The Realm of the Broken-Open Heart

Image from I Dare You video by The Girl Effect


Becoming conscious of.

Turning to look within.

Opening the Heart.

The heart breaking open.



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.


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


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.


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?


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!


Girls Are Not Little Women



This post is my wholehearted contribution to the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign.

In every advanced mammalian species that survives and thrives, a common anthropological characteristic is the fierce behavior of the adult female of the species when she senses a threat to her cubs. The lioness, the tigress and the mama bear are all examples. The fact that the adult human female is so relatively complacent before the collective threats to the young of our species bespeaks a lack of proactive intention for the human race to survive.

Yet how things have been has no inherent bearing on how things have to be, and I think we’re living at a time when Western womanhood is just a moment away from emerging into the light of our collective possibility.

~Marianne Williamson

While we humans are clearly intelligent beings, over time, our intelligence has separated from our wisdom, dividing our smart brains from the wisdom of our hearts and bodies. We’ve marched forward over hundreds of years as if we are separate from the rest of life, as if we hold some lofty privilege that other forms of life are not worthy of. We’ve also separated from each other, from a sense of connectedness that can help us survive in tough times.

It is characteristic of the female of many mammalian species to be protective of her cubs, to fight for the life of the species, to covet life above all else, and to do whatever it takes to keep life going.

Marianne Williamson calls to us to remember this nature of the female, and calls us forth to action, an action that stems from this natural desire to protect. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do this better, until now.


Another woman, just barely into her womanhood, is also calling us forward. Her name is Anita and she lives in India. Listen to her story here. The video is short, but it is powerful. She blew me away with her directness and her beautiful audacity, the audacity to ask us, you and me, to do something to support the 600 million girls living in the developing world.

Anita refuses to be a victim of a system that would keep her from her dreams. And, she takes her power one step further. She in turn asks us, those who can do something about the 600 million girls who can’t do anything for themselves, to get off of our duffs and do something, because, in Anita’s words, “what’s happening isn’t working.”

Now it might be easy to respond to her plea by saying, “I don’t have any power.” or “It’s not up to me to fix something that is broken in your country.” or even, “You’re not my child. I have my own problems.” And of course, we have the choice to see things from those perspectives. Or, if Anita’s call has roused you at all, we can shift how we see things. We can look through a different lens.

Let’s call this other lens, The Girl Effect Lens.

The Girl Effect Lens:

The Girl Effect – n.
The unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.

The Girl Effect shows us that when we change the lives of girls for the better, we change the world for the better. Why is this? Because girls are different than boys, as women are different than men. Neither is better than the other, but the diversity we bring to the world has always been important, and at this critical time, is even more important. According to statistics, when girls are empowered, they are more likely to reinvest their resources back into their families.

  • Fact: When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. (Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)

Less than two cents of every international aid dollar spent in the developing world is earmarked for girls. And yet when a girl has resources, she will reinvest them in her community at a much higher rate than a boy would. If the goal is health, wealth, and stability for all, a girl is the best investment. (source, The Girl Effect)

Because many girls grow up to be mothers, investing in their education is more than simply providing them with the means to get a good job. It also keeps them safe during adolescent years when they are more prone to sexual assault and way-too-early marriage, while providing a firm foundation for them to stand on when they become mothers and begin to raise their own children.

  • Fact: Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship between better infant and child health and higher levels of schooling among mothers. (George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]: 1207–27.)

If the 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world today follow the path of school drop-out, early marriage and early childbirth, and vulnerability to sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, then cycles of poverty will only continue. (source, the Girl Effect)

whatshesfacingGirls know they’re facing discrimination and injustice. They have dreams and hopes for their lives just like boys. They see the inequities.

  • Girls find themselves at the intersection of age and gender discrimination. While girls do not often refer to their own rights, they express a sense of injustice in many areas of their lives. From expressing frustration at what their brothers get to do to anger about their parents’ lack of support to hopelessness at their experiences of sexual violence, they consistently appeal to a sense of fairness and the violation of that sense. As adolescent girls living in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, lamented, “Rights exist on paper, but in reality they aren’t put into practice.” (source, Girls Count | The Coalition for Adolescent Girls)

This blog is about rediscovering what it is to be female. I would venture to say many young girls know what it is, because they haven’t yet grown up to forget their instincts and their nature. They show it to us if we are willing to see, if we are willing to open our eyes to what is here. They live it directly, by taking care of their families once they are educated because their parents took care of them. Even when parents try to push them into a life that’s not based on their hopes and dreams, many of the girls come back – as did Anita – to take care of their parents. Anita now has her own business; she’s repaired her family’s house; and she pays their medical bills

This is what the world looks like through the Girl Effect Lens.

I would say this is the same natural response that is in all women. And (this is the key part) it is the same natural response that is needed right now in response to ‘the collective threats to the young of our species’.

These girls are showing us what is dormant in us. They are showing us what life looks like through the Girl Effect Lens.

Anita went so far as to go on a hunger strike for her dream. I can only imagine the obstacles she faced, and the strength and courage she found within. We each have that same resiliency within us.

For me, the problems we face as a global community can seem insurmountable, enough so that I feel like nothing I could do would make a difference. But looking through the Girl Effect Lens helps me here, too. Anita doesn’t have to fix everyone’s home or pay everyone’s medical bills. She is simply giving back to her family. She shared her story, a story that guides us to see things differently. And, she listened to that voice inside, that inner voice that told her to do whatever it took to follow her dream.

That’s all that is being asked of us. To trust the inner voice, to speak out about what is true, to give back, to be proactive members of the global community. The Girl Effect website asks us to Join the Conversation:

Your support, your voice and your action – that’s what it’s going to take to wake up the world and make a real difference. Make yourself part of the Girl Effect revolution. Given the chance 600 million adolescent girls in developing countries can unleash the world’s greatest untapped solution to poverty. This is the Girl Effect. If we can release girls living in poverty, they will do the rest.

Girls Are Not Little Women:

Girls are not little women. They deserve to have their girlhood and their adolescence. They deserve an education, and the choice to marry or not, and at an age of their choosing. They deserve to be free from the very real threat of sexual violence and all the psychological and health issues that come from that violence.

We are women, and we have experienced girlhood. We know how it felt to stand on the brink of adolescence, stand at the doorway to womanhood, and wonder what life would hold. Most of us reading this right now never faced the kinds of injustices and lack of choices that these girls face. Yet, we were girls in a cultural structure where women don’t experience the same equality as men, even if it looks like we do ‘on paper’. Remember what the girls in Brazil said, “Rights exist on paper, but in reality they aren’t put into practice.”

I invite you to go back to the time when you were twelve.

  • How did you sense the world and your place in it?
  • What dreams did you have?
  • Were you given the opportunity to bring those dreams into reality? If not, what got in the way?
  • How did you see girls and women treated?
  • What injustices did you see as a girl?
  • What part of yourself, if any, did you put away in order to fit into a society where age and gender discrimination are believed to be simply ‘the way things are’?
  • What privileges did you have, simply because of the family you were born into did you, and do you continue to, enjoy?

As a woman now in this age that is calling us forth, as both Anita and Marianne do, what have you been blessed with, over the course of your lifetime, that is needed right now to make a difference in these girls lives, a difference that we will all benefit from?

When you look through the Girl Effect Lens, how do you see yourself? What gifts do you possess? What can you do to make a difference so that those 600 million girls might say, “Wow. Thank you. What you are dong IS working.”?”


The Girl Effect website is an incredible resource to find out more about the situation we face in our global community with respect to these 600 million girls. Take some time to watch the videos, read the fact sheets and downloads to understand what’s happening. Pass the videos and links around on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign. I invite you to read many other posts and add your own post as part of this important campaign.

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