Please do surrender to your nature! (Or Life, Photoshopped)

I’m usually not one to jump on a bandwagon. If everyone’s doing it I tend to turn the other way. But this one could not be ignored. I, as other angry men and women already have, must respond to a certain backward-thinking op-ed article. (A particularly good response is here.)

I recently read Suzanne Venker’s article: The War on Men in which the author blames us liberated women for upsetting the “proper” way of the world by forcing men to compete with us instead of doing what they all prefer, which is, apparently, look after us incompetent creatures. Apparently we’re just not womanly enough anymore and – poor guys – they’re so confused. But, the author, happily concludes: “there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

OK, so here’s what I say to that: YES, LET’S! Let us all surrender to our nature!

Our natural nature… not a societal, cultural, patriarchal version of it. (Note: Patriarchy does not mean Men. It is a hierarchical, dualistic system that has hurt men as individuals as well as women – and nature and anything else that is considered the “Other” of the moment.)

Feminism, even with its rough patches, has done one very important thing: allowed women to see there is another way of being – their own way. Women are looking inside and asking themselves what they want, what they can do, what their own dreams are, where their talents can take them. And while 1970’s feminism dismissed the possibility that any woman would want to be chained to the kitchen sink and having babies, and ostracized those who did, modern feminism is slowly accepting a more holistic view of “equality.” We can be and do what our hearts tell us we can. For one woman that might be becoming an astronaut, for another it is raising her children (after flying to the moon first – if she chooses.)

And the same applies to men. They too have to stop living by the script society has written for them. Macho Smacho. Being a real man means just that – be REAL! Dance, draw, heal people, stay home with the kids, cry, collaborate… be whatever youare and quit hiding behind this whole Manly Competitor/Hunter Image Thing. Guess what? That Image thang ain’t real; it’s Life, Photoshopped.

I recently read a quote that went something like this, referring to Adam and Eve: You’ve got to know that when you try to make a women out of a man, there’ll be trouble. And it’s true. Which is why I put equal in quotes above. The truth is we should be striving for equity, not just equality. Women are not men, can’t be men, and neither is a man a woman. We are biologically and psychologically different – NOT better or worse, just different. We are two sides of a what should be a balanced equation, not a hierarchy as patriarchy would have us believe. What we are searching for is, yes, equal rights, but also equitable rights.

Equality means treating everyone the same without needing to know their personal story. Equity means hearing their story so you can treat them according to their needs. This means we have to get to know each other and ourselves – our true selves – and our needs by listening to each others’ and telling our own stories.

So PLEASE do surrender to your nature, in whatever form that takes. Listen to yourself, to your emotions, your body – who are you? Really? Once we as a culture can fully embrace both the feminine and masculine energies in us all by accepting and using ALL of our talents, integrating ALL our emotions, and understanding our full capacity for love, we will have finally ended the war on, not just women or men, but on Humans.

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Authentic Voice Project: P, Q, R is for Perfection reQuires Release

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

The Authentic Voice Project: Week 18 (New Moon)

P, Q, R is for Perfection reQuires Release

(Six weeks behind… I’m playing catch up on this one!)

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

― Albert Einstein

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

― Thomas A. Edison

IN THIS MOMENT, I AM ENOUGH

There is no such thing as Perfection. Planning on perfection means failure. Guaranteed. You’ll never get there. Perfectionism stunts growth. If nothing is ever tried, nothing, truly, is never gained. But our society is not a big fan of failure. Despite all the quotes by the “Successful,” like those above, telling us otherwise, we still seem to believe that making a mistake is the epitome of failure, from which there is no return. And so the carrot of perfection doesn’t prompt us forward, it stops us in our tracks, destined to sit in the dust of those who braved the unknown path ahead.

Ours is a culture built on the (religious/patriarchal) concept of dualism. Black or white thinking: With us or against us; Us or Them; Good girl or Bad girl; Right or Wrong; Good or Evil; Heaven or Hell; God or Satan; Fail or Succeed. Perfection is a goal in this type of thinking, with Perfection being the Truth. There is no room for in-betweens, for questions, for learning by mistake.

Yes, we can strive for the best – YOUR best. That is your perfection, not someone else’s definition of it. Working towards – practicing – your Potential and the instant gratification of societal “Success” are two very different things. And in order to journey towards, to go on a quest for, your own idea of perfect, you must RELEASE. Let go. Question.

Release all expectations. Release certainty. Release fear. Release discomfort. Release those voices in your head which are not your own. Release debilitating perfectionism. Ask yourself what is your truth. Change “Perfect” to “Enough.”

Whether you are suffering writers’ block, fear of failure, or even fear of success, as you step out of what has been the status quo, know that you are learning and in this moment, you are enough.

Prompt: I am learning to…

Photo credit: blondieb38 from morguefile.com

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)


Do you need a map or a box of chocolates?

I have to thank Mark Matousek, with whom I took a class at the Therapeutic Writing Institute, for his insightful article in Psychology Today: What’s Your Metaphor? Shifting Shapes In The New Year. This post is my response.

Having never asked myself what word or phrase I consider my life metaphor, and how it affects my worldview, I decided to sit down with my journal and investigate.

