Authentic Voice Project: V is for Voice

For redefinition, I was thrown back to myself, to my inner knowing… Marilyn Sewell, Cries of the Spirit

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 23 (Full Moon)

http://mrg.bz/nfQbXIV is for Voice

Having a voice is embracing all questions and possibilities, accepting them all as part of the whole truth. It is feeling everything – pain and pleasure. Voice is emotion, sensation manifested, expressed, shared. It is the exchange of energy. Inside and out. It is an internal resonance of emotions humming within our cells. It is the resonance of the human experience against others’ experience. It is sound expressing the resonance of experience and knowing.

On Loss of Voice – What we must Reclaim

As Mary Field Belenky discusses in Women’s Ways of Knowing, different people have different levels of knowledge depending on their culture, background and education which make up their sense of self. How they express (or don’t) this knowledge is their voice (or silence). Loss of voice is the loss of belief in or knowledge of feelings – emotional and sensory. It is, due to the external condemnation of opinion and experience, a distrust, a lack of confidence in, or even knowledge of, one’s own knowledge, disabling one to express what the body knows to be true.

Singing or other internally vibrational activities touch this truth by activating the body-conscious. What one has have lost becomes too hard to face. The body remembers everything. Loss of voice is the disconnect from these memories and feelings. We cannot express them because the thick, dark wall of religious condemnation and patriarchal “rules” against the body and its intuitive wisdom, connection to the earth, other creatures and other (higher, deeper?) realms of knowledge prevents us from seeing what we have lost. We know it but we don’t know that we know it.

The patriarchal and hierarchical systems on which our culture is built muted the connection to body, emotions – to voice. Science cut us off from our spirit and made us machines, religion cut us off from our body and silenced us. It silenced the resonance of personal – natural – knowledge and experience by making them unacceptable, even evil, pushing them into a dark place of self-rejection and self-hatred. Religion gave divinity to an external being and authority to Other (causing distrust of Other as it institutes a hierarchical power over, us vs. them dynamic).

While we cannot express our deepest knowledge and feelings we also learn not to express any feelings, belittling our emotions as foolish, meaningless signs of weakness, something to suppress or overcome. Or we mold every emotion into the one form we feel comfortable with and stand behind it, using it as a shield to protect us from connection to self and others. We do not stand up for ourselves or understand when we are being led away from our own needs and desires. When we are silent we are easily influenced by other voices, external voices of authority that fill the space where our own voice should be.

Healing is re-connecting body and emotion and spirit and voice through voice by placing the divine (connected) source of vibration within – the internal voice of authority. Healing is no longer believing the lie that one should be silent lest you be judged or rejected. It is speaking out for justice and compassion for self and others. It is not believing that those in power – the Other –  is anymore right or anymore wrong than you, that we all have a place, a right, a voice.

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Authentic Voice Project: D is for Drive

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 4 (New Moon)

D is for Drive

Society says: Drive is good. Drive is what allows one to come from nothing and go to something. Drive makes the downtrodden get up, turns the girl next door into the celebrity on the hill, and gives the death-diagnosis a bill of good health. This is all true. But drive can also be destructive.

Drive to be more… better, faster, slimmer, prettier, richer… this all implies that what is here, now, you, is not OK. Of course, there is always room for improvement, and I do believe in order to have purpose and meaning in our lives we must always reach beyond our comfort zones and propel forward towards our potential. But pursuing our potential must an intrinsic goal if it is to be authentic. However, to be driven towards a goal/standard that is projected upon us by some outside authority – whether that is society, family, your boss, professor, etc. – is not authentic to you,it cannot bebecause it did not comefrom you.

I think women have a special relationship with Drive because we, as liberated women of the 21st century, suddenly feel we have so much to prove. Yes, we can be mothers, housekeepers, cooks (organic and fresh at all times, of course!), volunteers, activists AND full-time employees or students; tough AND beautiful; independent AND care-giving; and the list goes on. Saying “no” is hard to do because we don’t want to be seen as weak or uncaring or uncooperative. And in many cases, I do believe, we are still trying to prove just how smart we are.

I say: You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Accept yourself for where you are right now, in this moment. Yes, by all means, Drive! But drive towards your own dreams, not someone else’s dream or plan for you (or the plan you think someone else has for you). You’ll know when it’s authentic to you because instead of Monday morning rush hour, it will feel like a Sunday drive through the country.

Authentic Voice Project: C is for Christ

I realized with discomfort that my last Authentic Voice Project post was in itself Inauthentic. I chose a safe word to explore. I shied away from tackling a true “trigger” word. I again silenced my voice out of fear of rocking the boat. I realized the hypocrisy of this and now I must fix it by writing about a “C” word is controversial (in some circles). But isn’t that what creates change? Controversy is just another word for “fear of change.” In this case it is me who needs change – transformation – towards self-acceptance and healing. It is the language that was etched into my cells and has caused me to deny my own potential, and it is, therefore, this internal language that must change. Authentic Voice knows my own truth.

