Tag Archives: women’s empowerment

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.

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Opening Possibilities

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Tonight was the Opening Ceremony for the World Academy for the Future of Women.  The ceremony is completely student-organized and student-driven.  If new members aren’t present at this ceremony, they are booted from the Academy and their space is opened up for in-coming freshman to apply.  Academy members are encouraged to bring faculty and family members to the ceremony so they can learn a bit more about what WAFW and the UN Millennium Goals are all about. Though there was a BBQ on campus as well as several student meetings, the auditorium in the Administration Building was quite full.

The Advanced Academy members, those that have completed their first year in the academy, took the stage in the uniforms they received upon completing their first year and conducted the ceremony in English.  Speaking to an auditorium full of people is a daunting task in your own language, let alone a foreign one.

Suzanne, Jerrie, Monday, and Jackie lead the auditorium in the World Academy for the Future of Women’s oath.

Suzanne, Jerrie, Monday, and Jackie lead the auditorium in the World Academy for the Future of Women’s oath.

I’d spent all day in meetings with the WAFW’s leadership yesterday.  The day started at 10am with the Project Leaders.

Jerrie drives home the message of “Must Be Present to Win” for this year’s Academy

Jerrie drives home the message of “Must Be Present to Win” for this year’s Academy

Each WAFW member (both from the Women’s Academy and the Men’s Academy for the Future of Women) must be involved in a project that focuses on one of the eight UN Millennium Goals.  Our first meeting of the day began with those that have taken the reigns for these projects that were started by previous WAFW members.  There was even one young woman that is a first year academy member, but had volunteered on a project last year.  She applied to WAFW, and is now the leader for the project she’d worked on.  It was remarkable to see these women- women that I know a year ago would not have stood up and talked about their accomplishments at all, do so confidently and with voices that filled the room.

Cecilia stands to present on what her group that deals with HIV/AIDS prevention is working with.

Cecilia stands to present on what her group that deals with HIV/AIDS prevention is working with.

As the day progressed, we worked with the Advanced Academy Members, who’s understanding of their leadership was deeper and wider.  Their answers to Jerrie’s questions were full of insights and awakenings they’d had during their internships over the summer.  They not only took internships over the summer- while many of their friends went on holiday or returned to spend time with their much-missed families- they watched their bosses and fellow employees very closely.  “I learned that the key to leadership is to just be myself.  But really be myself” one of the members said.  The academy had given her the confidence to forge her own path and find students to tutor to get more pocket money when she found herself in a financial pinch.  “I wouldn’t have thought of those possibilities before the academy” she’d told me on a walk the day before.  “I would have stayed in that place where I wasn’t happy and wasn’t doing what was good for my future, just because I didn’t know that I could do something else. Now I know that.”

The next two-hour block belonged to the Academy in Action.  Jerrie seems absolutely tireless.  Kristine’d reached her limit by now.  I kept going.  I feel like I could just follow Jerrie around all the time and watch everything she does.  She’s totally who I want to be when I grow up.  When I met her during my facilitator’s training, I told my friends “I’ve met Baba Yaga!  And if I can complete the tasks she sets before me, I’ll have the Light of the Ancients!”  I still feel that way.  The students clearly feel the same.  They want to soak up everything she has to offer- and the students that have reached the level of Academy in Action show the fruits of doing just that.  They think deeply about their own development and what that means to their leadership—but the mark of their maturity as leaders is showing: they’re concerned about how to develop those around them.

By the 3rd year and the Academy in Action, the Men’s Academy and Women’s academy are combined.

By the 3rd year and the Academy in Action, the Men’s Academy and Women’s academy are combined.

The Advanced Academy meeting ended with a member opening the discussion of “What do we do about those Academy members that are not excellent? How will we treat this issue?”  Some answered that all should be excellent.  She persisted.  “Yes, we should all be excellent. So what do we do when people are not excellent?  If we do not have something to do when people are not excellent, we won’t get everyone to excellence.”  I loved that she persisted.  I love that these students have a place where they feel free to persist.  To not only speak up, but to continue to speak up when their point isn’t taken with the gravitas they know it deserves.  I asked them what they did with themselves in the moments when they weren’t excellent.  What was wrong that they weren’t performing their best?  What did they do about it?  If they thought about this, then they would have their answers on how to inspire their teammates to excellence when they weren’t living up to their potential.

To end the day, there was a meeting with the office staff.  These students have really stepped up and taken on tremendous responsibility.  These are volunteer positions.  Many of them have worked in the campus president’s office, or had other positions, and now they devote their time to WAFW.  Their level of commitment is inspiring.  The discussions we had a bout the different leadership styles as well as how you stand in your authority while simultaneously standing in another’s shoes made me so proud of them, and so honored to be here and be a part of this organization.

After each of the meetings, the students approached me requesting other meetings.

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Even with the pressure of putting on the opening ceremony this evening, I had meetings about translation, media plans, setting up newsletters.

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They also moved me into a new room in the guest wing of Peter Hall. I don’t know why I’d been so resistant to moving… the students were right- it is a much nicer room and much more comfortable and home-y.  Isn’t that so often the way it is? The thing we’re resisting is actually the thing we’re trying to create…

At the end of the ceremony tonight, the front was rushed as students looked to sign up with the projects they’d like to taste first.

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The first years will be working with a different project each month until December, when they’ll need to choose one.  The second years can stay in the project they’d been working with or try a new one.  All are encouraged to try on different things to find their passion.  And the message of the night was successfully delivered – a consistent thread in almost everyone that got on stage—change doesn’t come from others, it comes from you.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The World Academy for the Future of Women is teaching both men and women to have that be the basis of their leadership.  How different would the world be if all those in leadership positions took this approach?

Fun Lovin’ Criminals are singing “Its you, its you, its always been you and its always been in you” as I write this.  Perfect ending to an amazing day—and we haven’t even started yet!