In many of my blog posts I write about the Path of our life, so without consciously naming it it would seem this is my life metaphor. Is this a positive metaphor? Indeed, not negative, but a little passive. On a path wandering along waiting for things to just cross my way? Partially true. But I also believe that if I trust my feet (my intuition) new avenues will open leading to new places and new people and new opportunities.

I also use the metaphor of a Journey. You need a map, provisions, traveling companions, and a destination. There will be stumbles, detours, and things to see along the way. This seems more pro-active and goal-orientated.

Life is a Path , a Journey? Does that feel true to my own understanding? Do I need to change my metaphor? What are my options? A game. A play. Paint by number. Spiral. Flower garden. Circus. Bitch. How about Forrest Gump’s Box of Chocolates? Something new to taste all the time – some you won’t like but that will make the next yummy one even sweeter. Taste life. That’s pretty good. Thank you, Mrs. Gump. But no, not quite right.

Quest? Looking, searching for Something. That’s it. Seeking. Seeking Self. Yes, Life is a Quest.

On a quest you must ask Questions to discover you own truth and your own authentic self. Questioning everything you “know” to be true, questioning authority- those old and new external voices telling your who and what and how and when, questioning your own emotional reactions, and questioning fears and self-perception. Yes, life is a Question within which, just as Rumi said, the Answers lie.

So, as in the fairy tales and ancient myths, I could be the heroine of my own story, riding through dark, scary woods of emotional unknowns and entering bright clearings as I discover new things about myself. Using my talents to create my own path towards the enlightenment at the end of the tunnel – the (w)holy grail of human existence.

This is my New Year’s Resolution: To travel with the questions and celebrate every step of the way. And maybe take a few chocolates for the road.

Prompt: My life is…?

Hallelujah!

Copyright © 2011 Darren Hester

It would be a stretch to say that all Christmas music is beautiful. Every year when turkey-leftover soup is still very much on the menu and I find myself in a store singing along with some ear-gnawing song, I cringe with self-derision. But the Christmas carols, the ones I have heard and sung since birth, they are beautiful, if only for their warm familiarity.

Growing up in England where Christian music was sung in school and the Christmas concert was often sung in church, these carols are in my blood. When I was twelve I was the soloist for “Once in Royal David’s City” in my town’s big Anglican church. I can’t hear that carol today without feeling a rush of emotion. I love to sing these songs, but unless I attend church I don’t have the opportunity to have my heart soar. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in general, some of the most powerful choral music ever written is religious.

But music is my “religion.” Singing powerful choruses in a large group – which I have been fortunate enough to do with various choirs – or being in the audience wrapped in a blanket of sound is when I leave my monkey-mind and become closer to whatever that higher-ness is. It bothers me that, other than Broadway,  there are few other places than church where I can experience this (and Broadway ain’t exactly free or as convenient as the church on the corner). To feel the magic of music I must visit a place  that for me represents centuries of domination to listen to words that do not speak to me as a woman. (I write this with hesitation because the church with whose choir I do sing with occasionally – to get my fix-  is an extremely open and welcoming place where I have never been told I was damned for having the audacity to be be born so very imperfectly human.)

Frankly, it frustrates me that God holds a monopoly over “my” music. But I will continue to sing in Handel’s Messiah at Christmas and listen to Lessons and Carols from King’s College on NPR each year because at the end of the day beautiful music is beautiful music. The voices and the strings swelling, grabbing my heart, the timpani beating in my stomach, and the majestic horns making me feel things very little else has the capability to do. And until Winter Solstice songs are as familiar to us as “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” I will just have to sing with those choirs of angels.

Prompt: When I _____ I feel closest to God(dess), Spirit, the Universe, etc.

Trust your pen

I have to share a beautiful experience that speaks to the power of the pen to tap into something deeper and older than we can explain.

This morning I was reading The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. I won’t go into all the emotions this book arouses in me but I cannot emphasize strongly enough that EVERY woman in the world – and every man who was born from the body of a beautiful woman – should read this book. I’m sure I will touch on this some more in the future. However, the point is, as I sat here by the fire contemplating the repercussions of Eisler’s words, I suddenly realized what I had to do.

With my life.

Yeah, kind of a big deal.

Of course, I rushed to my journal to talk this epiphany through, to make sure I had heard my heart correctly. And yes, I had. My whole life, from the family and church I was born into, to the thesis I wrote as an undergrad, to writing a journal for the past 20-odd years, to teaching, to my Goddard Master’s degree program – all have led me to this place, right now. My eyes have been opened and I now have a responsibility to do something with the knowledge I have been given.

But here is the actual point of this post: As I put the period at the end of the final sentence of my journal entry, I wrote in big letters, SHALOM. That’s strange, I thought, why would I write a Hebrew word when the Hebrew Bible was what caused most of this trouble [i.e. the suppression of women] in the first place? So, I looked it up. Here’s what I read:

Shalom also means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full. (via http://www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm)

By speaking out about how and why we as a species became so unbalanced psychologically and spiritually, it is the point of my thesis work and my teaching to help others on their own quest for wholeness to feel “complete, perfect and full.”

Shalom, indeed.

So, trust your pen. Write what it wants to write. You know more than you know you know.