mothertonguepart2lucyburns

 Lucy Burns, American suffragist and women’s rights advocate.

This is part 2 of a five-part series on rediscovering, and speaking in, our mother tongue.

 

In part 1, Has Your Mother Tongue Been Lost in Translation?, I wrote about how women often translate, or code-switch, from our native way of saying things into a language that the masculinized culture will hear and accept so that we will be ‘taken seriously’, or to be not too ‘threatening’, which ultimately means ‘be accepted’.

In this series, Mother Tongue, I am specifically speaking to women, specifically asking the question:

What wisdom and creativity are we losing because women’s ways of speaking, a feminized expression, is seen as inferior to masculinized expression?

I make this distinction between the difference of female and male because we are different. Yes, men and women both have masculine and feminine traits and energies. That is so. And, we can’t express our creativity without it coming directly through the body, a gendered body. This directly impacts our creativity, our leadership, and our wisdom. To deny this, is to once again attempt to deny the validity and value of feminized expression.

 

Why do we translate?

If I reflect on my own experience over the many decades of my life, I can see where I’ve consciously chosen, many times, to choose my words carefully, to leave certain words out and to replace them with words that would be less challenging and provocative to those I knew would hear them. It’s startling, in looking back, to see how quickly I could size up a situation and then decide how best to ‘navigate’ that situation.

I’ve translated for many reasons. Sometimes, it was merely to figure out how to best communicate to the people I was conversing with. If I wanted them to understand, I could change the words, tone, and content in order to help achieve one-half of that understanding – the other half being their responsibility. I have known for a long time that I can’t make someone understand me, nor can I make anyone even really hear me. But, I can be proactive in helping to make the conversation be more productive for both of us.

Other times, I’ve translated because I feared that what I would say would be provocative, would cause me to feel scorned and/or shamed. Sometimes, though, when I’ve been just plain excited to share something, I haven’t been ‘careful’. Instead, I’ve just expressed myself without switching certain words and stories for other ones that would be more digestible – or at least what I thought would be more digestible.

As women, our tendency to translate begins pretty early in. We translate, or code-switch, much earlier than when we first enter a masculine-centric world of business, though. We begin when we enter the masculine-centric world of education. And even before that, many times it begins when we become aware of language within what can be a masculine-centric culture of the nuclear family.

 

One story

One particular story stands out for me, and it stands out because of the shame I felt when I did not translate.

I attended Stanford University as a non-traditional undergraduate, transferring from a community college as a junior at the age of 42. While I was there, I decided to write an undergraduate honor’s thesis. I had a hard time deciding on the topic. The question swirled around me for months, because I was contemplating a very unusual topic, something that seemed to me to be very unorthodox. I didn’t know if I could find the words to speak about, and write about, what I was seeing, so I was nervous to make this choice.

Finally, the words came in a true ‘AHA’ moment – Spirituality and the Internet. I felt so much excitement as I thought about designing and writing the thesis, yet I was also nervous about bringing my spiritual side into my studies. I feared being ridiculed for having this ‘crazy’ topic (yes, my inner judge was working overtime). Keep in mind this was in 2000. The web hadn’t yet been more widely used for very long at this point. Despite my fears, my advisors knew me well, and all four of them responded with nothing but encouragement. With this encouragement, my confidence grew a bit.

Near the end of the quarter, those of us who had honor theses were asked to share our topics at a celebration dinner where our advisors were also in attendance. I was nervous to speak because I anticipated the other professors might not receive such a ‘different’ topic as kindly. I’d been at Stanford for three years, and I’d found both my age and my way-of-being ‘non-traditional’. For a split second, before I stood up, I wondered how I should phrase what I was going to say. I wondered if I should use the words Spirituality and the Internet. I wondered if I should try to coat them with something less ‘woo-woo’. I feared how I would be received. As I rose to speak, I could feel this inner voice saying to me, just speak the truth because you know this is a really incredible thing you are doing. So I did. I spoke the truth. I said,

“My topic is on Spirituality and the Internet. I am creating a spiritual experience online, and then testing users to see how they experience the space.”

And whatever other words I decided to share quickly became lost in the bodily sensations of shame as I began to hear laughter and snickering, and saw odd looks on the older, educated, mostly-male faces. As I finished, one professor in particular said,

“What are you going to do? Play mood music and have virtual incense?”

 

Ashamed of my own creativity and wisdom

His words brought more snickering. And with that, I could feel my face turn bright red and I sat down. Believe me, I’d had to face some pretty awkward moments as a woman undergrad twice the ‘normal’ age. But this moment was hard. I felt so much shame for something that was actually a really brilliant, and forward-thinking idea, based on my work in the computer science human-computer interaction courses I’d taken. From that point on, while I finished the topic, I chose my words very carefully, and I carried a kind of shame about what I was doing.

I obviously didn’t have much confidence in myself, and at this point was still allowing others’ ideas of me influence me way too much. Perhaps this might not have bothered many others, but it shut me down. I realize I shut me down. I allowed others’ words to shut me down. Some might say they were only teasing, that their words showed their own discomfort, or that a few words shouldn’t sting so much. That isn’t the point. The point is what I did with my wonderful idea. In that moment, I felt the joy go out of it because I began to judge it even more harshly. Even as I created it, somewhere inside the good ‘translator’ reigned it in.

I’m sharing this long story because it gets to the heart of what I am writing about, and I am writing about it because I have experienced it so often in my many years on this planet. I’ve experienced shame and humiliation because how I see the world and how I speak about what I see is not considered to be sentimental, too deep, not practical enough, too spiritual.

Ultimately it was me, and is me, shaming me. AND…I survived. Feeling these feelings did not kill me. Others face far worse in this world. 

This fear of judgment can cause us to go silent; to keep our amazing creativity and ideas to ourselves. Whether it was ‘kind’ or not, it really didn’t have to impact me, nor silence me, if I was confident in my own language, my mother tongue as a woman.

 

This really was about my mother tongue.

This topic, Spirituality and the Internet, came through me. It was my creation. It was coming through this soul, with this internal language, and this wisdom. It wasn’t that my words were unrecognizable. It was that they were foreign to these men in the format I was sharing them. But the nature of this thesis and work was very much coming out of my own mother tongue as a woman, a language that speaks of connection, of wholeness, of relationship, and of healing. It was coming out of my own experience with the divine and knowing that on some level the Internet is a source of light that can bring us together and can heal us as a species.

But these ideas are very feminine in nature. They are about healing and love, about a God that isn’t masculine, nor sits on high, but a God that is Oneness, that is both masculine and feminine in nature, a divinity that isn’t about religion at all, but about life. And these ideas are threatening to many.

My story is just ONE story. I know you must have many stories. How is your creativity and wisdom is being lost every day because you shy away from sharing what your soul must share?

 

Gender Bi-lingual 

Soraya Chemali, in her post, ’10 Ways Society Can Close the Confidence Gap’, shares ways we can begin to help close the confidence gap for women, one of which is to:

“Stop promoting the idea that masculinized expression is superior and that women have to emulate it to be successful. The expectation that women be gender bi-lingual, or code switch, is a function of being part of a muted group. The kind of confidence that many people advocate just means a woman has to work very hard to overcome sexist gender incongruities to succeed.

Women learned to be gender bi-lingual in order to be successful. If we are gender bi-lingual, we have learned to be because we, at some point, came to the realization that our native language was not the language to speak if we wanted to succeed in the world. We learned this, and then we learned to speak the male language. We learned how to translate, and then at some point we forgot our own mother tongue, at least on the surface of things.

It has been my experience, in teaching about creativity and leadership, that most men do not even realize that women translate. It would help if they did, and yet this is not about them giving us permission to not translate. It is about bringing forth our own language, our own mother tongue, in a way that honors and values it.

 

Valuing our expression – our Mother Tongue

Why would non-masculinized expression be any less valuable or honorable? Only because someone, somewhere decided it was so…and we’ve adopted that belief.

If we’ve been educated and conditioned in a masculine-centric world, then what is our mother tongue as women? What I’ve come to discover is that it lies outside of this masculine-centric conditioning – and because it does, it holds a source of wisdom, creativity, and power that could bring about a radical shift in our culture. 

Perhaps this is why the Dalai Lama said that Western women would save the world – because there is a deep, untapped well of creativity and wisdom waiting to be expressed through women.

In part three, we’ll explore what flows through women – this mother tongue. You can read part one, here.

I look forward to having you join me for the series as it unfolds. Other posts in the series are:

Mother Tongue Part 1: Has Your Mother Tongue Been Lost in Translation?

Mother Tongue, Part 2: Speaking Without Translating

Mother Tongue, Part 3: Calling You Home in a Language Long Forgotten

Mother Tongue, Part 4: She Doesn’t Pay Lip Service

Mother Tongue, Part 5: Eyes and Instincts, Knowing and Soul

We will discover much together. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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MotherTonguePart01

 

This is the first part of a five-part series on rediscovering, and speaking in, our mother tongue.

 

How many languages do we ‘speak’ as women?

What streams of wisdom do we have access to?

What is our true mother tongue?

::

Our Mother Tongue:

In my last post, I shared a poem that came up out of an underground stream of forsaken voices. Since writing that poem, I’ve been wondering about women’s voices – how silent so many of us can be, how careful we are so often to consider closely what we say and how we say it, and how our world does not have access to the wisdom and creativity it could have if more women (myself included) spoke without fear, without self-judgment, and with a direct clear language that comes when we speak our mother tongue, what is native to us, without translation.

I don’t know exactly what this mother tongue is, but I’ve heard it flow through me in times when the creative impulse was clear and direct and I simply became the vessel through which it flows. This language is more instinctual. It is alive. It flows from the body, and utilizes rational thinking rather than being dictated by it.

 

Lost in Translation:

Over the past seven years, I’ve lectured at Stanford University in a course titled Creativity and Leadership. I teach with a fabulous male colleague, whom I adore working with. Around five years ago, I suggested we bring in the topic of gender balance (and gender differences) in the workplace and how this might interfere with creativity and leadership into our course, and my colleague was absolutely right there with me. Since then, during our week on Balance, we take a bit of time to break out into groups based on two genders, men and women. I speak with the women, and my colleague speaks with the men, and we inquire into how the work culture impacts our ability to be fully creative, fully ourselves.

In speaking with the women in this separate group, what I soon discovered is that many women ‘translate’ from our own language into a language the masculine corporate culture will understand and value. Keep in mind that most of the students in this course are working in very corporate settings in Silicon Valley. They are successful in their areas of expertise, and many work for good companies who are doing good work in the world. It’s not like they, necessarily, work for ‘bad’ companies that stifle women’s voices knowingly and purposefully.

At first while we were discussing this idea of how gender in the workplace gets in the way of creativity, this sense of being stifled wasn’t being articulated. It was through our discussion (in our gender-separated group) that this tendency to translate came to the surface. In the first instance when I became aware of this tendency, one woman was speaking and as she struggled to articulate her frustrations at work suddenly words popped out that spoke of being tired of translating what she really felt and knew into something that would be acceptable and not belittled or mocked. As she spoke the words, the frustration showed up loud and clear.

At first I was surprised at it being spoken aloud so clearly and distinctly. And then, I remembered how I had done the exact same thing when I was in banking and in information technology. I just hadn’t realized so clearly that I was doing it. I hadn’t become conscious of it…until that moment.

It’s like we do this thing that sometimes we don’t even really consciously know we are doing, because we are so used to doing it.

We’ve been catching our real words in hidden pockets of the throat, while finding and speaking ‘safer’ words into the world.

Some women know they are doing it. Some women have stopped doing it. Some women don’t know they are doing it. Some women don’t even know how to stop doing it. And as I discovered, most men are not aware that women do this. But when this one woman said what she said, so many other female heads nodded up and down in agreement while at the same time holding a look that expressed a sense of AHA – oh my gosh…that’s what I’ve been doing.

 

Code-Switching:

This idea of ‘translating’ in this way isn’t new. I first found the term code-switching reading this recent piece by Soraya Chemaly. The term has been used to describe how people of different cultures change how they speak depending on whom they are speaking to, and in what situation they are speaking.

From speaking with friends, people of color know all about code-switching. My friends, while perhaps not using this term, certainly know they’ve had to contend with this their whole lives. Perhaps my privilege has kept me from seeing this. Yes, that feels so true. And, yet, I wonder how many women are very conscious they are changing their language in this way. We’ll explore this more in part 2.

We all have the capacity, as humans, to move between two or more different languages. Code-switching is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or (varieties of a single language like English) in conversation. If we speak more than one language, we do this. And let’s face it – most of us, women and men, speak more than one language – even if they are all in our only language. I imagine men speak a different language when they are only with men. I know women speak a different language when they are only with women. And we all speak a different language if we are with children, or with groups of people who come from a different background. We’re all finding our way in communicating something as complex as life into something so confining – words.

I am not going to go into great detail about code-switching in this series. What I am more interested in is the ingrained idea that what we women have to say, when we say it in our more feminized expression is somehow less valuable, insightful, or practical. What I am more interested in is what is NOT being said because it is lost in translation. And, I am more interested in helping us to rediscover our lost mother tongue.

 

What we will be exploring:

In wanting to explore this idea of the language we women use to express ourselves, I’ve wondered how often we say what we most long to say. Where do we change our words, our inflection? How often does what wants to be said directly and clearly come out sideways and hesitant? If we could say the words we yearn to say, what would those be? And, how do we get to the source of our mother tongue and the courage to speak it?

The rest of the series at a glance:

Part #2
The propensity for many women to code-switch in this culture in order to be ‘taken seriously’, or to be not too ‘threatening’, which ultimately means to ‘be accepted’ – and, ultimately, wondering what wisdom and creativity are we losing when we code-switch.

Part #3
A more native-tongue we rarely hear women use because it lies underground (metaphorically speaking), under the cultural language we’ve been taught to listen to and trust.

Part #4
The groundswell of generations of women’s swallowed words that lies dormant just waiting to be heard, honored, and perhaps shared.

Part #5
And finally, considering your words. What are your words? What are the words that want to flow onto the page and into the conversation through you? What do you need to say, right now, here, in this moment, to feel fully spent – like a word orgasm – where nothing is left unsaid, nothing is left hidden away, nothing within you is shamed? How can we learn to allow ourselves to speak what seems to be so frightening to speak?

 

My reason for writing about this is my deepest desire for all people, and in this case women, to find their way to pure self-expression, to that creative fire within, to that wisdom voice, that voice of play and delight, and that loving, sensual, sexual voice that is instinctual.

We don’t have access to the depth of wisdom our human culture could bring into the world as long as all people are translating rather than expressing their unique wisdom and genius.

We cannot be truly creative, we cannot be authentic leaders, and we cannot speak from the depths of our heart if we put our focus and energy into ‘translating’ what we say and how we say it rather than being authentic and vulnerable in our expression.

That’s not to say we should not utilize our ability to be fluid with our language depending on context and relationship. But rather, if a certain way to speak is idealized and held up to be the only ‘right’ form of communicating, then we all lose out because of what is being lost in translation.

I look forward to having you join me for the series as it unfolds. Other posts in the series are:

Mother Tongue Part 1: Has Your Mother Tongue Been Lost in Translation?

Mother Tongue, Part 2: Speaking Without Translating

Mother Tongue, Part 3: Calling You Home in a Language Long Forgotten

Mother Tongue, Part 4: She Doesn’t Pay Lip Service

Mother Tongue, Part 5: Eyes and Instincts, Knowing and Soul

We will discover much together. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Forsaken Voices

by Julie on April 24, 2014 · 17 comments

danuberivernearlinz

 
Audio version is below.
 

Forsaken Voices

 

Like a river
deep underground
pushed down into the depths
where they can’t be known
in the light of day
these forsaken voices
like clear-pooled water
collect together
woven in rivulets
meander through time
waiting for something
waiting for someone
waiting…

 

How rich is this water
generations of heartache
lineage of wisdom
matrilines of power.
I am the river,
now,
in this time
there is no other outlet
no other mouth
no other gateway
for these forsaken voices.

 

Generations of damming
centuries of cast-down eyes
ears grown cold
mouths sewn shut
and repeated lies told
the pressure pushes back against
walls too tired to hold.

 

When I am still, quiet, and alone
these forsaken voices
stir the marrow of my bones.

 

Deeper than the water
runs the grief untold
no one soul can tolerate
the pain of women who’ve come before
silenced
shamed
muzzled
maimed
and told to suffer it alone.
My mother, her mother, her mother, and her’s before
still woven like a river
gather underground
pool together in wisdom circles
where seeds of light collect
knowing spring
one day will come.

 

I lie in bed
signs of pleurisy all around
water pooling, collecting
in my lungs only to be known
when the grief takes hold
seeds deeply rooted in lungs
that reach back to
generations untold.

 

These forsaken voices
buried deep underground
can only breathe through
flesh and blood daughters
who now live in their lungs
breathing light into cells
waking oxygen
where none has been known.

 

I am the river
my sisters and I pool together
our collective voices now ready
to irrigate our parched world
with deep blue love from
aquifers too-long guarded
underground.

 

It is time to speak of
moisture
cool waters of knowing
deep rivulets of wisdom
flesh plump with blood.

 

There can never be wholeness when voices are silenced.
There can never be peace without dignity for all.

 
 


 

::
Image is ‘Donau-Seitenarm’  by Konstantinos DafaliasCreative Commons 2.0

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No Longer Spitting in the Face of God

by Julie on April 17, 2014 · 8 comments

 

woman with a basket of mandarins

What is woman?

She is woman.
She is not an imitation of man.
She is not made from man.
She is unique unto herself.
She isn’t perfect, yet she is sacred.
She is the vessel from which life is born.
She isn’t superior to man, nor is she inferior.
She is the female human being.

