Audio version is below.
Audio version is below.
Surrounded by my shields, am I:
Surrounded by my children, am I:
I am the void.
I am the womb of remembrance.
I am the flowering darkness.
I am the flower, first flesh.
. . . In this darkness, I am
Turning, turning toward a birth:
My own – a newborn grandmother
Am I, suckling light . . .
I am spiraling, I am spinning,
I am singing this Grandmother’s Song.
I am remembering forever, here we
~”Song of the Self: The Grandmother”, by Alma Luz Villanueva
Loved me? Yes. Fiercely.
She became a single mother of three young girls in the early sixties,
a time when being so was judged harshly.
She did whatever it took to provide for us. Whatever it took.
with a wild side that was never really expressed,
she taught me about
ice skating and
remembering our ancestors.
She taught me about Spirit,
things you can’t see but know in your bones,
and a deep love for four-leggeds.
She taught me to champion for women,
animals and the earth.
She taught me to find a way to carry on when life brings painful times.
She taught me to see the unconditional love that shines through conditioning.
Joan left her body three years ago, today.
Loved me? Yes. Fiercely.
“Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.” ~ Alice Walker
I bet none of the Mother’s Day cards to be given this week include words like these.
As I sat with her beautiful womanly body, a body that bore three daughters, I stroked her fine white hair, caressed her tender wrinkled face, and cradled her belly, the belly that was my first home. I felt awe for her obvious humanness and the strength she found as a single mother. The lines in her face bore witness to these parts of her life that were hard.
Like most daughters, I complained about the ways my mother was flawed. And I grew up fighting my own flaws, especially as a mother, especially when my life got very hard. I’ve really struggled with how I lost my way when my husband died. I wasn’t there for my children in the way I ‘should have been’ if I had been a good mother. I’ve held myself up to some standard that was always unattainable. I’m flawed. My daughters saw my flaws. They experienced my flaws. They can tell you in a minute all about my flaws.
What if I realized my flaws are my humanness? What if I simply accepted that I am flawed? human? real?
What if I saw my body now, while I am alive, like I saw my mother’s body when she was lying in the light that surrounded her moments after her death?
Flawed is a whole world away from sinful. I know sin is not real. I’ve seen too many babies born to believe one comes into the world as a sinner. Those tiny pink toes. Those cherub arms and legs. Those eyes that look at you from the other side of the mystery could never be marked with something such as sin…the kind of sin pill we keep being forced to swallow.
Flawed is where the light shines through, or as Leonard Cohen sings:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
And that’s how the light gets out, how our light shines into the world, through our flaws, through our humanness.
And when we teach girls they must grow up to be perfect mothers, it’s a set-up for the never-ending striving for perfection, the never-can-be-reached destination that is exhausting and robs women of simply being themselves, and the opportunity to model to their children what it means to be content with oneself.
Oh, to feel myself relax into the shape of who I naturally am, flaws and all, so I might hold my daughters with the softness of self-love and acceptance.
Oh, to see my daughters relax into the shape of who they naturally are, flaws and all, so they might cradle their babies with the same softness of self-love and acceptance.
What if we gave our mothers a soft place to land, a place where they were showered with the praising words of “you are enough”?
Today, in thinking about which ‘night out’ of 2009 was the best for Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, I realized just how much music has to do with enjoying an evening out for me. More than anything, I get so much pleasure from hearing live music, or dancing to music, or both. All three experiences that made it to my final selection revolved around music.
In the end, though, my choice came down to passion, love, creativity and synergy. I love passionate performances. I love creative expression and synergy between performers. And, I love it when musicians play from the love in their hearts.
My favorite night out this year contained all of these things. In an intimate live concert with Bloom Project, at a small church in Berkeley, I became a fan of improvised music. The October concert was an improvisational duet with pianist Thollem McDonas and saxaphonist, Rent Romus.
These two men are incredible musicians. They are so good at improvisation, that you feel both the synergy of musicians playing as if they have known each other their entire lives, and the flow that comes when perfromers are completely in the moment, perfectly attuned to each other’s next impulse.
Thollem is an amazing pianist, and he is my brother. He is actually my half-brother, as we have the same father, but different mothers. Life is funny. In 2008, both our mothers passed away. When you arrive at the home page of Thollem’s web site, you see a dedication to his mother, Geraldine. Gerry, as we knew her, was a pianist, too, as well as piano teacher who taught for decades. Thollem comes from piano genes, as my father plays as well.
