Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reuniting with the Feminine, the Work we have to Do

(In breaking with our mothers, we break with our femininity)

"There are countless women of the sixties and seventies who so deeply resented the patriarchy which had destroyed their femininity and that of their mothers that they lashed out against that patriarchy, but in doing so they identified with the masculine side of their own psyches. In some cases they turned into the very thing they most feared -- the witch side of their mothers, or in Jungian terms, the negative animus.

…the natural feminine way to feminine maturity is through the body. This is essentially what the ancient initiation rites were about. The rites grounded the girl in her own body which was then recognized as part of the feminine cosmos – a vehicle for fertility the container which made her one with the Goddess, through whom life moved eternally.

In our society, however, we have no rites and there are few older women who can initiate us into our own femininity. Most of us, men and women, are unconsciously identified with the masculine principal (the conscious value system of our mothers) with little or no consciousness of our own feminine instincts. So we flounder.

…In such situations, the genuine masculine principle is not present. ...Where the masculine and feminine are undifferentiated, the act of union is merely an identification...She may believe she is an androgyne, an independent woman, but in fact she has given up on ever being a woman and unconsciously decided to be nothing instead. …[She is] polarized against her mother and ultimately against herself and her own feminine nature; plus against her man whom she has made into her mother. Such a woman may end up in despairing conflict or in conflict which manifests as disease, or she may go on driving through life on her phallic broomstick hating or fearing every man she meets.

To be fully differentiated in the full feminine, in relation to the mature masculine: we need to make that rite of passage. We have to pay in blood. Every rite of passage involves a death and a rebirth. The price is the sacrifice. Part of that sacrifice is giving up of old securities and illusion. ...The masculine principle (in men and women) is not a healthy ego strength but ruthless will power….giving up that driven-ness is part of our blood sacrifice. And it begins to feel like giving up life itself when an individual has lived life in a frenzied round of goal-oriented activity, leaving no room for loving. As Jung says, 'Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and there the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.'

… instead of being terrorized by her aloneness and her feelings of abandonment and rejection, she can use this time to work on herself. One of the things she will surely face is her own inner killer – the overdeveloped masculine in herself that kills her femininity (and put a bullet through the heart of her King Kong animus) [in dreams].

First I believe that femininity is taking responsibility for our bodies, so that the body becomes the tangible expression of the spirit within. For those of us who have lived life in the head, this is a long, difficult and agonizing process, because in attempting to relese our muscles, we also release the pent-up fear and rage and grief that has been buried there, probably since or before birth. …it acts at first like a wild neurotic creature that hasn’t known love. But gradually it becomes our friend, and because it understand the instincts better than we, it comes our guide to a natural, spiritual way of life.

Secondly, femininity is taking responsibility for who I am – not what I do, now how I seem to be, not what I accomplish. When all the doing is done and I have to face myself in my naked reality, who am ? what are my values, needs? Am I true to myself or do I betray myself? What are my feelings?

Working on these questions day after day is what I call differentiating the feminine.”

from Addiction to Perfection, Marion Woodman, chapter, The Myth of Ms.

If you don't mind the Jungian jargon, I highly recommend this book, published in 1982 by Inner City books, Toronto.

While is is on the surface a study of her analysands with eating disorders, at the base of it is the identification with the negative animus or unhealthy masculine priniciple, and our disconnection with our female bodies.

have a great Sunday,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Women's Circles and Awakening to Your life's purpose

Today, I woke up wanting to stay in bed. It's not that there's 6 feet of snow outside my front door, nor that winter is dragging. I just got back from a week in the sun and sand on Grand Cayman Islands, and my skin drank alot of sunshine there, more than my dermatologist would have liked.

No, it's the old hamster in the wheel of thought, circling my brain with the same old query: what do you want to do with your life? And when are you going to start?

As I told my women's circle today, I have already re-invented myself at least twice. The last time was going back to school after getting married, in my early 30's, to study something impractical, just for me: creative writing. It lead to a Master's Degree and a book of poems being published, plus something to keep me busy at night while the babies were sleeping in between feedings. Think of all those 4 a.m. poems that would never have seen the light of day!

Now that I am a mother, and a post-menopausal one at that, I am feeling this huge itch to reinvent myself again. It's been like this for over five years now - the seeking, reading, researching, going to workshops. At first I assumed it was a new mentor, another poetry workshop, a new technique for writing poetry. Then I kept hearing, maybe you should write non-fiction or a novel. Don't have the stamina for a novel. But I enjoy teaching workshops and working with women, so I started teaching the odd workshop here and there at a women's centre, or with a yoga teacher. Still, I kept on reading and researching menopausal information, female centered religions, sexuality, menstrual cycles and so that all came into the courses I was teaching.

But lately, the bug has bitten again. What is my real life purpose? what is the one thing I could do that would help the world, help me feel fulfilled (besides mothering two teens who don't seem to need much help anymore except where to find the peanut butter).

In spite of my lethargy, this morning I picked up Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth, yes, the one Oprah is pushing as book of the year, and opened it to one of the last chapters. Here is what I read about inner purpose and outer purpose:

"Without living in alignment with your primary purpose, [conscious awareness] WHATEVER PURPOSE YOU COME UP WITH, EVEN IF IT IS TO CREATE HEAVEN ON EARTH, will be of the ego or become destroyed by time. Sooner or later, it will lead to suffering. ...In other words, not your aims or your actions are primary, but the state of consciousness out of which they come. Fulfilling your primary purpose is laying the foundation for a new reality, a new earth. Once that foundation is there, your external purpose becomes charged with spiritual power because your aims and intentions will be one with the evolutionary impulse of the universe."

Maybe taken out of context this doesn't mean as much to you as it did to me, but it hit me over the head, that my happiness and fulfillment can never be somewhere off in the future. My goals have to be much closer to the now, to the present moment, to live with attention to this life energy inside me, to be so close to that, that I am not distracted by my thinking, or by my fantasies of being a Workshop Leader who changes the world.

How is this related to women's friendships? Today was our circle chat, and eight of us showed up at one member's house. A few of us were resistant to coming today, knowing we might have to open up and talk about ourselves, feeling a bit fragile. But after the third person had spoken, the fourth woman said, "Thank you for being so open and sharing yourselves this way. It's so inspiring. It means you trust us." And it reminded me again of how precious it is to have this sense of community or friendship amongst women who are looking for meaning.

We started this circle to invite speakers on alternative health topics, on everything from shamanism, emotional healing, PMS, menopause, the environment, to building schools for girls in Africa, on any topic that opens our minds and our hearts to learn more, grow more, heal more. But now, we have found our most precious resource is our own stories, our own learnings in our lives, the lessons learned, the questions, the doubts, the yearnings, the hopes, the tears and frustrations. We are sharing our journey.

We are holding hands in a circle, so we feel less alone.

And that, is one of my 'outer purposes', to help empower myself, and empower other women.



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