::

To denigrate women is to spit in the face of God. ~ Desmond Tutu

We live in a culture that has, for centuries, maybe millennium, denigrated the Feminine…and as walking embodiments of the Feminine, women and girls are living, breathing targets of this fear and hatred of the Feminine – also known as misogyny.

Allan G. Johnson writes in The Gender Knot:

“Misogyny plays a complex role in patriarchy. It fuels men’s sense of superiority, justifies male aggression against women, and works to keep women on the defensive and in their place. Misogyny is especially powerful in encouraging women to hate their own femaleness, an example of internalized oppression. The more women internalize misogynist images and attitudes, the harder it is to challenge male privilege or patriarchy as a system. In fact, women won’t tend to see patriarchy as even problematic since the essence of self-hatred is to focus on the self as the sole cause of misery, including the self-hatred.”  (italics mine)

 

Allan Johnson also writes,

…patriarchy is not simply another way of saying “men.” Patriarchy is a kind of society, and a society is more than a collection of people. It also involves as one of its key aspects the oppression of women.”

 

Patriarchy is NOT men. It’s a system. It’s a system we are born into. It’s a system we all hold up, and continue to breath life into, when we don’t question the assumptions we hold about men, women, and power, and about how we are in the world with each other.

It’s a system we give power to when we don’t question how we value ourselves as women, and how we value womanhood.

It’s a system we help to keep in place when we ‘hate our own femaleness’.

It’s a system that continues to control how we view ourselves when we don’t question these internalized misogynist images.

 

This isn’t about men vs. women.

Not at all. We often think when one attempts to have a conversation about this subject matter that we are blaming men, but if you read further into Johnson’s book (which I hope you will!), you will see that attempts to subvert these discussions are ways to keep this kind of system alive and well.

And if we focus on the self-hate, we are doing exactly what Johnson mentions – not seeing the mechanism of patriarchy at work.

 

This post IS about…

…the images we, women and men, carry around within ourselves of the Feminine, women, and the value of women.

This post IS about…

…the places within us that are outside of the realm of patriarchy.

 

We are all, men and women, given images when we are young of what a woman is and what a man is. In a world (for the most part – some indigenous cultures do not do this) that has denigrated the Feminine for centuries, it would make sense that our images of the Feminine would be less than helpful at best, and downright misogynist at worst; and our images of men would be championed (although as we’ve explored coming to terms with equality for women over the past decades, there’s been a lot of mud slinging both ways.)

Of course, as I’ve been writing this over the past few days, the writing has been working on me. What initially began as a more cerebral exploration and post, soon became very personal and emotional for me. As I sat with, something I try to do when I am writing a post, these images that I hold of myself, these misogynistic images I’ve ingested over my lifetime, I began to truly grasp the depth of this programming by a system that is misogynistic to its core.

Some of the images I see in my own psyche about myself are deeply misogynistic. Of course they are. I’ve been swimming in this system my entire life. I’ve been ingesting these images from the time I began to be conscious of what was around me. We wonder why it is so hard for women to love themselves. We don’t have to look far. We just have to be willing to look inside, into the depths of what we’ve come to believe, and feel, about our womanhood, and about our female bodies.

And, men do not escape the pain of this culture. Not at all. The Feminine is within them. And, their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends are women. When they hold these misogynistic images within their psyches, they must deaden the pain of knowing that the women they love deeply are walking, breathing, embodiments of this Feminine that is so feared and so hated.

 

Instead, if we are willing…

What we can is come to know the images of what it is to be female that lay outside the realm of patriarchal conditioning. These images come to us as we honestly, and wholly, ask the question, “What is it to be female?”

We can question what we’ve believed to be true. We can look directly at the images we hold of ourselves as women, of other women, and of the Feminine itself.

Inquire into the images of the Feminine that YOU are carrying around within you. Look inside. What images are YOU holding of woman? What images do you believe to be true about you and your femaleness?

This is what matters, because when we hold images, and we all do, they are the images we offer to others about ourselves. They are the images we give to others, mostly unconsciously, that tell others about who we believe ourselves to be, how much worth we believe we have, and how the people in our lives should treat us.

The images of self and gender we hold that speak to self-hatred are not natural. They are not native to us.

Images of self-hatred are not native to us. Images of self-hatred are not native to that place within us that has never been under the control of patriarchal thought and conditioning. 

We are love.  And, we can be fierce love. When we begin to hold images of ourselves as women worthy of dignity, respect, and love, we begin to view ourselves differently. I’m not talking band-aid images – I’m talking a real and true transformation of the images we hold about ourselves, other women, and the Feminine. When we find these places of dignity, respect, and love within ourselves, we begin to know something new, something real, something sacredly creative.

Anne Baring writes,

“The recovery of the feminine principle is the key to the transformation of our world culture from decay and disintegration and progressive regression into uniformity, banality and brutality, into something longed for and extraordinary.

Woman’s own awakening to the realisation of her value is part of the recovery of the feminine principle. It is as if a momentous birth is taking place in the collective psyche of woman. This birth may be experienced as something that is deeply perplexing and difficult as well as something exciting and challenging. As woman gives birth to herself, to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man), the feminine principle will also emerge in the consciousness of humanity which for so long has suffered from its repression and rejection.

Woman, whose essential nature is to respond to suffering and need, is now responding to life’s own need and is experiencing herself as the vessel of transformation in which a new consciousness is being born.”

 

A woman is reborn as she gives birth “to her unique individuality, to the emerging awareness of her value as woman (not an imitation of man).

We are reborn when we ask the question (with a longing to listen so we truly hear the answer), What is it to be female? We are reborn in the space from which we listen. This isn’t woman as imitation of man, or woman born from man’s rib. This is, as Rilke wrote, “the female human being.”

 

 As Woman

When I come to know myself as Woman,
as sacredly female outside of patriarchal control,
I am held in the lap of Love,
I am back in the garden of Earth,
I breathe in the fragrance of Life,
I eat of the fruit of Wisdom,
I am no longer a stranger in the holy land,
the only land in which I am truly alive,
the land of my own body,
the realm of my own Soul.