What made this night so special was something less tangible than the incredible music. In listening to him play, I could feel something deeper and richer in his music than I had ever heard before in his concerts. As I sat listening, I was carried back to his mother’s memorial service in early January of this year, when Thollem played Clair de lune live, dedicating the song to his mother. In the five minutes or so that Thollem played that day, he poured out his heart into every note he played. Each note was filled with so much love for his mother. This love was present, again, in this evening concert.
As in most beautiful magical moments, something came together for me that night. Something so simple. I listened to the love for music that infuses Thollem’s notes and I felt his love for life, his love for his mother, and my love for him. This music itself was beautiful, and the experience was unforgettable.
I was watching PopTech online this morning, and lo and behold there was a talk about creativity that perked up my female ears and heart. I had never heard of PopTech (hard to imagine as a woman with a tech/design/creativity degree). This morning though, I came across mention of PopTech from @PatriciaMartin on Twitter. While she mentioned she couldn’t be there because she is packing to move, I thought I would log on.
I watched a talk by Kyna Leski from RISD. She was speaking about creativity. This is my love in life, and my work here in the world through Creative Wellspring and Wildly Creative Women. Creativity is the Spirit within you, your true nature.
Kyna explained that matrix (derived from the word for mother, and later used to refer to womb) is where pattern and material are married. She then went on to say that pattern (derived from the word for father) and material (derived from the word for Mother) are married in the womb in the creative process.
We all are creative beings. All people are creative. When I teach my ten-week course (in courses for women and men, and also for women only) I love the moment when students experience their creativity, when they really ‘get’ that they are creative beings. It’s like seeing each one remember, in the moment, their true nature and true potential.
We all live our creative process, this marrying of pattern to matter in the matrix, many, many moments in each day of our lives. And, in my work with women, and in my own life, I know that women are created with a womb that brings forth life, brings life into being, brings the mystery into manifestation. Yes, we have a physical womb, but more importantly we embody the creative capacity of the divine feminine. As Rumi said, “Woman is the radiance of God; she is not your beloved. She is the Creator —you could say that she is not created.“ We can create babies, and we can create so much more. We are mothers to life.
Men, too, are just as creative. The source of creativity is non-gendered. The source is life re-creating itself in its never ending unfolding – Shiva and the cycle of creation and destruction. I am divinely curious about how our design as women and as men is naturally intelligent, and what it would be like and look like if we, both men and women, began to trust and have faith in our deepest creative potential, that expression that flows through our gendered body.
This marrying of the mother and the father takes place within us, and in this marriage we bring forth our deepest creative capacity, a new consciousness and intelligence far greater than what any one of us can try to ‘think’ into creation.
It is my deepest hope that if we, as women, can own our divine feminine creative capacity, that men can then relax into their own natural creative nature, and we can, side-by-side, walk into a future that allows for our unique humanity to flower.
So, I know my opportunity is to no longer attempt to exist in the image of the masculine, which is defined by all the ways I was taught to be in the world. The opportunity is to open to being fully female, to honor and trust my own creative process, my design as woman. I don’t yet know how this will evolve. How can I? But, I can trust in this design, trusting in the deeper intelligence that life is. I welcome this marriage of pattern and mattter within me. And, something that is just as exciting, I get to trust in man’s design. I look forward to discovering what shows up between us.
After receiving the National Civil Rights Museum’s “International Freedom Award,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said to the audience:
“I call myself a feminist,” … “Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”
“Whether you believe this religion or that religion, we are all the same human beings,” …“We all come from the same mother. That creates the basis for compassion.”
I’ve noticed a curious thing as I inquire more deeply into the awakening Feminine. There seem to be two (at least) threads of conversation around the Feminine: awakening feminine consciousness in both women and men, and finding balance within our own beings between our masculine and feminine aspects; and, women awakening to their own unconditioned, organic way of being, and the natural power that comes from this energy becoming conscious. Unabashedly Female is a place to converse about the latter, to discover together what is coming into consciousness solely through women.
Most of the time, I read about the former, feminine qualities that both women and men are finding again, such as receptivity, collaboration, relationship and a host of others. When this is the conversation, women and men are included together because these aspects are part of coming to wholeness in every being.
