand it is not a fad to take part in and then move on to another, but rather a clear opportunity to verbalize and put into action our desire to end this violence.

For many of us in Western cultures, it’s Valentine’s Day, too. This past Friday night, Feb. 14th, 2014, I had the pleasure and joy of co-hosting a One Billion Rising women’s movement ritual with Stacey Butcher and Lakshmi Devi. Stacey, a 5Rhythms teacher, hosted a 5Rhythms wave; Lakshmi, a singer and songwriter, sang her songs, and invited us to sing as we moved into stillness at the end of the dance; and I shared writings and poetry, as well as recorded spoken-word poetry mixed with a beautiful instrumental song at the end of the dance wave.

Here I share with you what I shared on Friday evening. I hope it inspires you to listen for the deep wisdom inside of you, and feel for the force that will cause you to rise and stand for what you know in your heart to be true, and for a kinder, more tender world where all can live in dignity without fear of violence.

::

Love and Justice

Today we celebrate love. Today we rise for Justice. The two are inescapably linked.

When we love Life, Life itself that gives us this life, we cannot help but feel the call for justice in our bones – a justice that honors life itself.

Tonight we are sharing in a movement ritual. As I was preparing for tonight, I wondered what ritual is really about and I found this excerpt from an interview with Joseph Campbell.

“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.”

Tonight we are here together to move in ritual, as women who desire to rise in service to justice. And, through this ritual, we are here to be reminded of the wisdom of our own lives, the wisdom that is within us, a wisdom that has been within us all along.

We are here to remember the mythology that is at the heart of our lives as women in a world that is so much more than what we sometimes see it to be.

 

So, What is it to rise?

What does that even mean? Rising is a movement upwards. If we are rising, what are we rising up from? And what is behind the rising?

What is the force that compels us to rise? 

The invitation tonight is to dance these questions, to dance yourself open enough to hear a response from within you, a response from your wise self, your Soul.

This wise self is instinctive and instinctual. She is visceral, animal, and primordial. She is feral. She is wide-eyed and sensual.

Your Soul knows how to rise.

Rising is in your blood and bones. It is in your cells. It is in your belly, because love desires to move through you, to rise you up into the world, way beyond what your mind thinks you are capable of. And love desires to move us all to live in accordance with what love desires, not what we desire.

“Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is ‘getting,’ and grow up into the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.” ~Thomas Merton

 

Many years ago,

I danced in Mill Valley, on a Tuesday night with Kathy Altman. Leading the class, she did something truly extraordinary…at least it was for me. I remember that night like it is this night. I remember it because I was led to dance a dance where I was so awake, so alive, deep in the cells of my body, that every move was imprinted in my cells.

This dance was visceral. It was instinctive. My Soul danced this dance, and then we wrote this as a way to capture words about something beyond words.

 

Tonight I danced.

Tonight I danced and came alive.
Tonight I danced and cried and pulsed and throbbed.

She told us to make our presence known.
She asked us to step so strongly there was no question we had been there.

She reminded us to track ourselves,
to be so aware of where we had been and where we were going,
so much so that our path wrapped its way around and around us until we were tightly wound balls of Being.

My hands connected,
molasses-like energy stretching from mama earth to the tips of my fingers.
As I perched on my paws, I felt her kindred spirit suck me into her tendrils of love.

Tonight I danced and came alive.
I felt his pulse, absorbing it into my body.
I felt her love, letting it run down my arm and fill my heart.
I felt their joy, knowing it was mine, too.
I knew other as self.

Tonight I danced and came alive.

So, tonight…

Here, together, let us come alive.

Tonight, together, let us dance these questions.

Tonight, remember the wisdom within you, reveal your instincts, feel the desire in your body to dance into its wholeness. Our bodies are creatures, instinctual creatures with hearts, longings, and voices that must speak.

::

 

Later, at then end of the dance as we moved into stillness, Stacey played a song that was a compilation of my spoken words and a powerful instrumental piece by Max Richter, On the Nature of Daylight.

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever life has brought your way, whatever injustices, betrayals, or abuses you have experienced, you have survived.

You are here. Alive. Breathing. Dancing.

Whatever injustices, betrayals, or abuses you have perpetrated, you have survived.

You are here. Now. Alive. Whole.