C is for Christ

Society (i.e. Tradition) says (with slight alternations according to particular doctrines): Christ is the son of God who was born here on earth as Jesus of Nazareth, preached to the people of the Kingdom of Heaven, was crucified, rose to life and ascended to heaven. He died for our sins and is the mediator between humans and God and through whom we might one day also be with God.

I say: Christ, the divine, is a symbol. Spiritually, it is a symbol of our own divinity, psychologically it represents our personal individuation or actualization. It is a symbol of Self, the center, the highest aspect of our human-ness: “the inner image of god… which resides in every person.” (Jung)

Christ and Self both describe something beyond human or ego, something that is divine, spiritual, reconciling, and gives meaning. – Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology

To be “Christ-like” is to symbolically “wake up Christ within” in order to engage ‘the deeper levels of the soul… to live our individual lives as fully, as authentically, and as obediently [i.e. true to our True Self] as Jesus lived his.” His death and resurrection are symbols of our repeated struggles to discover our unique potential by “crucifying” the myths we have been told and have told ourselves about ourselves (the “sin” of not recognizing our potential and/or purpose), and to arise anew. With each self-discovery we “ascend” towards our own divinity – i.e. be with God/Godde/Goddess/Spirit now and in every moment.

Instead of focusing on the horrific death of a man on a cross (symbol of Union of Opposites, i.e. Wholeness), I choose to see the Christ story as one of Life, Healing, and Wholeness: “discovering the meaning of one’s own unique, individual life and participating in life’s larger purposes… discovering one’s vocation and one’s own myth, that story which helps to make meaning out of the mystery of existence.” (Wright, Christ a Symbol of the Self) Jesus was human, and a beautiful one at that, who preached love and equality (but never called himself Christ), a deeply spiritual man who must have known that once one has experienced “the spirituality of the Self or inner Christ, it would have the power to heal.” (Bolen, Crossing to Avalon)

Prompt: What other religious/spiritual myths or symbols speak to you and your psychological growth towards Wholeness?

——-

Jung’s diagnosis of modern men and women was a spiritual malnutrition bought on by a starvation of symbols. He called for a recovery of the symbolic life which had been abandoned to a one-sided literal, rational approach to religious matters… Without a symbolic appreciation of Christ, or any other religious figure or leader, religious concerns are made small by literalism. This in turn is the spawning ground for fundamentalism which, in spiritual matters, is tantamount to the death of the soul. In addressing Christ as a symbol of the Self, Jung challenged the Church to recover its symbolic life. Failing to do that, the Church will remain a minor voice in speaking to the deep spiritual longings of modern men and women. Furthermore, it may unwittingly undermine the reconciliatory and peace-making processes it desires to promote in the world. (http://www.jungatlanta.com/ChristSelf.html)


More thoughts on Authentic Voice (and writing)

Authentic Voice is that which longs for interconnectedness, looks toward growth and actualization (as opposed to purely “defense” needs and “elemental drives” such as eating, sleeping, finding shelter, having sex [Eisler, 190]), and is not “encased” by societies’ rigid hierarchical gender roles and stereotypes. It is not selfish or self-centered, but a recognition of “our essential interconnectedness with all humanity.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the one yearning for connection – love – and as such is the spiritual voice. Self-actualization cannot occur when living in fear or under suppression, and Authentic Voice cannot be heard in those states either. Love cannot be heard when there is “fear” of an “enemy” – within or without. “Hierarchies… require defensive habits of mind.” (Eisler, 190)

Authentic Voice is the suppressed “feminine” voice of the psyche – that which yearns for connection and affiliation with nature, others, and self – held down by fear in order to keep hierarchy in place. Releasing this “feminine” aspect through writing gives voice to the other half of our psyche and to our natural selves – our actualized self and helps bring us into balance.

So, like a mother does for her children, we write to vanquish the fear, to build self-confidence, to empower ourselves, so we can empower others (by realizing we are the same and not enemies). And to enter states of mind, i.e. whole, balanced, meditative states that increase “flow’ and feelings of connectedness. When we write we are fostering our own psychic growth towards actualization which in itself moves us “toward a different reality: the ‘peak experience’ consciousness of our essential interconnectedness with all of humanity” (Eisler, 190).

Writing allows us to tap into our own symbology, it uses both sides of the brain – this is whole “seeing.” It accesses body wisdom – the unconscious memories and collective unconscious. It balances the psyche, which fosters growth through creativity. Creativity is new ideas brought together in a “non-conventional” way to envision different forms of beauty that can initiate change. Creativity is insight – into self, into others, into new possibilities. Authentic Voice is our source of creativity and a path to self-actualization.

Source: Eisler, Riane Tennenhaus. The Chalice and the Blade : Our History, our Future. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995. Print.