::

image from Flickr Commons: Woman with a basket of mandarins, 1920-1930,
Photographer: Unidentified, Location: Queensland, Australia; No known copyright restrictions

 

 

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Living the Magic and Wonder of Her

by Julie on April 13, 2014 · 14 comments

 

rubis

 
 
 

It was midday on Sunday…

We’d just arrived at Rubi’s restaurant in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Three of us sat down at a table in the back room where the welcome sunlight was streaming through the upper windows. We were to be joined by three other women we’d just spent three days with at the Red Bird Inn, the site of our retreat, Opening to Her. We’d been dancing in the Feminine for these three days. We’d opened to Her, and felt Her there, always there.

I’d co-led this retreat with Amy, and it was the first time we’d worked together. I felt light. I felt full. I felt a great love surrounding us.

At a table next to us, two women were deep in a conversation that was marked with quiet voices and intense feelings. I felt drawn to one woman in particular. In fact, I kept looking over in her direction, then would call myself back knowing it didn’t feel right to keep looking at her. But something in me felt drawn. I was to find out later that the other women I was with felt the same thing.

 

The other three women from our retreat arrived at Rubi’s, and…

We settled in and began to talk. Our conversation was light, filled with interesting things. We were talking about what we were returning home to, and shared stories about synchronicities, connections, and family. We laughed together. There was a sweetness to how we were with each other after three beautiful days together.

I hadn’t noticed that the women next to us had left their table until one of the women, the one I’d been so drawn to, approached our table from the direction of the front room of Rubi’s. She and her friend had begun to leave the restaurant, but she returned to speak to us. She approached the table looking at us, then at me, and asked,

“Are you teachers or something?”

We all looked at each other, and then I responded,

“Yes”.

She then shared with us that she could tell there was something ‘special’ about us, about how we were with each other – (connected and strong) – and that she was drawn to speaking with us because her friend was going through a very hard time and she felt we might be able to offer her friend something that she couldn’t.

Her words implied that she wanted her friend to feel held.

She then asked if she could bring her friend over for us to simply hug and be with. We answered, “Yes”, and then Amy and I stood up to greet them, together.

Amy hugged the friend, and I hugged the woman we’d spoken with. We exchanged names. Then I hugged the woman, and Amy hugged the woman we’d spoken with. As I hugged her, the woman having a difficult time told me her young-adult son had passed away just five weeks before. She said the words with a lot of presence and was clearly still in a great amount of pain. I was struck by her strength. I was struck by the strength of her friend, too.

The woman who’d initially come up to us to ask to connect with her friend hadn’t asked us for help, but rather had seen that there was something in us that could hold and be with her friend’s grief. She said she had been able to do that to a point, but she said she didn’t know what else to do and felt that her friend would benefit from being held by other women who were living something she couldn’t quite put into words.

At this point, the other four women at our table rose up, and one-by-one each hugged the other two women. They were slow, full-body hugs, not sideways hugs we many times offer in our world. The rest of the women at our table didn’t yet know what this woman was experiencing, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t ask. They simply put their loving arms around each woman and held her.

 

This moment was one of the most beautiful and amazing experiences of my life. There was longing and trust. There was connection and love. There was a lived and palpable presence of Love, of Her. It was a loving, nurturing, fully-accepting presence. It filled the room.

We then all said good-byes. The two women left the café, and we sat back down together. We all looked around our circle, a bit speechless at what had just happened. This loving, nurturing, fully-accepting presence lingered, fruitfully and spaciously.

 

One of the women at our table said she felt like she had just witnessed a miracle.

Another woman expressed something similar about our weekend together – that it was filled with magic and wonder.

The feminine is mystery. She is magic. She brings a sense of wonder.

At the end of our retreat, I offered the invitation to live Her, to live this expression of a presence that is life-affirming, real, and true, a presence that comes from being fully awake and alive in our female bodies. When we live this, we know it, and we know it and feel it in others. Even if others are not aware of it in terms of these words, they are still aware of it. We are all longing for it in our world. We hunger for Her. And She is here, holding us all.

The six of us didn’t have anything ‘special’. We were simply aware, in that moment, of this deep presence of Her. We had spent three days together remembering something we’d already known before…Her. And because of this remembering, we were embodying Her. We were living and breathing the dignity of Her.

One of the women at our table shared this as she reflected upon the experience:

 “…That we can be who we yearn for in the world. I cried at the memory of the experience, the privilege of being a part of it.”

She, the Feminine, wove us together, and then we left to go our own way. But now we know we are no longer going separate ways, but rather…

We move in the world woven together, always together, always connected.

 

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I am excited to introduce you to my good friend,

Megan McFeely, and…

to Premiere! a segment of her soon-to-be film, As She Is.

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As She Is is a film about one woman’s journey (Megan’s) to discover what the Feminine is. It is her journey. And, it is our journey as women, our journey as human beings. 
Megan is a filmmaker who is making (what I consider to be) this very important film.

Megan and I have been friends for years. We dance together, and we travelled through India together. We’ve shared some interesting, challenging, and hilarious!, times on this journey to know and live the Feminine.


In Megan’s words,

“WHAT AM I DOING?

I am on a  journey towards the center of my being.  I travel inward to see if I can find myself as I am…not as others or the culture wants me to be.  In doing so I reconnect to the sacred, the inner or the feminine part of myself.

AleMeganRoad2It is the longing for wholeness or the deep question that draws me inward…and holds open a sacred space inside where something can be born.  This journey toward the unknown started with a question because I did not really know. What is the feminine?

It is my willingness to be with the most uncomfortable of places…the emptiness, the silence, devastation, grief and the longing that continuously forges this relationship, teaching me to act from a connected place with greater awareness and responsibility.

I feel this  journey is my responsibility so that I can participate in the future…and become a guardian of life on this planet.

This is a film project about a journey toward wholeness. I continue to learn how to live this connection to myself…a never ending process of becoming.”


I feel strongly that this film is of utmost importance.