Breathe this in, really take this knowing in. That you are here, alive, whole, and awake regardless of what happened in your past. Feel this aliveness in every cell of your body, a body that longs to know this aliveness, longs to live its fullness. Allow your heart to expand to the capacity that is its nature. Allow your arms to spread as wide and open as they long to be. Allow your belly to pulse and swell with the primordial creation that infuses your being with this precious life.

You are here, on this earth. You are alive on our beautiful planet. You are whole, a wholeness that is filled from the mother.

And, it is time to bring this aliveness to the world. To bring your wholeness to this world that is hungry for feeling, thirsty for truth, dying to be alive, wanting to be touched.

This is your gift to this world. Your aliveness. Your wholeness. Your breath. Your beauty. And to live this is to live what life is asking of you, what life is asking you to give. It is yours and yet it is not. It is given. It is given to you, through you, so that you can in turn give it forth.

It is this simple. Spend every breath completely, but not just for yourself. Spend it for Life, for others, for what is coming into being, for what is being born.

Be full. Be whole. Be love. Be truth.

 

There is already a mythology and an inherent wisdom within us that knows how to move mountains, and to birth something new.

riseupreclaimbadge275

Dance yourself open. Listen Deeply. Track yourself. Come back and tell us what you discover.

Allow it to show you where Justice lies, where Hope lives, where Love beckons.Open to this Force within. Dance, listen, and allow it to move you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed and have been inspired by these words.

If so, I ask you to share in the comments below how they’ve inspired you to rise.
I ask you to share with other women and men you know who are ready for similar inspiration.

If you’d like to read about last year’s rising, you can download this complimentary eBook, ‘rise up & reclaim’.

 

*** from OneBillionRising.Org:
ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice – courthouses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not.  It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.

Leading Image: LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by mikebaird

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Addressed, Not Discussed.

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Raven called to me.
I stood silent, listening.

Raven took flight, then circled in infinity loops.
I stood silent, watching from the center point.

Raven flew away.
I stood silent, remembering.

 

Bear Witness

The other day, I was walking home and Raven called to me. I knew it was Raven, not Crow, for Raven sings a different song than Crow. I knew Raven was speaking to me, because my body responded to the call. I hear Ravens call everyday. There are many who fly and call in the place where I live. And when I hear these calls, my body listens; yet, my body rarely responds in the way it did on this day.

When my body responded by opening to a conversation, it turned to look directly at Raven. Raven was sitting atop a four-story apartment building, and as my body turned and my eyes came into contact, Raven looked directly at me…then turned away, then turned back, then turned away, then turned back…and Raven’s glance then rested upon mine.

We stood there simply seeing each other without sound for about a minute. As I addressed Raven with my awareness, a beautiful light emanated from all around Raven. And then, Raven took flight and swooped down to just above me, and began to fly in figure eights, with the center point of this infinity sign directly above me. Raven flew these arcs multiple times as I looked open and up, watching with a kind of quiet amazement. I continued to listen, taking Raven in, as Raven spoke to me in song and flight. And as Raven flew away, I could feel the gift left in Raven’s wake. I could feel a remembering taking place in my soul.

I stood there for another few minutes just feeling this remembering taking root, a remembering that never became rational but rather laid itself out in layers, layers woven throughout my being.

I wrote this poem directly flowing this delightful conversation. It flowed from my heart. It flowed from Raven.


Addressed instead of discussed.

I just finished a book that opened a window wider into the reality of this world we live in, this world that includes Raven. I’ve remembered layers of this world, a world my body knows, but one I was not raised in. It’s the world as a vibrant, alive creation; a world where all of life is interrelated.

In Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Martín Prechtel writes about how all of the adults in the Mayan village where he lived knew the ‘Respect Names’ for ‘deified forces’:

“The same was true for fire, lake, mountains, and many other natural forces. All these things were alive and had to be addressed as kin when in their presence, otherwise they would be insulted. The same etiquette used for humans extended to the world. Thus the things of the world were addressed instead of discussed.”

When I read these words, I stopped reading. I took them in…the difference between being addressed and discussed. I remembered back to childhood, how I felt discussed and not addressed – seen but not heard. I remembered how I felt many times as a woman when I was discussed and not addressed.

One time in particular, when I worked in an office as a department manager, a male co-worker from a different department came into our office, looked around and then said, “Where is everyone?” He meant the men. A few other women and I were very present, very there, but he did not address us.

How many times have I done that to others in my life? How many times have I looked toward a face, or faces, and not seen the soul(s) standing right in front of me?