Authentic Voice Project: B is for Belly

Venus of Willendorf

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 2 (New Moon)

B is for Belly

I considered many “trigger” words for this post: Behavior, Body, Beauty, Blame, but I settled on Belly because… well, I have one.

Society says:

A woman’s belly should be flat; nay, concave. Low-rise and skinny jeans (practically the only type you can find if you don’t go in for the proverbial “mommy jean”) only work on such a non-belly. Otherwise you are in danger of committing the fashion no-no known as “muffin-top.” The popularity of Spanx and other forms of shape-wear (modern version of whale-bone corsets, and I contend, surely just as uncomfortable) tell the self-conscious woman that her natural curves should be tamed and restrained. Even the word belly makes us a little uncomfortable, we tend to think of bowls of jelly. The curvacious beauties of previous centuries are considered fat by today’s standards. A woman’s belly should be flat (lifeless?) – and called a stomach.

I say: Bellissimo! Lovely, beautiful, splendid, gorgeous, magnificent.

I never used to have a belly, but, of course, I thought I did. At 23 I had a boyfriend who used to make fun of my pot-belly, a feature I hadn’t considered I possessed until he said it. In fact, until after I left college I berated myself for being “too skinny.” I was one of those annoying people who could eat everything in sight and not gain a pound. Much to my embarrassment as a teenager, my hips bones stuck out when I lay down to sunbathe at the beach. And once, while riding in the front seat on a college friend’s lap (any cops reading this can ignore that part), he complained that I had the boniest ass ever! As a senior in college, a concerned classmate pulled me aside and asked me if I was anorexic. I was horrified!

But suddenly at the tender age of 23 I was faced with the realization that I was getting fat. Bear in mind, I was still wearing a size 5, and looking back at the photos from a Florida vacation that year, I was still about as curvy as a pencil. But because I was told I had a pot-belly, I believed it. An outside “authority” created my reality for me.

Almost two decades and two children later, I legitimately have a Belly. A nicely padded, well-earned “mommy belly.” And I claim this belly! I see it. I know it is there because I see with my own eyes and my own voice says it is there. I am my own authority on this personal matter. It is where my children lay curled in blissful warmth pulsing in rhythm to the dance of my blood. It is the “cauldron” where my womb lays hidden and protected, now empty, but churning with creative energy. It is one of the distinct features that makes a woman a woman, whether she has mothered children or not (because we are ALL creators!). Recall the rotund Venus of Willendorf (above) – now there’s a muffin-top to be proud of!

A couple of years ago I attended a belly-dancing festival. What impressed me the most (other than the young woman who could make every muscle in her flat stomach dance independently) was the utter lack of self-consciousness of the other moderately and well-bellied, naturally full-bodied women. Confidence in their own magnificence as real women. The radiating beauty of women who were completely at home in their bodies. Fully embodied. And they glowed with energy and pure joy as they reveled in the sensuality of themselves and the music. Bellissimio!

Belly: The “heart,” the soul, the foundation of a woman; the fount of her energy and love. A true pot -belly is one that is rounded, full, abundant with (potential) life and creativity.

Prompt:  I know this about myself because I know it to be the truth…


The Authentic Voice Project

For redefinition, I was thrown back to myself, to my inner knowing… Marilyn Sewell, Cries of the Spirit

Words.

Manifestations of our thoughts. Creators of our internal messages. Words have and continue to shape history and people – not always positively and sometimes with devastating consequences. Words have an affect on us, more powerful than we can rationally understand. The words we have heard all our life, depending on the context in which they were originally and/or continue to be delivered, shape our emotional response to them.

If a word has a negative effect on you, it is time to change it. Change its personal meaning – change your (unconscious) emotional reaction. Make it have authentic meaning for you.

So, with the dawn of a new year I am announcing a new writing project: The Authentic Voice Project.

Every two weeks, on the dates of the new and full moons, I will write a post based on a word, starting with A and proceeding through the alphabet until I reach Z on December 28, 2012 (that’s actually only 25 postings/moons so I’ll double up somewhere or just skip X). The words will be “trigger” or “loaded” words (or phrases in some cases), either according to society, women, or to me personally. I will attempt to sum up the general or accepted “meaning” of the word and then re-work it to be more personal, more positive, more helpful, more meaningful and authentic – in my own voice.* (And if you have suggestions for any of these words, please leave a comment.)

Obviously, my personal take on a word or phrase will not speak to everyone. But my hope is that it will get you thinking about your own definitions of words you may not even realize have an unconscious affect on you. Please feel free to comment with you own reactions and redefinitions (or possibly guest blog here or in response on your own blog)- every person’s experience is different and equally important, and may resonate with someone else on a level I may not have reached.

Please join me on this quest for Authentic Voice!

* This idea is loosely based on Kathleen Norris’ book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith.