Have you ever heard that old, demeaning statement that ‘a woman’s place is in the home, barefoot & pregnant’? Unfortunately, that was the sentiment for far too many years — and is still an attitude that some men hang onto today.
Throughout recorded history, woman, or the feminine nature she represents, has been denied, vilified, objectified, considered no better than property, a seductress and certainly not to be trusted!
Fortunately, throughout that same history, there have been women who have stood up against the masculine-oriented, patriarchal cultures that would have us bow before the altar of all things masculine. These are the women we want to remember and honor today and every day . . . women upon whose shoulders you and I stand.
There have also been men throughout recorded history, like Plato, who were able to see beyond their own male privilege. In his classic book, The Republic, Plato advocated that women possess “natural capacities” equal to men for governing and defending ancient Greece. Revered as he was, Plato’s sentiments fell on deaf ears even then as the power that women had and the roles they played in Plato’s Greece were extremely limited. The same was true in Rome.
The struggle for women to be considered equals in the eyes of men has been an extremely long one. And it’s not over. Yet!
Although there have been many successes, we still earn less than men for equal work in the majority of businesses and women still bear the brunt of child-care responsibilities as well as housework, meals, shopping, and on and on. Can you relate?
Given the overtly masculine perspective throughout the world, we are experiencing one crisis after another — climate change and the fall-out it is creating, including the pandemic, domestic violence (largely man on woman), political divisiveness that threatens to derail our so-called democracy, the war and loss of life in Ukraine — all created by the imbalance between feminine and masculine energies; energies that are innate in every individual unless our culture, our parents, our schools and our friends teach us otherwise.
So, what’s a woman to do?
How can we claim our rightful place, our power and our presence in the world? How can we do that not only as equals, but as compassionate change agents, committed to transforming the old, worn-out dysfunctional, patriarchal and harmful perspective about the feminine?
There are three fundamental steps we can each take to transform our lives and undo the patriarchal perspective of women being second-class citizens into one of appreciation and celebration of the sacred feminine.
These steps include honoring the feminine strengths that the patriarchy has deemed problematic, but that fundamentally help us endure in ways that most men don’t understand.
1) Recognize your Emotional Strengths. One of our greatest gifts as women is the capacity we have to feel — to relate to others in ways appropriate to their needs and our experience of them in any given moment. In Western culture, this strength is all too often demeaned as weakness by those afraid to fully express their humanity.
Throughout recorded history, men have adopted and continue to perpetuate the notion that feelings other than anger are signs of weakness — for men (aka sissies) or women. Unsurprisingly, scientific studies prove that women are emotionally more mature than the typical male of the species. According to research as to whether empathy is inborn or taught, infants and toddlers clearly express compassion and empathy when they see another person’s pain or distress.
Our willingness to honor and express our feelings rather than deny or dismiss them also contributes to better physical health. Could this be one of the reasons women so often outlive men?
According to psychological research, emotions arise from our unconscious, based on a trauma or other significant experience, while feelings arise in response to our emotions. For example, when we experience a great loss, the emotional shock may lead to a feeling of sadness or anger. Although we can’t control the emotion, we can control our response to it. Awareness of the feeling allows us to choose whether we respond with acceptance or an angry reaction.
Exercise: To recognize your emotional strengths, here are a few things you can do (to enhance this practice, you might want to journal about your experience with this exercise):
- Begin to pay attention from moment to moment to the feelings your emotions create in you. You don’t need to follow the feeling, explore or judge it. Just simply notice it for a moment or two.
- If the feeling persists, you might become curious about it. Can you see how the emotion triggered the feeling? What was the thought or memory that triggered the feeling?
Since our thoughts and feelings are deeply connected, what were you thinking about, remembering? Can you simply accept the feeling or do you need to act on it?
2) Trust Your Inner Knowing. We’ve all experienced that gut feeling — called women’s intuition — and the affirmation that when we follow it, wild, wondrous, magical things can happen. Whether in the boardroom or the bedroom, intuition gives us the ability to tune in to opportunities and possibilities that can open our and others’ minds, doors and entire worlds!
Although, the power of our intuitive sense has been ridiculed and dismissed by the patriarchal world in which we live, even geniuses like Albert Einstein trusted his intuition. As he put it, ““I believe in intuition and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.” And Oprah Winfrey, one of the wealthiest women in America said, “I’ve trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And, the only time I’ve made mistakes is when I didn’t listen.” Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson and many other well-known people attribute their success to following their intuition.