But it is more than even this. With regard to life, there is a hierarchy of worth and value in our world. It is clear than certain human beings have more supposed value and worth, hence more rights and privilege, than others. And the rest of life? Raven? Crow? So far down on the scale.

Everything alive not only deserves, but is created, to be addressed with dignity and respect. We only discuss things when we are seeing them as things…not alive…simply objects…simply things that we don’t value, or that we feel separate from.

When we address we signal a desire to be in communion with, to learn from, to be affected by, and to affect. When we address another, we open the door to remembering the wholeness of our soul, the soul of the being we are addressing, and the soul of the earth as mother to all beings.

 

Remembering Wholeness

Wholeness knows these things. Wholeness addresses. Wholeness addresses woman with dignity and respect, with love and sisterhood, with a remembrance of connection that happens when we lead with wholeness, not with our wounding.

Like Raven, we can learn to walk in two worlds, the world that doesn’t acknowledge wholeness, and the world that only knows wholeness.

Like Raven, we can engage with life through our bodies, bodies that long to address and be addressed.

To do so means we must address our bodies, not discuss them.

To do so means we listen to our bodies, rather than pretend they are ignorant creatures with no wisdom to guide us.

To do so means we realize that everything has inherent value and that everything is sacred, including our bodies, including Raven, including other women, including all beings, including all of life.

Address life and you’ll see life has always been addressing you.

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Women as Noble Beings

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I was born in the ‘50s, and grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I remember shows like Donna Reed and Father Knows Best, where the Mother was always wearing an apron and being sweet and kind, and the Father was the breadwinner and the wise one. By the end of each show, everyone was happy, all problems were resolved, and everyone knew their place. On the surface, so many families seemed to be the same; yet, underneath, most were not even close.

In this kind of ‘pretend’ environment, my parents divorced in 1964. I remember how hard it was for my mother when she became a single mother with three little girls, trying to make ends meet to put enough food on the table and keep the roof over our heads. I remember how afraid she was, how alone she felt, and how judged single mothers were at that time.

I remember the feminist movement. I remember people (not only men) totally trashing the women who were speaking out. These women were speaking out to effect real change so that women, like my mother, could get better jobs, earn more money, and have a modicum of respect in the culture. We were trying to break free from the chains and bindings that had kept women contained. I remember how these women who led the women’s liberation movement were called horrible and ugly names for speaking out.

At my young age, I remember how much I feared being cast-out like that, cast-out for speaking out with power about the truth of how things really were…and are. I am not saying all feminists were right and righteous, and those who opposed them bad; what I am saying is that the cultural paradigm of patriarchy rose up fast and hard to put these women back in their place. It wasn’t pretty.

I remember the not-so-easy discourse around the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). I remember wondering why on earth we needed the ERA. I had learned in school that we were all equal under the constitution. I was beginning to see that real life did not reflect our founding documents or what we saw on television. In growing up, I was beginning to clearly see the truth of the world I was becoming an adult in.

I remember being amazed that the ERA did not get ratified in all fifty states. It is still only in effect in twenty-one states. I remember wondering why people would not want women to have equal rights? What was that about?

In hindsight, I see how the women’s liberation movement had to push hard against a societal construct that was trying to keep women controlled and dominated – in the kitchen, or if they were working, making much less pay with a whole lot less options; how it seemed like the only way out was to prove that we could do what men did just as well as they did it; and how ‘traditional women’s work’ was not the only thing we could do.

I sit here remembering so many ways in which women have been undervalued for far too long. I sit here remembering how hard women, and some men, have worked for equality for women.

It took decades of women fighting for the right to vote to finally win what in hindsight seems only right and natural. Why?

Now in my fifties, a grandmother to four beautiful children, I see this world as it is right now in 2013. I see how little heart is in the institutions of our current culture. I see, still, how little our culture values traditionally ‘feminine’ things such as caring for the poor, teaching the young, honoring the elderly, valuing wisdom, taking care of the planet, and making sure all people have access to basic human needs.

I see that somewhere back in the history of humans, caring for children, caring for others, and caring for the home became something less than, something looked down upon, something not of value. I see how women still are not valued, how feminine traits are denigrated, while masculine ones continue to be praised and admired.

What has this devaluation of the feminine done to our world? When we don’t value, deeply value, that which is at the root of relieving suffering in human lives and the human heart, valuing the very planet on which our lives (and the future lives of generations to come) depend, and seeing the beauty and sacredness of life itself, what do our lives boil down to?

