Tag Archives: healing

Abraham’s Path: The Ambiguous Way

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Abraham’s Path: The Ambiguous Way. Join us 6/12/14 http://www.facebook.com/events/403867586418328

Working closely with Baba Yaga lately, ambiguity has been one of the central themes.  I was thrilled at the release of Maleficent, and seeing an ambiguous female character portrayed sympathetically is huge, I tell you, HUGE.  Ambiguity is something that is central to the Wise Woman tradition and all of the Life/Death/Life goddesses (who are the most powerful).  Yet its something that women, caught in the crossfires of Maddona/Whore syndrome, have had little societal support to step in to.

In thinking about this, I’ve turned to the stories that brought me to the ball to begin with:  those of the Abrahamic tradition.  The story of Abraham is a story of ambiguity, questioning, and uncertainty.  How very odd that the traditions that followed are now so marked by black & white thinking and claims to certainty.  I think its time to look at these stories again and work from there.

I’ve republished one of my first blogs from 2009:

“Abraham’s relationship to God is marked by great sacrifices: to ask a tribal desert-dweller to leave their family and society is worse than death. Indeed, what makes Abraham’s story so relevant to our lives today is that even now we still find this to be a terribly frightening prospect. We define ourselves by our families, our culture, our geography, our language, our food, the religious practice we were raised with… Abraham left all of these things and embarked on a unique path. He would not lose that rugged individualism and continued to live and act in ways that were far from the societal norms, but were in alignment with the convictions of his heart, and his relationship with his Creator. Abraham shows us that questioning does not necessarily mean the dissection and death of faith, but is rather the basis and edification of True faith.”

Read the full blog post on The Deeper Marriage.

 

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The Wild Woman Within

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I’ve been working with the story of Vasilissa for almost two years now.  I’ve never worked with a story that long before, and its been an amazing journey.  Its one thing to know in my head that every character in a story represents a different aspect of ourselves, its another thing to experience it fully.  Over the past two years, I have been the step-sisters gripped by jealousy and suspicion when I was focusing on others’ work rather than my own.  Lord knows I can identify with the father who ignores what he’s being called to see and instead focuses only on the words that sound so nice.  I have been the scared child wandering in the forest, I have faced fierce, wild, power and held my own.  I worked for Baba Yaga, the Old Wild Mother who lives deep in the forest, by going to the river and examining the patterns of the persona, by sweeping the floors of my psyche to keep them clear of clutter, but it wasn’t until last week that I actually found her inside of me.

I had been reflecting on Baba Yaga.  On her house deep in the woods, far away from the structures and planning of the city, far away from the rules of civilization.  The forest stands for our subconscious world or unconscious world in folk/fairy tales.

Why is she so frightening to us?  Why is she so frightening to me?

I closed my eyes and dove inside of me.  I went swimming looking for the place in me that is far removed from society and its rules.  Appetites emerged as a door.  In the story of Vasilissa, Baba Yaga has a fierce and ravenous appetite.  You wonder if she will eat you up- consume you completely and still want more.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her book Women Who Run with Wolves, attributes Baba Yaga’s appetites with her need for creative activity, her desire for Life, for living fully.  The pot of ideas should always be simmering on the stove to make sure there’s something to feed her when she gets home.

Indeed, many of the appetites that we fear- food, sex, belonging- will become unhealthy when we’re not feeding those creative fires.  When I did the evening program for the Am I Hungry? retreat, I came home with a sign I’d made during the day program for my refrigerator door that reads: “If I’m not hungry, what I *need* isn’t in here.”   It is a call to travel the dusky forest path to Baba Yaga’s hut and see what she’s cooking for her nourishment.

What is it that I *really* need?  Forget what society says I should or shouldn’t need.  Forget what others may say.  Drop the story about what it means that I want this or want that– let alone need.  Just drop in and listen earnestly.  Listen as a witness. Listen to understand.  Listen with compassion.  This is the only way I can find myself.  The only way I can even approach authenticity, let alone live there.

This is what Baba Yaga calls us to do.  This is where she draws her power from.  And it scares us silly.  Especially in women.

I swam deeper inside of me to find her.  To the places in me that I push down and away.  The parts of me that I want to tame.  The parts of me that I’m afraid of.  The parts of me I’m scared will take me over if I even admit that they’re there.  The part of me that yearns, longs, open-mouthed and gutterally. That rages and rattles my cage.  The part of me that won’t scrub out.  That pushes back.

I found her in my hips.

Georgia O’Keefe’s “Pelvis with Moon” has long been one of my favorites, and not only helped me finish my 1/2 marathon training, but be able to stay at my mother’s deathbed. Have I told you that story?

My most womanly part.  The part that won’t fit in “boyfriend jeans”.  That stretches any shirt cut too narrowly.  The part of me that I catch myself clenching a thousand times a day.  The part of me that has been so wretchedly violated.  The part of me that ushered my son into the world.  The part of me that keeps the rhythm.  My seat.  My frame. My physical foundation.

In the story of Vasilissa, Baba Yaga’s house is surrounded by a fence made of bones.  There are skulls atop the bones that light up when the sun goes down, making her yard as bright as day.  The skulls stand for the wisdom of the ancients, of our ancestors.

