“Give voice to what you know to be true, and do not be afraid of being disliked or exiled.” – Eve Ensler
For some time now, I have seen a vision of where women must go if we are to discover the true depth of our capacities as women.
I know we’ve been under the shadow of men for a long time, and I know we must step out from under this shadow if we are to discover our nature as women, and bring the beautiful gifts of this nature to our world, a world that is thirsty for it…and the feminine.
When I speak of this, it is sometimes misunderstood as being under the thumb of men, but that’s not what I mean.
Stepping out from under the shadow has more than one layer of meaning.
Under the shadow, we can’t see who we are. We see ourselves in a masculine light, like there is no other way to be than like a man, or to be liked by a man.
Under the shadow, we take on the shadow side of the collective, seeing ourselves as the shadow of the culture, you know, the whole Eve complex, that women are responsible for the fall (and I don’t mean Eve Ensler).
Under the shadow, we don’t see our own light…we simply see the reflection of the masculine, or we see the masculine’s light and believe it is ours, too.
The second wave of feminism helped open the doors so we could discover our place in the world, discover our abilities to make it in a masculine world, and we’ve done that. We’ve proven we can lead alongside men. We’ve also come to see that many of us have had to ‘do it all’ in order to succeed in the ways we’ve wanted. Many of us also see we had to put away something, we had to put away our true nature, our womanliness.
Using words such as womanliness has its risks. To be honest, I don’t know what womanliness is. I know what I’ve been told it is. I know what I experience as a woman, but to know a nature not in relation to men is to relearn what it is to be woman. In some ways we can only know something by way of something else. But when we see our womanliness in response to men, or the masculine, it gets obscured by conditioning, and conditioned responses.
If we’ve put that away, what is it we take back out? What did we hide away?
Today I came across this quote by Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, a Sufi Sheik. I’ve seen him speak many times. He is an extraordinary mystic who sees what can’t be seen, and speaks to us of what we need to know.
Many women are unknowingly caught in a collective conditioning in which the feminine is made subservient to masculine, rational values. The feminine qualities of relating, listening, waiting are repressed in favor of rational thought and goal-oriented drives. American culture may appear to give freedom to women, but there is a collective pattern that denies the real nature of the feminine. As one woman said to me, “In this culture a woman can be anything she wants, as long as it is masculine.” Yet many spiritual qualities needed for the path, such as creating a sacred inner space, belong to the feminine. Often our spiritual nature lies buried under collective taboos, and requires courage and commitment to be rediscovered and lived. Love is a Fire: The Sufi’s Mystical Journey Home, page 52
“Our spiritual nature, buried under collective taboos.”
“A collective pattern that denies the real nature of the feminine.”
As Vaughn-Lee shares, the feminine is a both/and: the feminine principle (that which is in both women and men), as well as the embodiment of the sacred feminine that is inherent in women.
We women can’t see our true reflection by looking into the cultural pool, for it is laced with ideas, taboos, fears and beliefs that hide the true nature of the feminine.
The cultural shadow is built upon those taboos. The shadow is what we repress, what we put away into the dark, what we learned at a young age we couldn’t be if we were to remain ‘good girls’ living in the collective.
The real nature of the feminine lies buried under the shadow. We can’t know ourselves at the core, until we’re willing to look into the darkest places. We can’t come into balance within, balance between our feminine and masculine natures, until we aren’t obscured by this collective taboo-ridden shadow. And, we won’t come into right relationship with men, until we know ourselves fully as women.
It takes courage and commitment, and I add, a community of like-minded women committed to the journey
sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
To relearn through touch, through words, through connection: the real nature of the feminine can only flower from within.
So we begin with self-blessing: blessing self as woman, blessing self as sacred, blessing self as lovely.