Woman in a barley field, Ladakh, India.

Tenderness of the heart and tending the hearth are not inconsequential offerings. Both literally and metaphorically, our world is hungering for these.

It is inhumane to expect people to continually pull themselves up by their own ‘bootstraps’ without needing anything from anyone. That is what’s expected in a hyper-masculine culture where being needy for anything or anyone is weak, and holding emotions in is strong and righteous. It is inhuman and inhumane.

What is human is the way of the heart, of connection and relationship. We do need each other. It’s a very human thing to need each other. Being human is a vulnerable proposition. To think otherwise, is to pretend we are separate from each other, or that we are machines of some kind.

I remember, somewhere deep within me, a time when I knew life differently as a woman, a time when women walked as noble beings. We can walk again as noble beings, knowing we embody the Feminine and are sacred vessels for life. We can walk again as noble beings, knowing the earth, too, is a sacred vessel for life. It is a deeply sacred relationship women’s bodies have with the earth body.To bring the heart back into life, it is time we women value our femaleness: our power to nurture and nourish, our ability to feel deeply, our wisdom that fills our bones, our vibrant and sacred creativity, our vital life force that fuels our sexuality, our powerful voices, and our capacity for fierce, fierce love. This is not in place of our ability to get things done in the world – we know how to do this. Rather, it is bringing this awareness, this value, and this knowing back into our daily lives.

In valuing these things, we bring ourselves back into balance, a balance of the masculine and feminine within. As we do this, as we embody our femaleness, aware of the sacredness of our bodies, we model what it is to respect the feminine in a world that has forgotten how to do so. And as we do this, we hold out our hands and hearts to the men in our lives, inviting them to do the same – to respect the feminine within us and to embody the feminine within themselves.

May we all, women and men, walk on the earth with feet of love. May we all become conscious of the immense gift of life, and allow this knowing to wake us up to the joyful responsibility we have to be engaged, creative, and giving members of this world village.

::

Originally posted at Roots of She.

 

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Patriarchy vs Love: Time for Men to RISE

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I came across this post today and my heart broke open. I began to cry. I read them again, and I began to weep. I was taken aback by the intensity of feeling. I had no idea I would feel so seen, so understood, so hopeful upon hearing words such as these for the first time in my life from men I’d never met. The chains are breaking.

What I love about this post, is that it happened spontaneously, on the street, between two men who were strangers. And, as they spoke of what was happening, they expressed such grief and love, and wondered how they could change it. Then, they went on their way.

I wrote to the author, Dan Mahle, and asked if I could share the post here with you. He said, Yes.

This post was  originally published at Change From Within, by Jamie Utt, Dan’s friend. Here we go…

::

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

This week’s post comes from a dear friend.

Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.

 

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One Conversation: A Call to Men

I had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”

When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.

He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.

Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.

I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”

We talked about how important it would be for more men to have honest conversations about patriarchy and its countless negative impacts on us and on the women in our lives. Both of us acknowledged, though, that these kinds of safe spaces for male emotional expression are few and far between.

I gave him a hug and he said, “I love you, man.” We had met just 5 minutes before, but the moment of solidarity and healing that we shared in that short space was profound.

It got me thinking: Why don’t we, as men, seek out more spaces for truthful sharing about our feelings and our experiences with patriarchy? Why don’t we talk about violence against women, about sexism, and about rape culture? The ‘1 Billion Rising’ movement is based on a single, chilling statistic: One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

That’s 1 billion women worldwide. How can we say that we love the women in our lives, even as we are perpetuating (consciously or unconsciously) a culture of violence against them?” Every day that we are silent, the cycle of violence continues.

The Cost of Patriarchy

This is where shame often comes in. I’ve known it by many names: frustration, defensiveness, anger, aggression, rage, a need for control, etc. But it all comes back to shame. It all comes back to some deep-seated feeling of unworthiness that keeps us from meeting our most fundamental human need: the need to feel loved.

While women in our society are taught that their worth depends on their physical beauty, men are taught that our worth depends upon our performance, our control, our accomplishments. At some point, like so many women, many of us realize that we will never be able to fulfil the expectations placed on us. But instead of questioning the patriarchal culture that has burdened us with these perverse and insatiable demands, we come to believe that who we are is not good enough.

In an effort to avoid feelings of vulnerability, we methodically replace emotional expression with emotional numbness. And so, in our disconnection from self and others, we unlearn what it means to truly love.