Lamarck’s theory about parents passing on adaptations through the genes, as well as more recent studies are demonstrating that we really do inherit our ancestors’ wisdom, stories, and even hang-ups.  I am struck with the realization that those that have gone before me live within me.  Their knowledge and stories are in my bones.  The root chakra or tribal chakra, is located at the base of the spine, sheltered by the hips, and connects us to our tribe, to the earth.  When there are imbalances, they often manifest as issues around physical and financial security.  When I’m working with clients that have difficulty connecting with their feelings- particularly uncomfortable ones- I teach them to ground themselves, to breathe into the root chakra and sink in their hips, connect to how the hips support them, then connect to the earth supporting the floor beneath them, and the earth supporting their body in so many ways, which supports their life in so many ways.

Baba Yaga’s house is on chicken-legs, and it dances and twirls around–so full of life, it is.  I see my hips as her bone-surrounded yard, and feel the lightness of my legs and body spinning and twirling around when I’m at my best.  In many tales, Baba Yaga’s house has an elusive door.  Those not invited would walk around and around the house and not find it.  It only appeared when she called it.  What a marvelous metaphor for sexual agency!  It certainly speaks to our ability to close ourselves off to unwelcome visitors.  One thing that I’ve learned in my healing journey is that no matter what the situation is, it impacts us the way we allow it to.  As children, our thinking is so limited, so we’re much more vulnerable, but as adults, we decide who we let in, and who we don’t.  We decide how we are influenced, and what we’ll do with those influences.  The door only appears when we call it.

We deny this agency, then we fear our appetites.  We view ourselves as victims in our own bodies.  Is the prevalence of domestic violence- where we are victims in our own homes- a reflection of this? Recovering from DV certainly requires that we claim our agency over our lives, and that begins with how we view and relate to our bodies, our emotions, our drives and our appetites.

Claiming our purpose and passion in life does the same.  Indeed, in the work I do to help people discover their passion, much of it is following appetites.  What can’t they get enough of?  What have they tried to move away from and can’t?  What things do they love that society or their family has told them they should shew or avoid? What do they love that they’ve pushed away because it rails against societal views of what it means to be a woman?  Or because pursuing it would mean laying down ideas of being “nice” or conforming in other ways?

How does it call them to move away from society and its rules?  To heed the winds that brush through the forest trees deep in their subconscious? To go find Baba Yaga’s house and learn to feed her to satisfaction?

 

Snot-filled docu binge affirms life’s purpose.

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Today is my first day back in the office after more than a week of being sick.  My head was so chock-full-o-snot it felt like something was trying to press its way out of me.  There wasn’t enough room in my head for my bones and my face. The snot in my ears had a heartbeat.  I rubbed all the skin off my nose–even using the lotion tissues!  I know I’m not alone- from flu to allergies, those of us that went through a very mild winter are now paying for it in the ooze coming from our face.

Its easy to think that we don’t have time to be sick.  Our cultural tendency is to take some OTC and blaze through.  Its why we’re seeing such vicious bugs these days.  We ignore the body’s healing process.  We plow over it.  We dump antibiotics on it.  Its clearly not working for us.

Athena’s birth- in full armor, of course-gave Zeus *quite* the headache. Click on the pic to read more about how she came in to this world and decide if this is an adequate metaphor for my week on the couch.

So when I got sick, I listened.  I stopped. I let it run its course, and played cheerleader to my body’s battle with whatever was rattling through my lungs and making my head feel like it was going to split open.  Is this how Zeus felt before he birthed Athena?

diagram of sinuses

It kinda looks like a butterfly. A mucus butterfly…

The body is amazing in the tactics that it uses to get us to behave.  I could barely move.  My body was using all of my energy to heal.  That meant no energy left for me to sit up, or even hold my head up.  For the first two days, even keeping my eyes open was work.   Its not that I slept when I closed them… I just couldn’t keep them open.  I’d try to watch something on Netflix, but would have to pause anything I started within 20 minutes to rest my eyes.

I rubbed doTERRA Breathe all over my face every couple of hours.  The peppermint in that would cool my face down a bit- such a relief!  I rubbed eucalyptus oil on my chest to open up my chest and make my cough productive.  I took doTERRA On Guard capsules.  I drank a gallon of OJ a day.  It amazed me how I could be rubbing oil on my face all day, and it still feel so dry and crackle-y.

It was miserable.

By the 3rd day, I could finally watch a full documentary before I’d need to close my eyes and/or take a nap.

We actually have a TV in the house now.  No reception- we’re using it as a monitor.  I can’t stand commercials.  They make me edgy.  The being edgy makes me disconnect.  I have a hard time finishing a show that has commercials.  I just can’t do it. I’ll end up reading something on my phone that I know I can finish without being forced to emotionally disconnect or be exploited, so that’s what I end up doing.

Quetzalcoatl, the winged serpent

Quetzalcoatl is the winged serpent that brought music to earth from the sun, according to Latin legends.

The TV got moved over while J’s parents were in town.  They’ve got a van, so J and my son moved J’s enormous TV over.  Its like this black hole in the middle of the living room.  It makes you scared to even walk over to that part of the room for fear you’ll fall in to it.  I want to cover it with a cloth when we’re not watching it.  I’d bought a turquoise sheer that I’ll be doing some kind of sparkly creature that you can’t tell if it has scales or feathers or whether its flying or swimming.  Sequins and possibly feathers will be involved.  The plan is to eventually paint the wall behind like the sky.  Its a loft wall and scaffolds will be required, so it may not happen for a while.  I also want to paint a huge tree with swirling branches on that wall and hang art work from its branches.  I don’t know when it will happen, but it will.