To give you a sense of the beauty that is woven throughout this film, Megan has shared this interview with us. This is the premiere showing of a portion of her interview with Aleutian Elder, Illarion Merculieff, about the feminine way of teaching:

The Intelligence of Our Natural Way of  Being, from As She Is{A premiere!}

 

“The most important lessons in my life – from age 5 to age 13 – I got from experience, my own experience.”
~ Illarion Merculieff

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how often I speak to this – of trusting your own experience, unmediated – this rich unfolding of the greater intelligence that moves through you.

As you can see and sense, this film is bringing together wisdom much needed for our times from many different sources.

 

What you can do to help bring this film into being:

Over the years, many women have asked me where they might come to know the Feminine. They’ve wondered if there are role models, or archetypes, or images that might help guide them to understand what it is that is unfolding within them, and unfolding in our world.

To me, this is one of the reasons As She Is is important to support. We are longing for something, hungering to know something, yet what this is is not necessarily visible yet in our world. We can know it from experience, yet so much of what we’ve been taught and acculturated to believe clouds our eyes and covers our ears when it comes to knowing.

We want to know, yet where do we go to learn? Yes, from our own experience. Absolutely. And, we also are being guided from many different places, from many wise voices. As She Is gathers and weaves these wisdom voices into one film for us all.

We hunger to know, and for me this is one of the most important reasons to help fund this project. We can help ourselves find this way home.

If we value coming to know wisdom that will help guide us to a better world, we have a way to help make that happen.

If As She Is resonates with you, and you feel this matters to you, please donate – and please share. As of today, March 27th, she’s raised just over $11,000.00 of her $44,000.00 goal. 

It’s going to take some creative, generous gumption on our part to reach the goal in the next ten days. One thing I’ve learned is that how we make things happen now is different than it was in the past. No longer is it up to a few people to create change in the world. Now it’s up to networks of committed women and men, you and me and the people we are connected to, and the people they are connected to.

There are 10 days left  in Megan’s Indiegogo campaign.

$1, $5, $10, $20 – or more – whatever you can give - each and every dollar brings this As She Is closer to completion.

We can be part of helping to bring forth a world where the feminine is valued alongside the masculine, a world where the feminine is valued and lived. We really MUST be the change we wish to see in the world.


Donate and share this Indiegogo link!

Indiegogo Campaign and Film trailer - Watch the film trailer, donate, and help spread the word by sharing. 

As She Is Website: www.as-she-is.org

As She Is Facebook page - Join the conversation on Facebook.

And you can share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or by email to your friends and family.

Thank you, friends, for supporting Megan and As She Is.

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The idea behind Wise Woman Wednesday is this:

We live in a culture that is not designed for women to succeed with ease. Yet women, when we awaken to the feminine within us, and begin to live the feminine as She moves through us, embody something vital that must be lived in the world. In order to bring forth our wisdom and nature into the world, we must support and amplify each other’s voices and hearts, because our culture isn’t yet set up to really do this. We’ve been graced with the Internet as a way to bring forth our voices into the world. And it is my joy to share women on Wise Woman Wednesdays whose wisdom and voices I wish to amplify with great love.

Today, on Wise Woman Wednesday, we’re…

tanyageisler

Tanya is a wonderful friend and a colleague who does just that – she champions women. She is wise. She is generous.

Tanya steadfastly stands for women to step into their life’s work – whatever that work might be.

I first met Tanya in person at the World Domination Summit, the first year it was held in Portland, Oregon. Meeting Tanya in the flesh was something I’ll never forget. Her warmth and enthusiasm are contagious. And her ability to listen on so many levels is evident the moment you enter into a conversation with her. She listens with every cell of her body. That is an important skill for a coach.

We’ve come to share many experiences, one of which was speaking at the Isfeld TEDx Women event in Courtenay, British Columbia. Tanya spoke about the Imposter Complex, something she’s taken to a whole new level in how she helps women identify and move through it. I remember how we both woke up early that morning before we were to speak. We were staying in the same condo, and so we came out into the kitchen together to have coffee, and talk quietly so as not to awaken others sleeping. We ended up sitting on the kitchen floor laughing like crazy about something.

Tanya, and our rolling-on-the-floor laughter, were the medicine I needed to calm my pre-speech nerves.

A few days ago, I surprised Tanya by telling her I was to feature her here today. We recorded this audio because it seemed like the very best way to share and amplify Tanya’s voice in the world.

 

If you are looking for a coach to work with, I have personally experienced Tanya’s coaching. She is a superb coach. She coaches many coaches.

And, Tanya’s program Step Into Your Starring Role is currently open for registration. I am not an affiliate. I don’t receive any monies for sharing her work. I receive the joy of knowing you now know of Tanya. We offer similar programs for women. We both want women’s voices to be heard in the world. And I know that Tanya might be just the right woman for you to work with. When you choose a coach, or a coaching program, the most important thing is finding resonance with your coach.

Make Wednesday a Wise Woman day, and amplify a woman, or many women, you know. Let’s support each other and amplify women’s voices into this world, a world thirsty for women’s deep wisdom.

 

 

 

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Twelve years ago, Her invitation was strong. It was obvious, but it wasn’t clear. Not to my intellect. Only to my body.

She pulled me down into Her, or at the time what felt like being pulled down into the earth. And She came up to meet me.

I suppose there were times prior to this moment in 2002 when She called to me. I don’t know. Maybe She calls to us our whole lives, or perhaps She tries to reawaken us to Her after we’ve shut down our connection with Her.

I was sitting on a bench outside of a Peet’s coffee shop on the Berkeley/Oakland border, sitting in a little courtyard where I would spend time reading and writing. Really, I was searching. I was in my free fall period, or what some might call the dark night of the soul, where I had no idea where I was headed or what I would be doing with my life. I’d been in this place for some months, yet it felt like nothing was getting any clearer. I was trying to make sense of what felt like a path, but in reality was no path at all. She doesn’t lead you in a straight line. She offers only a bit, just a small bit that leads from where you are. She requires trust.

I didn’t yet have that trust.

I’d been through so much grief and change, and was looking for something solid to stand on. Seven years before, my husband had died suddenly. One year before, I graduated from Stanford University at the ripe age of 45. And, my first grandchild was just over a year old. His first year was harrowing to say the least. Twenty surgeries in that year alone caused it to be a truly trying, traumatic time.

So, on this day, as I was sitting, I began to feel something pulling me down into it. It sounds sort of odd as I write it here, but at the time the feeling was strong, very strong. It was an energy, but was more than that. It was a knowing, a pull, a feeling that something greater than me was calling to me and leading me down into it.

The feeling of down and in was incredibly visceral. It was as if something was wrapping around my legs, something alive and pulsing, something real yet completely unseen. And it was pulling down into the dark, a very dark place.

I feared the dark. I wanted no part of this. That’s the truth.

I remember, distinctly, saying inside to that which was calling me, “Leave me alone. Just leave me alone.” At the time, I felt as if I had been through so much and I simply didn’t want more growth or transformation. I just didn’t. I wanted to rest. I didn’t want what I had a sense it was asking of me. I notice I sensed it was asking something, but I didn’t have the energy to respond in the way I felt I should. No. I didn’t want to.

I feared it, this force. I feared the unknown of it. More than that, though, I feared the power of it.

I’ve found that we don’t get to choose when we are called, but we can choose to fight it…sometimes. At least, I chose to fight it. I didn’t trust this. And that was the crux of the whole damn thing. I didn’t trust this and I knew it was Her. I knew it was the feminine. I knew it was the dark. I knew it.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to awaken to the feminine. During this time, I’d felt the pull and the call. I’d been devouring books trying to understand what kept calling me. There weren’t as many books out then, back then. But, part of me still thought it was a romantic idea, an exciting thing. But, I wanted it to look like I wanted. I wanted to control how it all went down. I wanted to control.

Now, I know differently. She’s like a flame that I’m drawn to. She is this ripe and fertile void. She is my Soul. She is the Feminine. She is Goddess. I don’t even really know what She is. I just know I have a longing that is deep. When I acknowledge my longing, tears run like rivers. None of it is intellectually logical at all. But the Soul knows when it is time to come home, and it can be relentless as it pulls us back home.

This invitation. This pull. This relentlessness.

These are why Amy Oscar and I are holding a small, intimate retreat in just a few weeks in Western Massachusetts. This is why.

 

OpeningToHer

 

Because…

We can gather together as women as we are waking back up to Her.
We can come together to weave our wisdom, come to speak what we feel we cannot speak yet aloud, out in the world.
We can come together to share what it feels like to be drawn to Her, and to open to Her.

And in doing so, we learn from ourselves, we learn from each other, and we open more deeply to Her.

Ultimately, I don’t know there are answers…but we can come into a conscious experience of what it means to live and breathe the Feminine in real life.

If you feel called, please come.

If you have questions, please ask.

If you feel pulled and cannot come, or you feel pulled but not to this retreat, open to your heart, to your sisters, to life itself. She will guide you.

And, if you feel called to, please share of your experience of opening to the pull of the Feminine in the comments below. I’d love to know.

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From where does your Creativity flow?

by Julie on March 3, 2014 · 0 comments

 

I’ve been teaching and coaching around creativity for quite a while – twelve years, now. I’ve often asked my students and clients, “In your own experience, from where does your creativity flow?” It’s a question that often boggles the mind, but when we sit and pay attention to the moments when an idea or insight comes, we realize it comes as if from out of nowhere. (We explore this in depth in my course Becoming a Force of Nature).

How come this source of our creativity is so hard to trace? Because it comes out of the dark, out of the unseen, out of the mystery. It is a place we will never see nor understand. It cannot be understood by the mind.

When I’ve had my most profound insights, or my most powerful and creative ideas whether at work or home, they always appear ‘as if‘ out of nowhere; yet, nowhere is somewhere.

There is a there, or a here depending on your perspective, from where life (creativity) flows. It flows out of some ‘thing’, although thing isn’t the right word, either. No words can explain this, yet we know it.

This place is unseen. In this way, it is dark.

The dark is a place that is rich and vital.

The dark is the soil to the seed, the womb to the child, and the source to the expression.

The dark is also an attribute of Yin, or the feminine nature of life. If we are disconnected from the feminine, and fearful of the feminine, it is hard for us to trust in our creativity – all of us, regardless of gender.

We have been taught to distrust the dark, yet it is the wellspring from which Life flows. If we distrust the dark, we distrust Life, and we distrust our own Nature. The dark has also been confused with that which many people feel is ‘bad’. Many times the term darkness is used to describe things people feel are evil. But the dark itself is just the other half of life, and it is an important and vital part of life.

What is your relationship with the dark? With your nature that comes out of the dark?

What if you were to ‘Trust in your Nature’? Deeply listen to, trust, and express your Nature into the world? As a creative being? And, as a woman?

This is why trust is so important. Because, ultimately we cannot know this mystery. But, we can pay attention to it, to what comes forth from it, and to how it moves in our lives. We can come to know that this mystery is at the heart of our own nature as a human being.

I’d love to know what this brings up for you and how this shows up in your life…how you view the dark, and how either not trusting or trusting impacts you, your life, and your creativity. Please share with us in the comments.

openingtoherbadgeAn Intimate Retreat

This April 4, 5, and 6, I’m co-hosting (with Amy Oscar) a very intimate in-person retreat. The Feminine is the mystery, so many times we feel nervous and scared about opening to Her. That is precisely why we are co-hosting this retreat, Opening to Her as She Opens to You, because we get to explore together, to learn from each other, to weave our experiences together.

If you feel called, or even feel a nudge, please take a look, and if you have questions, please get in touch. This is a process of unfolding. We are listening, receiving, and will bring what we hear to this gathering.

I’d love to have you join us.

 

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The Force that compels us to Rise

by Julie on February 16, 2014 · 0 comments

forcethatcausesustorise

Rising for Justice

For many people around our planet, February 14th is becoming associated with One Billion Rising, a global campaign to demand an end to violence against women and girls. We rise as women, as men, as human beings who know another world is possible and who are willing to speak out to help bring about this new world.

onebillionrising2014This year, One Billion Rising was about rising for Justice.*** One Billion Rising is a tidal wave of change IF we understand it is not a fad to take part in and then move on to another, but rather a clear opportunity to verbalize and put into action our desire to end this violence.