As bell hooks puts it in her book, The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love, “The reality is that men are hurting and that the whole culture responds to them by saying, ‘Please do not tell us what you feel.’”

When we forget what it means to love, we often desperately search for cheap replacements: we work long hours at work in an attempt to receive praise and recognition; we watch porn or buy prostitutes in a distorted attempt to feel loved and sexually fulfilled; we buy an endless number of things in an attempt to fill the painful void of loneliness within. Until we, as men, face our fear of vulnerability and begin telling each other what we feel, nothing will change.

Right now, there is a powerful, growing movement of women who are rising up all around the world to demand an end to violence. This movement is a struggle for equality, but it is also a call back to love. It is an invitation to all people to transform the dominant culture from a culture of violence to a culture of love, starting from within our own hearts. We owe it to all women to stand beside them as they say “enough is enough!” We owe it to ourselves to finally invite love, in all of its fullness, back into our lives.

Learn more about 1 Billion Rising here.

::

“This movement is a struggle for equality, but it is also a call back to love.”

Blessings to you, Dan. I bow.

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Solidarity

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I so respect Sandra Fluke

for her courage, 

integrity &

willingness

to share her voice.

 

I stand with her.

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The Realm of the Broken-Open Heart

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Image from I Dare You video by The Girl Effect

Awareness.

Becoming conscious of.

Turning to look within.

Opening the Heart.

The heart breaking open.

Connection.

Oneness.

Same, Same.

This post is part of the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign, started by Tara Sophia Mohr last year.

During that first campaign, I wrote Girls Are Not Little Women and Same, Same.

In Same, Same, I entered into the very real awareness that I, in some way, am complicit with the injustices of the world, even if it is simply because of my privilege and silence. This video caused my heart to break…open.

Each face looks at me directly, while the words ask me to look, really look with eyes and a heart that want to see, not eyes and a mind that think they already know.

It’s as if the narrator really knows how unconscious human beings can be, how easy it is for our minds to scan images and take stock of them in a split second, coming away with quick assumptions that satisfy us so we can move on.

Can I really watch these images, with an open heart that is willing to feel whatever arises as these eyes stare back, not asking for pity, but asking instead to truly be seen as an intelligent being with capabilities not recognized, with the desire to be a part of the answer rather than simply an object, a commodity or a problem to be solved?

Can I ask myself, “How do I contribute to the current situation?” and can I sit with myself and be with the truth of the answer?

Today, almost one year later, I wonder how I can go through all these months and not consider what is happening in these girls’ lives. Where does my mind go instead? Yes, I am busy with life. And, how easy it is to become complacent and turn away.

Privilege

In this privileged life, it is so easy to not have to concern myself with those with less privilege.

I wrote a series of posts in the early part of this year on Privilege, Silence and Oppression. It was a difficult series to write, as you can probably guess by the title.

One thing that has stayed with me since I wrote the series is a comment that came from a friend and colleague. This friend is hearing impaired and is very conscious of how privilege causes us to not have to be aware of others’ situations.

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. ~ Judith Cohen

To me, Judith’s words are brilliant. They cause me to pause, to put my attention on others that normally I don’t have to consider or think about. And, they take me back to my own words from last year:

Can I ask myself, “How do I contribute to the current situation?” and can I sit with myself and be with the truth of the answer?

I’ve wondered about the seeming incongruousness of our world that is easy for a human mind to justify, but so hard for the heart to hold.

The incongruousness of a world we’ve created where some have so much more than they could ever, ever need, and others are dying from lack of clean water, food, or love.

Yes, this is the world we humans have created, the world based on our ideas of how things should be.

I feel girls are a part of the solution. And, we are all, women, boys and men, part of the solution.

When we put our attention on the problem, if we are willing to see our complicity and our very generous ability to be creative and resourceful, we have what we need to change things.

At the heart of the matter is the heart.

My heart. Your heart. And, compassion. For ourselves, for others, for the human predicament.

Being human is a very vulnerable proposition.

We can’t, and don’t, always do it right. We are human. And, this humanness is really at the heart of the matter. We can turn out attention to places that feel to hard to look, and when we do, perhaps we become beautiful people…

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Privilege also causes suffering. It hurts the heart to turn away from others, to not have to consider others.

It also hurts the heart to turn away from our sisters and brothers who are not, in one way or another, free to be fully expressed souls, free to live a life that is a reflection of the sacredness of the soul.