Puppet theatre castle

If you must watch the news, do it safely: enshroud your screen to make it look like a puppet theatre.

I found some garden hangers that I’ll use as curtain rod brackets that will hold the curtain rod out far enough to get it in front of the screen.  I moved the top of the castle (I have a castle–a pink castle– as my entertainment center.  Are you surprised?) above the screen today.  Once the curtain is hung, its going to look like a huge, fabulous, puppet theatre.  Its the only way I could handle having a large-screen TV in the house.  J thinks its a fantastic idea.

I love this guy.

(sigh)

Where was I?  Oh yeah, documentaries.

We don’t watch that much, so we’ve hardly even explored all that Netflix has to offer, and have done almost nothing with my Amazon Prime membership.  More than a week on the couch, and I’m now quite familiar with both.  I watched a few documentaries on the Dalai Lama.  I love his laugh.  It reminds me of J’s dad.  10 Questions for the Dalai Lama was quite interesting as it had some historical background on the conflict with China and Tibet.  Apparently, the Chinese saw the philosopher-king-type government of Tibet as elitist, and viewed themselves as liberating the Tibetan people and bringing them in to modernity.   Watching it, I couldn’t help but think of the wars we’ve fought using the same sort of language.  I guess all around the world and throughout time, folks don’t interpret being (forcibly) brought into modernity as very liberating.  Why are we so afraid of moving forward?

I watched a film that Deepak Chopra’s son made about him and his experience of him as a father vs. how the world sees him.  Very human.  I love films like that.  It makes me wonder how my son would portray me were he to do the same. All of us are made up of so many quirks and contradictions, but oh how it can sting when we’re confronted with them!  I want to at least know mine.  I don’t know what I can really do about them, but I’d like to at least have them in the realm of conscious incompetence. 😉

Speaking of bringing things out from behind the veil, I watched a film about Mary Magdalene on Netflix.  I’m so glad that she’s emerging from the shadows.  It brings a balance to Christianity that hasn’t been there since the Inquisition essentially wiped out all the different sects of Gnostics.  Catholicism, with its rituals and saints, has a bit more balance than Protestantism, though the general misogyny of the institution keeps the scales tipped rather than balanced.  Ritual is the feminine aspect of religion.  Ritual grounds us.  It connects us to time and space.  It connects us to ourselves and each other via our bodies.  Protestantism dropped ritual and focused on the Word- making the Protestant practice very heavy on Father Sky, and ignoring (let’s face it, denigrating) Mother Earth.  When we consider this, its really no big surprise that Industrialism–and the raping of the environment that goes with it–was born in Protestant countries and carried around the globe from there.

Getting into my Amazon Prime account, I saw a film called Mythic Journeys.  If you’re a Joseph Campbell fan, this film is for you.  If you love stories, this film is for you.  If you’re a human that struggles and wonders how in the world you’re supposed to know what to do next when what you’ve always done doesn’t work anymore, this film is for you.  Its so beautifully aligned with the work that I do.  Watching it was very affirming- I could just feel all the good vibes pulsing through my cells and helping my body heal.  We are wired to learn and connect with stories, but as they said in the film, we’ve devalued Story and relegated it to the children’s room like an old piece of furniture.

I feel very passionately about reviving story and educating people on how they work.  According to Jung’s work, there is a part of us- the collective unconscious- that understands what all the symbols, archetype, and storylines mean.  We deny this and watch the spiritual/mental/emotional equivalent of the worst MSG-laden junk food, then wonder why we’ve lost our optimism, can’t connect to ourselves and others, have lost our passion, and feel unable to pull ourselves out of toxic patterns…  What we watch and listen to impacts us on a very deep level.  Not being conscious of what it means gives those toxic messages even deeper access to us because we’re not filtering at all.

Hungry for Change poster

Hungry for change not only with food, but how we see our bodies.

I watched Hungry for Change.  As I was watching it, I understood why so many people had asked me if I’d seen it when I spoke to them about the work that I do.  From the trailers and ads, I thought it would be another film about food that sought to spur people to activism around the food and diet industry.  It has elements of that, but it also covered our relationship with our bodies in a way I haven’t seen in the other films on food I’ve watched.  Really understanding how our bodies work and moving from the assumption that it is our ally and not our enemy is key to having a healthy body as well as the foundation for our relationships to ourselves and others.   So much of the dialogue around health and our bodies in our culture is adversarial.  Our body is our enemy.  We don’t trust it.  Its working against us.  We plan, plot and scheme to trick it, get around it, push it down, suck it up, and punish it when it doesn’t conform to our ideals.  When this is the way that we work with ourselves, its no small wonder that our divorce rates are now pushing 70% in America, for how we treat ourselves is how we will treat others.

There was a part towards the end that burst me in to tears.  Jon Gabriel is talking about the ways that the body tries to take care of us and how our stress can trigger these “fat programs”.  “We think that the body is sabotaging us or working against us, but in reality, the body is saying “How do I protect this person who’s so scared?””

For whatever reason, it struck me deeply.  I had to pause the film and just cry for a while.