Many times when I speak (or write) of the latter, as in this blog, I ‘hear’ people being in the either/or mindset, a mindset that comes from the culture we are swimming win, one based on a patriarchal perspective. Ubiquitous in this perspective is the notion that things are either/or: that one is either for or against; that either something is true or it is not true; that if I speak of one thing, then I am negating its opposite. This either/or perspective shows up often when I write about women and re-discovering our own nature, that of the sacred feminine. It’s as if our conditioning as women tells us we can’t or shouldn’t look at ourselves with curiosity and wonder as different than men. Or, perhaps it is old conditioning about needing to support everyone else rather than seizing the opportunity to REALLY give ourselves time for reflection and meditation on our own nature. Or, maybe it is based on fear and is a way to avoid the looking within that is necessary.
When I write of women being loving and compassionate and wise, I am not negating that men can also these things. When I write of the ‘Mother’ being absent from our culture, I am not saying that the ‘Father’ has been truly available to men.
What I know to be true is that a compassionate, relational humanity is based on a both/and model. In the humanity model we are opening to, one that is becoming more balanced between the masculine and feminine, we will see from a perspective of both/and, where we agree that we are different beings because we are different genders. Through this perspective we celebrate all of life and the differences that flow through our experience because the spirit we are flows through different gendered bodies.
Celebrating differences is celebrating the diversity of nature. It doesn’t mean continuing the sense of separation or the better than/less than that has been a hallmark of our patriarchal culture. Instead, celebrating the organic truth of our nature allows us all to bring our full selves to the world, to honor the elegant unique simplicity of our design.
The idea of both/and is becoming more prevalent in many places, but I first encountered the power of it in an improvisation class I took a few years ago. We did an exercise called, “Yes, and” where you willingly accept the last improvisor’s choice of action and build upon it with your own. IN other words, you don’t block what they just brought to the experience, but rather build upon it. This experience was an amazing learning opportunity for me in two ways: 1) I got to see how conditioned I was to block, to take in another’s experience and want to change the direction, say ‘No’ to it, find some problem with it, or to see it as an opportunity to disagree with it and come up with something better. While most of this was pretty unconscious for me, the exercise brought it out. 2) By having to accept where the improvisation was going, which meant accept the other’s choice and position, and then finding a way to build upon it and move from it forced me to acknowledge the other person’s AND their experience and find a way to create and collaborate with inclusiveness. It was an experience of connection rather than separation, opening rather than closing off.
I see Both/And | Yes/And as two very similar world views we can hold in these times of deep chaos and churning. There is no limit to what we can create together as a world of human beings yearning for peace when we come together, when we honor where the other person is, when we act with reciprocity and empathy.
What if our design as woman and design as man is exactly perfect?
What if under our conditioning lies the intelligence of our being, an creative and cooperative design that fits together like a 7 billion piece jigsaw puzzle?
What if our solution can only come out of a clear seeing of all that exists right now and a new possibility that can come from everything that is here?
Our evolution as humans depends on the power of Both/And. It depends on the full flowering of the female gender and the male gender, blossoming out from the constricted conditioned attitudes we’ve been holding.
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my Mother’s death. It’s so hard to believe it’s been one year. I remember I couldn’t write for a while after she died. It was as if things needed to settle inside me. No, settle isn’t quite right. Things needed to move around, push their way out, burrow deep inside, get all mixed around, catywampus-sideways…everything just had to be left alone to be inside me. One thing I have become all-too-familiar with is the need for grief to be welcomed and befriended. It is an intelligent process, grief. I have experienced that when you open to it, don’t rush it, don’t fight it, even befriend it by giving in to it and entering the darkness of it with trust, it will move you, it will shake you, it will bring you somewhere out the other side of the darkness, somewhere new that you never expected.
Mom’s death was a lesson in letting go on so many levels. Letting go of my longing for her to be cured of her cancer, letting go of her being open to talking about her death, letting go of being able to say good-bye in the way I wanted to, letting go of wanting to be by her side at the moment she passed, letting go of all the things I thought I still needed from her as my mother. One big-time letting go.
And now it’s one year later. I find I am still letting go. I am letting go of our culture’s taboo on discussing death and sharing grief. I am letting go of the expectations that we are only supposed to grieve for a set period of time and then if we don’t move on we’re ‘not normal’. I’m letting go of the culture’s obsession with the objectification of a woman’s body, as if it existed solely for sexual gratification. And, I am letting go of the societal voices that ‘honor’ mothers on the surface, and treat mothers with disdain and women with second-class status.
As I wrote in a post last year, as my mother died, I felt a deep painful tearing in my body, right at the core. It felt as though my connection with my mother (the most primal connection I had) was being severed as she prepared to die. The pain seared in my core, down deep at the base of my body. It was as if I could feel her leaving by way of the pain in my own body.