For many of us in Western cultures, it’s Valentine’s Day, too. This past Friday night, Feb. 14th, 2014, I had the pleasure and joy of co-hosting a One Billion Rising women’s movement ritual with Stacey Butcher and Lakshmi Devi. Stacey, a 5Rhythms teacher, hosted a 5Rhythms wave; Lakshmi, a singer and songwriter, sang her songs, and invited us to sing as we moved into stillness at the end of the dance; and I shared writings and poetry, as well as recorded spoken-word poetry mixed with a beautiful instrumental song at the end of the dance wave.

Here I share with you what I shared on Friday evening. I hope it inspires you to listen for the deep wisdom inside of you, and feel for the force that will cause you to rise and stand for what you know in your heart to be true, and for a kinder, more tender world where all can live in dignity without fear of violence.

::

Love and Justice

Today we celebrate love. Today we rise for Justice. The two are inescapably linked.

When we love Life, Life itself that gives us this life, we cannot help but feel the call for justice in our bones – a justice that honors life itself.

Tonight we are sharing in a movement ritual. As I was preparing for tonight, I wondered what ritual is really about and I found this excerpt from an interview with Joseph Campbell.

“A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.”

Tonight we are here together to move in ritual, as women who desire to rise in service to justice. And, through this ritual, we are here to be reminded of the wisdom of our own lives, the wisdom that is within us, a wisdom that has been within us all along.

We are here to remember the mythology that is at the heart of our lives as women in a world that is so much more than what we sometimes see it to be.

 

So, What is it to rise?

What does that even mean? Rising is a movement upwards. If we are rising, what are we rising up from? And what is behind the rising?

What is the force that compels us to rise? 

The invitation tonight is to dance these questions, to dance yourself open enough to hear a response from within you, a response from your wise self, your Soul.

This wise self is instinctive and instinctual. She is visceral, animal, and primordial. She is feral. She is wide-eyed and sensual.

Your Soul knows how to rise.

Rising is in your blood and bones. It is in your cells. It is in your belly, because love desires to move through you, to rise you up into the world, way beyond what your mind thinks you are capable of. And love desires to move us all to live in accordance with what love desires, not what we desire.

“Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is ‘getting,’ and grow up into the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.” ~Thomas Merton

 

Many years ago,

I danced in Mill Valley, on a Tuesday night with Kathy Altman. Leading the class, she did something truly extraordinary…at least it was for me. I remember that night like it is this night. I remember it because I was led to dance a dance where I was so awake, so alive, deep in the cells of my body, that every move was imprinted in my cells.

This dance was visceral. It was instinctive. My Soul danced this dance, and then we wrote this as a way to capture words about something beyond words.

 

Tonight I danced.

Tonight I danced and came alive.
Tonight I danced and cried and pulsed and throbbed.

She told us to make our presence known.
She asked us to step so strongly there was no question we had been there.

She reminded us to track ourselves,
to be so aware of where we had been and where we were going,
so much so that our path wrapped its way around and around us until we were tightly wound balls of Being.

My hands connected,
molasses-like energy stretching from mama earth to the tips of my fingers.
As I perched on my paws, I felt her kindred spirit suck me into her tendrils of love.

Tonight I danced and came alive.
I felt his pulse, absorbing it into my body.
I felt her love, letting it run down my arm and fill my heart.
I felt their joy, knowing it was mine, too.
I knew other as self.

Tonight I danced and came alive.

So, tonight…

Here, together, let us come alive.

Tonight, together, let us dance these questions.

Tonight, remember the wisdom within you, reveal your instincts, feel the desire in your body to dance into its wholeness. Our bodies are creatures, instinctual creatures with hearts, longings, and voices that must speak.

::

 

Later, at then end of the dance as we moved into stillness, Stacey played a song that was a compilation of my spoken words and a powerful instrumental piece by Max Richter, On the Nature of Daylight.

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever life has brought your way, whatever injustices, betrayals, or abuses you have experienced, you have survived.

You are here. Alive. Breathing. Dancing.

Whatever injustices, betrayals, or abuses you have perpetrated, you have survived.

You are here. Now. Alive. Whole.

Breathe this in, really take this knowing in. That you are here, alive, whole, and awake regardless of what happened in your past. Feel this aliveness in every cell of your body, a body that longs to know this aliveness, longs to live its fullness. Allow your heart to expand to the capacity that is its nature. Allow your arms to spread as wide and open as they long to be. Allow your belly to pulse and swell with the primordial creation that infuses your being with this precious life.

You are here, on this earth. You are alive on our beautiful planet. You are whole, a wholeness that is filled from the mother.

And, it is time to bring this aliveness to the world. To bring your wholeness to this world that is hungry for feeling, thirsty for truth, dying to be alive, wanting to be touched.

This is your gift to this world. Your aliveness. Your wholeness. Your breath. Your beauty. And to live this is to live what life is asking of you, what life is asking you to give. It is yours and yet it is not. It is given. It is given to you, through you, so that you can in turn give it forth.

It is this simple. Spend every breath completely, but not just for yourself. Spend it for Life, for others, for what is coming into being, for what is being born.

Be full. Be whole. Be love. Be truth.

 

There is already a mythology and an inherent wisdom within us that knows how to move mountains, and to birth something new.

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Dance yourself open. Listen Deeply. Track yourself. Come back and tell us what you discover.

Allow it to show you where Justice lies, where Hope lives, where Love beckons.Open to this Force within. Dance, listen, and allow it to move you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed and have been inspired by these words.

If so, I ask you to share in the comments below how they’ve inspired you to rise.
I ask you to share with other women and men you know who are ready for similar inspiration.

If you’d like to read about last year’s rising, you can download this complimentary eBook, ‘rise up & reclaim’.

 

*** from OneBillionRising.Org:
ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice – courthouses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not.  It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.

Leading Image: LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by mikebaird

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