A little later, someone was talking about how we equate love with safety and safety with love. Our national obsession with security certainly falls into this– we think guns or more stringent laws or surveillance will make us feel safe, but I’ve long said that what we really need to be truly safe is deeper connections to our loved ones and neighbors.  A community that supports us.  A sense of purpose.  Jon Gabriel’s method seems to really tap into this equating safety with love.  He calls us to see the ways our body is trying to make us feel safe. I love that he’s approaching the body from the assumption that it loves us and wants to take care of us.  Its only from this perspective that we’ll be able to actually understand it well enough to work with it to achieve health.

I want to hold a screening of this and talk more with folks about their relationships with their bodies.  If you’re in the Valley area, sign up for my newsletter to find out when & where and join us!

I emerged from my sick bed with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor.  I also decided that I’ve got to start running my business my way, instead of trying to do what the lists and the programs and the gurus say I’m supposed to do.  I think we’re shifting now.  Folks keep waiting for things to go “back to normal”, but that place doesn’t exist anymore.  Its our job now to define the new “normal”.  I will forge it from the heart.  From a place of authenticity and alignment. From a place that looks to build the future rather than just the bottom line.  How could you shift your life into the same place? Let’s walk together…

 

 

 

My body is not a problem to solve.

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When I was still living in Memphis, there was a woman, Barbara I met through the International Education  department that I bonded with immediately.  Neither of us were stick figures, and often complained to each other about the unsolicited “helpful advice” we got from strangers.  Both of us ate healthily and went to the gym at least 5 times a week, yet people made assumptions and felt compelled to shove metaphorical pamphlets in our hand about eating and exercise like those fundamentalists that stand on the corner on Bourbon Street and tell people the error of their drunken ways.  

One of my friends, T, never got such advice, though she was one of the most unhealthy people I knew.  I parked in the farthest parking lot so I could get at least a mile in just walking to and from my car, while she got several parking tickets a month for trying to park as close as possible to her classes.  She would have driven her car into an elevator if they’d let her.  She smoked 2 packs a day, had double cheeseburgers for dinner regularly and never exercised.  But she was a size 5 or something, so no one ever gave her a lecture about how they were “concerned for her health”… she met the beauty ideal, and that was all that mattered.

 

One night at a party, someone started their health-preaching at Barbara and she replied, “My body is not a topic of conversation.” When they kept on, she walked away.  I was stunned. And in awe.  How did she do that???  As compelled as people were to give me health advice, I was compelled to tell them all that I already did– far more than they suggested.  I did not sit on my butt all day eating twinkies, as they seemed to think.  It is not a simple formula- bodies are complex and far more goes into metabolism than most people care to think about.  

It bothered me deeply that people walked around thinking I was lazy.  That they insisted on holding on to simplistic ideas that don’t really work in the real world.  That they were judging me unfairly– based on a beauty standard that is only attainable with photoshop, rather than the health concern bullshit they claimed was their primary motivation.  It really, really REALLY bothered me.  So I was stunned that Barbara could shut them down that quickly and not set them straight.  That she could take her body off the table completely and not even engage in the topic.

As much as I resented that my body rather than my writing, my painting, my cooking, or my intellect were the focus of so many people’s view of me, I couldn’t drop it any more than they could.  I didn’t know how to take it off the table.  Three years in hijab would teach me how many years later, but that’s another story for another post.

What Barbara understood all those years ago that I’ve just picked up recently is articulated beautifully by Michele Lisenbury Christensen in her work on the elements of Masculine and Feminine Power.  To listen to her speak on the topic, check out the Shero’s School for Revolutionaries.   Regardless of our sex (or gender for that matter) we need a balance of the masculine and feminine to be healthy and truly functional, yet our society is heavily swayed towards the masculine.  

One of the paradigms she discusses is Providing  (masculine) & Nurturing  (feminine).  This pertains to the way we relate to others.  I would add that it also applies to how we relate to ourselves.  In explaining, Michele asked: “Do I hold you as a problem to be fixed, or a person?  

“Are resources needed here?  Or listening? Holding?

She went on to discuss how distorted Providing is that mean voice in our head that provides perpetual commentary, criticism, and “suggestions for improvement”.  I realize that it was my full identification with that mean voice in my head in my 20s that compelled me to engage with people in a topic I didn’t think should be brought up to begin with– my body.  Interesting that for the decade I was in The Netherlands–where its considered incredibly rude to talk about someone’s body or presume about their personal habits– no one talked about my body and weight came off.  I no longer felt fat, I no longer focused on the fat, so the fat went away.  I often wondered- in this land where I was on the short side of average instead of a looming Amazon woman 3 heads taller than most other women– if I’d grown up there if I ever would have developed the body image issues that led to the weight gain.  I thought I was fat, so I eventually became fat.  A little weight gain in my pre-eclampsic pregnancy, and others began to agree with me.  I took that on, and the weight came on even more.  The harder I worked to get rid of it, the more my metabolism slowed and the more stubborn the weight was.  Like the child told they will go nowhere losing all ambition, my body resolved to the fat label put upon it. 

 

We are so trained to do something.  All the time.  With everything.  We have great difficulty just being with something.   It bleeds into every area of our lives, and damages our relationships and erodes our peace of mind. Our Puritan heritage preaches that its not okay to let things just Be.  Its lazy.  Its permissive.  Its the door to chaos.  Anarchy.  Society will totally crumble if we’re not ever-vigilant.  If we don’t judge often and quickly, and condemn accordingly.  The papers are full of it, the news is full of it, and our heads are full of it. 