Thanks to the gift of Women’s Intuition, we are able to read other people’s energy and know when the world around us feels safe . . . and when it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, we can turn around, exit the situation and find safe space as quickly and quietly as possible. Our intuition is truly a sixth sense; an inner power that when we attune to it, guides us safely on our life’s journey. We know, intuitively, who and what we can trust.
If our trust has been shaken or betrayed by another, it will likely take a while for us to trust them again. Trust, like respect, must be earned. It is a beautiful and sacred inner sense or knowing that someone is loving and sensitive to our feelings. We know that we can trust those who respect us and will never take advantage of our vulnerability. In return, we offer the same respect, kindness and sensitivity to them.
Exercise: To strengthen your intuitive powers, here are a few things you can do.
- Be still. Listen. As you withdraw your attention from the external world and bring your attention within, you’ll begin to notice the still, small voice that’s always there, waiting for you to simply listen. Since we’re not use to this kind of listening, give it some time, some practice — and soon you’ll be able to hear the prompts and messages that are there, waiting to be received.
- Trust your gut instincts. It turns out that there are actually brain cells in the gut that connect our emotions to our intuition. Combining reason (brain power) with our intuition, the two work together to lead us to exactly the perfect action(s) or understanding(s).
- Feel it, in the ‘goosebumps’ on your skin and shivers up and down your spine. You know when something is right because of how it resonates, sending an almost spooky energy throughout your body, quickening your breath or making your heart race.
3) Take a stand for sacred truth. Taking a stand for sacred truth is the foundation of resilience. Resilience enables us to live our lives based on choice rather than being at the mercy of chance or habit. Resilience allows us to make uncertain aspects of our lives certain. Perhaps the best way to define resilience is by example.
You’ve likely heard of Rosa Parks, the brave African-American woman who made history when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. Her decision to stay seated demonstrates an inner resilience that told her she had a right to sit there. Here’s what she had to say about it: “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Resilience allows us to bounce back. It also enables us to manage adversity and “bounce back” when life has shot you down. As a teenager, Malala Yousafzai demonstrated resilience after being shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for promoting education for girls. If anything, that brutal attack energized her even more and she now travels the world addressing the importance of education for girls.
In an interview following her recovery, Malala said: “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”
Exercise: To strengthen your power of resilience, here are a few things you can do:
- Recognize first, that life is all about change. Expecting things to remain the same sets us up for disappointment and struggle. Resilience gives us the strength to go with what is so, knowing that we are ready for the next change. Resilience requires us to become self aware, to practice mindfulness so that we can monitor our thoughts rather than be at their effect. With mindfulness we can choose when or if to act on a thought.
- Secondly, choose your response. While we aren’t always responsible for the challenges we face, we do have a say over how they affect us. By embracing the power of choice, resilience allows us to maintain perspective and manage the flow of emotions that arise in the present moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience so-called negative emotions and fears, but that they don’t control our actions.
- Ask for help. We’re not here to do things alone. Asking for assistance, support or advice from others isn’t a sign of weakness, but a recognition that collaboration and community are important aspects of resilience.
I hope you’re seeing how these three steps are inter-related, how they intersect and support each other. This is how the feminine expresses. We come together to share our challenges and our celebrations, to support and affirm our inner wisdom and emotional strength. We recognize that we are here to make our world a better, more loving, caring and safe place.
Girlfriend, It’s Our Time!!
Women deserve to have a voice in the world — a voice that doesn’t ask, but demands to be heard. We are here for a reason, with all of our sacred emotions. We are living in a world where our voices and our feelings have been frowned upon or disregarded long enough. We are here to claim our place, our power and our presence. We can gratefully and gracefully embrace our emotions rather than believe that they are wrong or signs of weakness.
So, here’s the challenge before each of us now: are you ready to embrace your emotions, to trust your inner knowing, and take a stand for sacred truth? If so, you’re not alone! Millions of women around the world are waking up, standing up and claiming their place, their power and their presence.
We are living on the precipice of a wave. A wave that carries the promise and the power to transform our world with love; with the power of knowing that we are the ones we have been waiting for. As we come together in and for love, we reclaim the feminine capacity to create the kind of world we want — for ourselves, our children, their children and the next seven generations.
As we recognize and embrace our strengths as gifts with which we have been blessed, we honor the life we have been given and the beautiful, abundant and sacred world in which we may flourish and live up to our full potential!
As one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, asked at the end of one of her most famous poems, The Summer Day, the question for each of us is, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
For me, the answer is to do all that I can to help return our world to one of balance; where the feminine and the masculine energies we all carry may be honored and respected, no one better or more valuable than the other! If you are moved to join me this effort, please let me know at [email protected].
If you’ve never heard or read Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day, I share it with you here, for your enjoyment and reflection.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?