There is a very real benefit to all of us, and to all of life, for each of us to enter the realm of the broken-open heart.

Real ways to make a difference at The Girl Effect:

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Same, Same

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Image from I Dare You video by The Girl Effect
I Dare You

…equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men & women, & the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance & that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man & women who’s confronted with it. ~ Joss Whedon

Last night I wrote quite a bit, following a fair amount of time online supporting other Girl Effect bloggers by reading their posts, commenting when a comment wanted to be written, and re-tweeting the posts so others would know about the campaign that is a beautiful groundswell of action.

As I think back over everything I’ve read in the past few days, all of it written by people moved deeply by the Girl Effect videos, a few passages come to mind. So I return to these passages to re-read them, and soak them up again.

The Cultural Aspect

One of these passages is in a post by Marianne Elliot, her second Girl Effect post. In this post, Marianne turns to look at this question from a fellow blogger, Carol:

“How is the cultural aspect/conflict reconciled? In the sense that a particular culture (or maybe just that particular child’s family dynamics) may demand that the young girl marry and have children by a certain age. How does one seek to reconcile the desire to educate young girls with the demands that are placed upon her by external factors?”

To work with the question, Marianne draws upon her time spent in developing countries. She shares these insights:

In 2003, a survey of 1500 Afghans identified access to education and health as the second most important human rights, after the right to security.

But how did they feel about education for their daughters? Well, there were a wide range of different views expressed ranging from a father frustrated that there was no suitable school for his daughters to attend, to parents who couldn’t afford to educate all their children and chose to educate their sons first.

Three years after this survey was carried out I ended up working in Badghis province, as it happens. There I met many girls, and their parents, and heard an increasing call for appropriate, accessible education opportunities for girls.

Most parents I met were more than willing to have their daughter educated if: she didn’t have to travel long distances in unsafe territory to get to school; the cost of education was within the family means; and the teachers were well-trained.

As far as I understood it, it wasn’t that ‘not educating girls’ was a deeply held cultural value, it was that there were more social, economic and environmental barriers between a girl and her education than there were between a boy and his education. Remove or reduce those barriers and many parent would be thrilled to educate their daughters.

These words of Marianne’s reverberate through me.

Barriers.

Societal, cultural and environmental barriers.

Choice and desire.

For awhile, I sit with these words. I sit with the ideas of the Girl Effect, with Carol’s question, with the thought that parents might not want the Girl Effect. And I wonder about it all. How we humans see things so differently?

Parent-To-Parent

And then the mother in me, a parent of two grown daughters, a grandparent of three (and one on the way) wonders about these parents, what they must face, the decisions they have to hold, the things they must weigh.

I think of these parents who want to know their daughters will be safe if they attend school. I wonder what it is like to be them. I wonder the decisions I would make if I were a parent now in these developing countries. I wouldn’t have the same perspective, for I wouldn’t have been exposed to the same things, I wouldn’t have grown up with the same beliefs instilled in me. My hopes and dreams for my children might be the same, they might be different. I realize, I can’t know.

And it hits me how similar we all are, in so many ways. Sometimes, I see the differences more clearly. Much of our current day culture and media seems to highlight the differences between people, pointing out things in the way of comparisons, most of the time picking a good side and a bad side.

Same, Same

As I sit in the swirl, I don’t see that here. I see sameness. Same, same. Then it hits me, again, for the zillionth time (sometimes it takes quite a few) how utterly connected we all are, even when we seem to see things differently. And in this connection, I realize that at a deep, basic level, no human being wants to deny girls and women the same rights accorded to boys and men. I don’t feel that any parent consciously wants to deny their children rights, not at the most fundamental level. I just don’t see that. It doesn’t feel true to me.

What I do see is that these barriers that Marianne speaks of stem from cultural beliefs, patterns and systems that keep us all locked up in a hierarchical worldview where some are considered more valuable and deserving than others – many times being men over women, and boys over girls, where inequality rather than equality is the order of the day.

It is not only in developing countries where this inequality is rampant, but right here in our country. I remember Joss’ quote and find it so I can sit with it. When I first heard him say these words, I was taken by the passion in his voice.

So I sit with this wondering of what misogyny has done to our world, how out of balance we are, both internally and externally, and how much my soul feels the anguish of this imbalance. His words seem to speak directly to my experience of feeling as if something so rich, so lovely, so radiant is missing in our world.

I Dare You

I remember another Girl Effect video that caused my heart to break, and I go back to it to watch it again, one more time.