Thing is, its a lie.  A big fat hairy puss-filled seething boil of a lie.  It doesn’t make us better.  It deepens our shame and makes us worse.  It is the thing that takes us away from what we want directly into what we say we won’t tolerate. Pounding on a treadmill because we think we’re fat will keep us fat.  Loving our body and moving it in ways that bring us joy will bring us to Health.

Its work learning to be with your body.  Learning to be with your emotions.  Not analyze, not fix, not work on or improve, just Be.  Whether or not you were raised in a religion, bad churching has informed every part of our society.  We have this idea that if you’re doing it right, life will be easy.  If your life has difficulty, then you must have done something wrong.  I don’t know how that idea came from a religion with a guy being persecuted by both the fundamentalists of his own religion and the colonialist government in place to the point of dying the death saved only for traitors and terrorists, but it did.   So we pathologize all sorts of things that are perfectly normal, and in fact necessary for our development.  We think if we’re uncomfortable, there must be something wrong.  We numb by analyzing, diverting attention, eating, drinking, -holicism– anything really to avoid just being in our bodies and just feeling our emotions. 

Its caused a deficit of empathy in our society.  We don’t want to feel bad, so we default to distorted Providing instead of Nurturing.  We view everything and everyone– including ourselves and our emotions–as problems to be fixed rather than creatures to be held.  Its backwards.  Maybe there is a problem, maybe resources are needed, but if the connection isn’t made with the Being first, then the solutions applied will be oppressive rather empowering, and they will eventually backfire. 

My body reminded me of this in its latest letter to me.   Its voice is the exact opposite from the voice in my head: its loving and supportive.  There is a gentle strength that is so soothing and enlivening. Though I was raised in an environment where we went to church 5 times a week, my relationship with my body is my first real experience with agape.  At the time of the letter, I’d been focusing too intently on the symbolic meaning of things and it was getting stressful as I strove to figure it all out. “I appreciate your commitment to listening to me and learning my language” she said, ” but I am not a puzzle to be solved.  I am not a problem to be fixed.  Just love me. Listen to me, and we’ll figure it out as we go along.  You’re smart and you’re listening.  Don’t worry that you’ll miss it. I’ll let you know.”

Remember the same in your own walk and development.  As you’re learning to listen and working on the relationship you have with your body and your emotions, release the drive to do something with what comes up– create space where it can just be first.  So often, just allowing it to Be is the solution…

 

Healing from Betrayal

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Six months after I divorced my last husband, he was married to a friend of mine.  In one swoop, my social circle, activism, and religious home were taken from me.  I was completely devastated. Particularly by the way it was handled by those I still thought were my friends.  “I didn’t think it was my job to tell you” one friend said in an email, “You divorced him, so what difference does it make?”  I was completely stunned.  All the more because when this happened in my 20s, people had been so much more adult about it.

Oh, yeah.  It happened in my 20s with my first husband.  Not married 6 months after, but he seriously dated a dear friend of mine.  Then another friend from high school- then another.  It had been handled totally different by the dear friend and by our mutual friends.  She & he came to me and asked permission.  They’d kept running into each other and were developing feelings, but they’d pull the plug if I said so.

I lied and said I was fine with it.  But it hurt.  A lot.  Especially since the things he’d always complained about me that made me feel so unlovable were things she had even more than I did.

Once they made their public appearance, my calendar was full with friends taking me out to dinner.  “Honey, we love you so much and wanted you to find out from someone that loved you…”  Each of them had the news I already knew.  But I loved them for it.  It was a difficult time, but I felt supported through it– by everyone involved.

Around 30, it happened again with my Dutch partner.  They were not adults about it and made it much much harder than it needed to be.  I laid it on their respective lack of character.

For it to have happened again in my late 30s was really devastating.  This time it took everything with it- my friends, my spiritual tribe, my activism.  That it was handled so poorly and callously when we were in a mystical spiritual community (I belonged to a Sufi group) and all old enough to know better made it feel particularly personal and hurtful.

It had been hands-down the worst relationship I’d ever been in.  He reminded me of the shadow side of every relationship I’d ever had– my first husband, my partner in Holland, my mother, my brother, my grandmother, my father… and only their worst qualities and ways of making me out to be completely unlovable, worthless, bothersome and tedious.  It was so bad, in fact, that I could not blame him for it, really.  I had to take responsibility for attracting that into my life.  I had attracted it.  I had attracted it so intensely that it proposed to me, and I had accepted.  I spent the entire relationship working to release whatever it was that had brought him to me.

I didn’t talk a lot about what I was going through to others.  I was ashamed.  I felt like I should’ve known better.  I beat myself up for ignoring signs that seemed so obvious after we were married that I rationalized away before.  Indeed, I spent the first 6 months of the marriage rolling the tape in my head of all the things I’d explained away or told myself that I was being too nit-picky or bitchy or unreasonable about.  I didn’t talk a lot about what was going on, but those close to me knew that it was bad and that I was incredibly unhappy.

When you’ve had the 3rd major long-term relationship in your life end with them running off with a friend, you can’t help but ask “Why is this happening to me??  Again??!!?”

IT ALL STARTS WITH ME.

I’d learned enough about how our relationships with others reflect our relationships with ourselves to know where to look.  I sat down and wrote how it was making me feel—  Betrayed. Dishonored.  Tossed-aside.

Where and how was I doing this to myself?  Where and how was I devaluing the voice that warned?  Where and how was I betraying those that I’m supposed to love and support that have done nothing but love and support me?  Where and how was I putting myself in a bad situation by not believing those that I should?

RECOGNIZING WHAT WE DO TO OURSELVES

I found the answers in how I treated my emotions.  They gave me good information– that is what they’re here for, but I didn’t listen.  I didn’t honor them.  In doing that, I betrayed myself.  My emotions are what make me human- but I belittled and ignored them– if I didn’t outright scoff them.  I did not honor the basis of my humanity.  I misread them, then blamed them for things that had little to do with them.

I ignored them.  A lot.  Much like H had done to me.  When they did catch my attention, I took swift and typically harsh punishment against them.  They were locked up, pushed down, covered up, blown-up, buried.  I did all kinds of things to numb them out when they were unresponsive to my strikes against them and attempts to starve them out.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

I had to take responsibility for what I was doing to myself.  I was in an abusive relationship with myself.  My family may have taught it to me, but I had continued treating myself that way 2 decades after leaving home.  I did that.  To me.

Now I understood why I would see a child running away from me in dreams and meditation sometimes.  Children live through their hearts, not their minds.  To denigrate and beat up on my emotions was harming the Child Within me. No wonder life felt so flat! No wonder I hadn’t painted or written anything in so long!

MAKING UP AND STARTING OVER

The beautiful thing about our bodies and emotions are how loving and forgiving they are.  At any moment, we can start over.  They’re more than happy to begin again.

Not that there’s no mess to clean up , mind you.  That remains.  But there is no resentment on their part about the mess- only joy that the willingness to clean up is there.  They have taught me what agape means.

I learned to apply the golden rule to my relationship with my emotions.  I learned to listen to them.  I learned so many things:

  • To just feel my emotions instead of try to make them mean something.
  • To accept that emotions have energy, and that energy cannot be destroyed: they will either pass through me and make me more human, or I can throttle them and stuff them and make myself less human and more ill.
  • Emotions are nothing to be afraid of.
  • Emotions themselves don’t hurt me–even the very uncomfortable ones– the thoughts I have about them and the actions I take as a result of those thoughts do.

My emotions are not interested in kidnapping me and dragging me into a pit for weeks on end.  My thoughts may be, but my emotions are not.  They, like me, just want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged and honored.  That is all.

BEING HEARD IS THE ROOT OF THE SURVIVAL INSTINCT

I’ve long been convinced that the desire to be heard is the beginning of the survival instinct.  It is so powerful, that people will do all manner of silly things and follow atrocious leaders if only they feel heard.  Being seen is not as powerful.  Objects are seen.  Think of the saying “Children should be seen and not heard.”  Its painful and hurtful and scary– especially if you’re trapped in an abusive environment.  Silencing objections is the most often employed tactic by abusers and other despots, so it makes sense that the need to be heard is so powerful.

Yet I wasn’t listening to myself.  I didn’t give my emotions the opportunity to be heard.  I talked about them, but I didn’t listen to their story.  They were not allowed to represent themselves.  I did not treat them as living beings, but as nuisances to be dealt with.

I treated them the same way I’d been so angry at others for treating me.

Recognizing this has changed my life and is the basis of the work I now do.   It has helped me release so much baggage from my past, because I see that there is nothing someone has done to me as an adult that I didn’t do to myself first.  The people around me are simply agreeing with me and treating me the way I treat myself.  The Universe is a very agreeable place, after all. 

 

This is my body, this is my home…

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Baubo

This year, the AZ Goddess Conference honored Baubo, a goddess of belly laughs and body wisdom.   Baubo is bawdy and wise, strong and confident, deeply centered in her body, and wherever she shows up, she reconnects women to their power and creativity.  No coincidence that she draws attention to the woman’s belly and speaks through the vulva– the portal of all human life on this planet.

Any supermarket line–or facebook sidebar–screams messages to tame your tummy, bind your belly, suck in your stomach, hold it in, keep it in or face the consequences.  We’re willingly buying things called spanx as an aid (or punishment) in this struggle against our bodies.  In many representations, Baubo’s third eye is a navel.  How does it impact our own connection to our intuition if we’re treating the locus of our intuition as an enemy to be defeated? If it must be spanxed into submission? Tamed? Controlled? Sucked-in?

Anxiety, fear, compulsion, depression, addiction– these are the natural human reactions to feeling disconnected from ourselves and others.  The first step to stopping these reactions is to connect with ourselves.  To connect with our bodies.

Dineta Williams led the workshop before mine in the Sunshine House at the Peaceful Spirit Enrichment Center Saturday morning. She’s been working with the The Woman’s Belly Book and taught us a chant that continued to resonate with me throughout the retreat.  Say it with me.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Put your hands on your belly.  Rub it lovingly like the precious thing it is and let’s do it again-

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

As we continued to repeat the chant, I felt my connection to my body grow.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Feelings of disconnect and floating began to wash away.  Being a deep-thinking progressive raised in an abusive environment in a conservative family in a traditional region, I’ve done a lot of moving around and travelling trying to find the place where I belong.  I’ve studied multiple religions looking for my home.  I’ve gone through multiple relationships searching for the place where I could settle down.  In the past decade, there’s been much more peace, but the search has left its scars.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, home was here all along…

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

And the insanity and tragedy and comedy of all those years of feeling so alone and lost begin to wash over me.  The fears of not being supported and loved revealed for their meaninglessness.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Our homelessness epidemic begins with our own embodiment.  The recession pushing people on to the street while houses stand empty becomes a metaphor for our own state of being.  Perfectly good dwellings stand empty and in disrepair while people drift in sorrow, disconnected from their lives and those they thought they loved and loved them.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.