Then, after she died, I sat with her body for a long time. I felt awe in the presence of her body, the body that nourished me and delivered me into this world. I felt gratitude for all she did in her life to provide for me, to keep me safe, to usher me into adulthood. I felt compassion for her foibles and humanness, a humanness that I had once expected to be perfection. Yet, there in the moments following her death, I was captivated by the ephemeral nature of this imperfect humanness for I knew, with her life force no longer there, her body was already beginning its way to non-existence.
Over this past year, I have come to know a strong connection between my mother and my own body. This connection lies at the heart of being human. We are fed by our mother, both inside her and once we are born. Her body is the vessel that holds us as we grow from being a few cells to a baby big enough to make our way into the world. She sustains us. During this time in the womb, she is all that we know.
This connection is primal. It is a connection to more than just mother. It’s a connection to the Universal Mother and to the Earth. This Earth is the vessel that sustains us as we move throughout our life. She provides for us. She nourishes us. While life can be harsh, without the Earth, we would not be.
We lose our connection because we are conditioned to believe we must let go of mother to be strong, independent individuals in our western culture. We also learn to blame mother for most everything that wasn’t right in our childhood. Mothers take the brunt of blame. Mothers are taken for granted. Mothers learn to internalize this blame.
It’s not about believing that mothers can do no wrong. Rather, despite the ways in which you don’t see eye-to-eye with mom, and regardless of whatever story you tell about your mother, can you find and feel your heart’s deepest gratitude to your mother for carrying you and birthing you? Because, that Mother, the mother that nourished and sustained you, is the same Mother that sustains all of life. The substance that fuels a mother’s capacity to nourish a baby into existence is the same substance that fuels all of existence.
What conscious grieving of my mother’s death has taught me is the profound, yet basic connection between awe and gratitude for my mother and the gift of life she gave me. It has strengthened my connection to my own body and to the Earth, and to all of life. And, it has brought me to the wisdom that comes from knowing this same substance is within me as a woman.
This substance allows for a beautiful and mysterious connection between women. We don’t have to be mothers to know this connection. It just is. This substance connects us with the Earth, with nature, and with the sacredness of life itself.
I don’t know what sharing this with you will bring, I only know that now knowing this has awakened reverence and awe for my mother, my daughters, my sisters, my nieces, and all women; my grandchildren and all children; my father, my partner Jeff, my sons-in-law, my nephews, and all men; and all of life. That’s been the gift for me that lies in knowing the fullness of my mother’s humanness, as well as the sacred nature of her female creativity.
“How different it would be if we looked at the earth as our mother. Do you treat the planet with the same love, care, respect and honor that you treat your mother?”— Peter Walsh, from his Oprah Radio show
I came across this quote yesterday and it stopped me in my tracks. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking a great deal about the atrocities that are committed to women and girls every day all over the world and realizing that women are the recipients of the things we hold in the darkest part of our shadow complex.
How many people really do treat their mother with love, care, respect and honor? How many of us treat the role of mother with respect and honor? How many of us treat the female body with care and respect?
I don’t doubt for a moment that Peter Walsh loves his mother and this really isn’t about him. I think most of us love our mother, but do we even for a moment really know what it means to love our mother? Do we dare to look deeper at how we treat her, how we hold her and how much we respect the sacredness of the female body and its ability to bring life into life? I feel the real question is not how we treat our mother, something we pay homage to on Mother’s Day, or the glorified Madonna archetype that many times carries with it the corresponding archetype of whore.
The real question is how to we treat the physical manifestation of Mother, the female body and her ability to support and nurture life into being? How do we treat women and their bodies? Do we honor the female body with love and respect? Do we care for female bodies? Do you care for your own? Do you respect the sacredness and the divinity that it is? And, do we respect all bodies, those of men and boys as well?
For the correspondence between one’s Mother and the planet is about the life-giving ability that women offer. Our planet is alive. The Mother is all of matter. Everything that is alive is the Mother. It is all sacred. We are all sacred.
When we no longer see a distinction between all living things, and we honor all of life, then maybe we’ll wake up to Life as it truly is, not as something to rape and use to satisfy our insatiable appetite for more and more. Look around you and see how we treat the female body.
Look into your own experience with open eyes, but more importantly an open heart. What would it be to love, with all your heart, your mother, yourself, your body, the Earth and all of Life?