I watch the video again, looking at each girl with fresh eyes, really looking and listening.

I take in the words, “I dare you to look at me and see only a statistic, someone you’ll never meet, a tragedy, a commodity, a child bride.”

I hear the words, “I dare you to look at me as more than a poster for your cause, a promise you won’t keep.”

I breathe in the words, “I dare you to look at me without pity, fatigue, dismissal.”

I open my heart to the words, “I dare you to rethink what it means to look at a girl – not a burden, not an object, but the answer.”

Each face looks at me directly, while the words ask me to look, really look with eyes and a heart that want to see, not eyes and a mind that think they already know.

It’s as if the narrator really knows how unconscious human beings can be, how easy it is for our minds to scan images and take stock of them in a split second, coming away with quick assumptions that satisfy us so we can move on.

Can I really watch these images, with an open heart that is willing to feel whatever arises as these eyes stare back, not asking for pity, but asking instead to truly be seen as an intelligent being with capabilities not recognized, with the desire to be a part of the answer rather than simply an object, a commodity or a problem to be solved?

Can I ask myself, “How do I contribute to the current situation?” and can I sit with myself and be with the truth of the answer?

It Is A Structure, It Is Not Men.

I feel the pain inside me, the pain that comes from having been conditioned in a society that is misogynistic at its core and that also knows misandry as well. I feel this pain while at the same time knowing that this misogyny isn’t a natural tendency of the human condition.

Misogyny is at the heart of patriarchy, and patriarchy is a hierarchy where men are on top, women are next, children are below them, and the rest of life, including animals and the earth bring up the rear. It is a structure where the masculine is valued and honored over the feminine in both genders, as well as in our education, economic, political…in short all of our systems.

It is a structure, it is not men.

::

Hardened Hearts

My thoughts go back to another powerful Girl Effect piece by Matthew Stillman in which he writes:

Women are tough and can handle all sorts of adverse situations. But I have seen when a girl has had to harden herself to manage an intense new space. That often turns into a hardened woman who can play business in the big leagues with the best of them. How many girls have been sacrificed on the altar of progress? Women who have compromised their very feminine nature so they can get along. More often than not we end up losing what is best about girls and women just so they can operate in a hostile world with an economic system antithetical to human values. We need to have a place for feminine values – in women and in men as well.

Matthew brilliantly points out that the systems in place cause girls and women to have to harden themselves to survive.

I would say we have ALL (men and women, boys and girls) learned to harden ourselves in this intense, hostile world with systems that are ‘antithetical to human values’. Our softer sides, the soft animal belly that Mary Oliver wrote of, has been buried someplace so deep inside that we can watch the video above, hear the words spoken, take in the images and still not allow ourselves to feel just how much has been sucked out of our own souls by the imbalance and inequalities in the world, and within our own beings.

I wonder about fathers and how they feel deep in their hearts about their daughters and how the world dismisses girls. What does this do to a man?

I know in myself, there is a genuine deep desire to be of service to the world, to do something about what I see and hear in these Girl Effect videos, and in the oodles of pages of facts and resources. And, I know I must also go deeper into my own heart, deeper in to the places where I’ve hardened myself so I can feel what I see rather than simply thinking I know what I am seeing.

Yes, there are substantial things we need to do out there in this world that are necessary to the survival of the human race. The Girl Effect is about unleashing the vast potential of the feminine in girls, a potential that is at the heart of the sacred feminine within them. And, at the same time, can we sit for a moment and feel first? Can we feel into how what we are watching has affected the soul, the heart?

Can we be open to see and acknowledge what we’ve turned away from within ourselves in order to exist in a culture that engenders such hardened hearts? Can we feel the void of compassion, empathy, love, tenderness, and deep soulful caring so that we can begin to feel these things within ourselves? When we see them in ourselves, can we open to them in others?

Deep within each of us is a place that yearns for life to be free to honor itself, to express itself, to know itself fully.

‎Can we first fully feel, before we decide we know what is right to do? Can we then act from this place of broken-open heartedness, because in this place we are no longer me vs. you, we are same, same.

What if we have a revolution of tenderness? A tenderness so strong, so resourceful, so unwilling to turn away form the reality in front of us, a tenderness that breeds willingness, succor and sustenance for a world thirsty and hungry for such?

::

This post is part of  The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign, created by Tara Mohr. Come check out other wonderful posts and even sign-up to post yourself!


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