My body, its voice so loving and supportive, is always here for me.  Even when I can’t bear the pain (psychological or physical) of what is happening in a moment– I leave, but my body stays.  My body bears it for me- feels it all.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Gratitude flows.  Love grows.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

In my workshop, we went deeper into listening to our bodies.  The basis of gratitude and love makes this much easier- after all, do you share much with someone that’s always putting you down?  The body doesn’t withhold the information, but our attitude towards it severs the lines of communication.  Yet its listening to the body that connects us to the intuition– the stuff fairy godmothers and fairies are made of.  Its this connection that helps the sheroes of folk- and fairytales to get impossible loads of work done and achieve immense tasks.

That evening, we had a ceremony to honor our bellies.  Each of us was called to come to the middle of the circle, raise our skirt/shirt like Baubo and show our bellies to the group, then say where our power comes from.  We could also tell a bad joke if we wanted to.  There was a basket of jokes on the table in the center to help those of us that can never remember the punchline.

It was one of the most empowering, fun and funny rituals I’ve ever taken part in.  Everyone looked like little kids to me– raising their shirt to show their bellies to us all.  Rubbing and patting them.  The woman that went before me really inspired me.  “This really scares me, but since my divorce I promised myself to face my fears, so here I go–” she said before she raised her shirt.  It was so beautiful.  With each belly bared, we whooped and cheered and clapped.

I stepped up.  I raised up my dress “Here’s my bell-eh”, I said as I held my dress up with one hand and began to move the pants I wore under down a bit (I’m not very good at being lady-like, so I tend to wear something under dresses).  “But wait, you’ve got to see the whooooole thing–” as I moved the pants down on the sides to show the full expanse of my apron- as I call it “–or you haven’t seen it at all.”

I surprised myself.  I’ve come to accept my paunch, to see my stretchmarks as battlescars rather than evidence of damaged goods, but the side-flaps?  I have trouble with those.  My partner in Holland used to play with them when we were cuddled on the couch watching TV.  I hated it.  “Why?” he would ask.  “They’re so soft and fun!”  I could only see what a great departure they were from the flat belly I’d had as a teenager–he only part of my body I didn’t feel ashamed of… my family regularly called me thunder thighs and bubble butt.  The kids at school made fun of my ski-slope nose.  I wouldn’t wear sandals because of the weird toenail that’d been ripped off when I was a toddler.  My mom told me I had the ankles of a football player.  My wrists were too thick for most women’s jewelry and watches because of our Dutch bones– my height leaving me in the decidedly un-feminine position of being as tall or taller than most boys. To say nothing of having an hourglass figure in an era when androgyny was in fashion…. but my stomach.  My stomach was flat.  My hips poked up when I laid flat.   My stomach was the only part I’d never been ashamed of.  Losing it in child bearing sunk me into a place of complete defensiveness for YEARS.  The coining of the term FUPA hasn’t helped.  Hiding it is my main fashion objective.  And here I was, pulling my pants down on the side so that everyone could see it.

“You have to see the full breadth of it.  You have to see it all to love this belly. ” The group roared with applause.  “This belly of mine that birthed a beautiful baby boy.  Held him so well that he was born well over 9 pounds and walked just after 8 months.  This belly did that.

“And my power?  Where does my power come from?  It comes from the place my laughter comes from.  The place that makes my belly shake HA HA HA” I thundered.  My belly laugh got everyone else laughing too “My power is from the place that gives me a laugh that “shakes the foundations of the buildings” (as one of the academy members in China described me) “may it shake the foundations of the walls and systems that keep us caged so that we can be free!”

What a rush!!!  It was amazing!

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

After we’d all shown our bellies and said where our power comes from, we got rattles and drums and sticks and chanted the mantra

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

We walked to the sanctuary to pick up gifts that were waiting for us on the altar.  As I was walking back, more on my own, I continued to chant

-This is my body-

Looking at the desert plants around me

-This is my home-

I felt the dust against the sides of my sandaled feet

-This is where I live-

and the bigness of this chant really began to resonate through me

-This is my body-

The earth and I are connected- I’d long noticed how the land in a region impacts the people that live on it

-This is my home-

The relationship that people,their culture, and their surroundings have and the ways they influence each other

-This is where I live-

The pride and love and sense of accomplishment that comes when we love something as our own.  The way we identify with it and tend it and devote our resources to looking after it.

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Connecting with and loving our bodies isn’t just the key to our own happiness, health, and fulfillment– it is the foundation of the work of healing the planet and our societies.

So say it with me once again

This is my body.

This is my home.

This is where I live.

Say it till you feel it.  Repeat as necessary.

Start the revolution: Love You Now

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I spent all day yesterday not writing this post.  I twiddled with my website instead.  A grand procrastination tool- do something “productive” instead of doing what you know you must.

It didn’t work very well, though, since tooling around my website just brings the issue back up again.   It left me agitated and unfulfilled.  When J asked how my day had been, my lackluster response got him asking more questions- but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Not really.  Or I wouldn’t.

“I’m having a hard time cutting lose the academic coaching stuff.” is what I told him instead, “I hid it from view, but I didn’t delete it.  I don’t know why I’m having a hard time letting it go.” I said.  But truth be told, I do know. Letting it go means I’m making room to fully move in another direction with my practice.  Its positioning myself to fully commit to working with loving our bodies and healing our distorted images and perceptions of our bodies.  I’m scared to do that.  There are many things that feed my fear:

My story with my body and all the ways it didn’t fit– regardless of how trim and fit and healthy it was or wasn’t–is a long one that I’ll write more about in another post, but the foundational lack of acceptance I felt as a result of that makes things scary.  I do them anyway, but I’m scared while I do it.

I’ve seen people that look totally normal to me get ripped to shreds for daring to speak about the unspoken when they’re supposedly carrying 20 extra pounds.  I’m carrying far more than that.  I’m afraid that speaking up about loving our bodies from the inside instead of judging them from the outside is going to draw this intense judgement and hatred.  How dare I love myself even though I don’t look like a photoshopped image from a magazine?? How dare I take up space for anything other than pubescent sexual fantasies?

Who am I to talk about loving this body I’m in when its so far from the beauty ideal?

How can I say I’m friends with my body when I have all this extra weight to carry and the strain that puts on my knees and hips?

I’m frustrated by the shame and fear I feel at the double-bind that western women are in: that we are only allowed to occupy space– especially public space– if we are adhering to ridiculous and imaginary standards of beauty and desirability.   How often are women’s ideas and work minimized because of looks?  “Aw, why listen to that fat-ass?”  “Who cares what she says- she’s ugly/old.” (as if they are the same thing for a woman)

Yet if a woman is beautiful, the assumption is that she’s stupid, so she’ll have to work equally hard to be taken seriously.  Fatima Mernissi spends quite a bit of time on this western separation of beauty and brains in her book Scheherezade Goes West. Around page 90 she spends time with Kant and his ideas that beauty and intelligence shall never in the same vessel reside. It is a shocking revelation to this Moroccan feminist, since in the Arabic cultural paradigm, a woman cannot truly be becoming unless she is intelligent.

Added on top of that is the danger we’re in if we meet the beauty ideal.  Its a lose-lose-lose for women.  I realized last night that my resistance to this has been passive-aggressive.  I have used weight as a shield to keep me safe.  Since all those that molested me as a child and assaulted me as an adult cited that I was “just so pretty [they] couldn’t resist”, then it makes sense that my body has clung to weight regardless of my exercise and eating habits.  I’ve known this for years.  I hadn’t acknowledged before how passive-aggressive this form of resistance/protection is, though.

What so much of it boils down to is this: I’m afraid of being shamed for loving myself just as I am.  In the realm of the Taliban, a woman with a book threatens the societal order.  In ours, its a woman that truly loves herself– and her body– just as she is.

And the double-bind is itself in a double-bind.  Those that deny women’s continued oppression will be angry at me for speaking of it.  Those that recognize the oppression will be angry at me for feeling shame and fear around it.  Both sides will tell me I am not allowed to feel vulnerable.  My shame and fear, once spoken, is somehow a threat to them.

Yet part of loving myself fully is recognizing the shame and fear and allowing it to be there.  I know that doing this means it is no longer operating the car of my life from the backseat.  Recognizing that its there, allowing it to be there, understanding that its there and having empathy for myself for having it- despite my academic training and all I know about how it shouldn’t be there and how I should be over it and how as a strong woman I shouldn’t let it effect me, it is there and I’m not sure how over it I am, and it does impact me.  I will love and honor myself anyway.  Maybe even because of.

It was a huge relief to speak this out last night, and as I drifted off, I knew I had to write this today.

This morning, I awoke to an email from one of the World Academy members in China.  The WAFW is showing the film Girl Rising on the SIAS campus right now, and she was deeply inspired by the film and wants to visit her old school and encourage students to continue their studies (instead of dropping out to get married or go work in a factory).  Though she finishes by telling me that she feels she needs to improve herself more before she can help others improve themselves.  The “No, no, no, honey, no” that wells up in me is so strong and immediate, there is no mistaking that the words are for me as much as they are for her.

“This idea is a trap.  If you do it right, you’ll be improving yourself your whole life.  Don’t wait until you’re done to start helping others.  That implies that you’re broken and need to be fixed.  You’re not broken.  The issues you’re dealing with will be the ones that will give you the deepest insight to help others. There will always be people ahead of you on the path that can help, there will always be people behind you on the path that need help. Get the help you need, give the help to others that they need.”

Time, again, to follow my own advice.  And in keeping with Mercury in Retrograde and the oil I’m working with this week, time to release– release these fears’ hold over me.  I learned in China that my fears don’t mean much.  Those that came true were insignificant in light of the work that I was doing, and the ones that I was the most afraid of were so ludicrously detached from reality as to be meaningless.  Its time to release them.  To forgive myself for the ways I’ve held on to them.  For the times when I sat still because they told me to instead of rebelling against them and doing what my heart called me to do.  Time for me to release the resentment and forgive those that have fed those fears in me.  Those that have and would punish me for not being ruled by them.

So I’m moving through the fire of my fear, and its burning off my clothes and leaves me standing here naked before you.  Judge me if you will, and people will, but know that that same fire has made me stronger, and hatched some dragons that take my protection–and my blooming– pretty seriously.