The Sacred Feminine
(This piece was written in 1996 during a season when I was collaborating with a close friend creating women's craft shows, drumming events and shared booth space s at many west coast women's gatherings.)
Twenty-four [now, in 2012, almost forty] years ago at 32, I was in a successful feminist marriage, working as a psychologist in a full-time private practice in New York City, doing a thousand and one productive activities in a thousand and one creditable domains. (See Pirouettes for more of those details.) No matter how well I did all that I took on, I usually still felt horrible about my self. I felt like an imposter: always in imminent danger of being exposed as worthless, either never-enough or else too-much.
A severe backache compounded my low-level chronic depression at the same time I realized there was nothing more I could think of to do to prove my worth to the relentless critic inside my head. At that moment I went over the edge. I had one of those 1970s "CLICKS!" I realized that if all I was doing and accomplishing wasn't enough to make me feel okay, no amount of more doings could ever do it any better. In that blindingly clear moment, I saw the swindle I'd been sold over and over again all through my life: the belief that worthiness and lovableness were not intrinsic, not my birthright; that they had to be earned by deeds; that love received just-for-being was valueless. The critic-in-my-head had bought that bill of goods and daily re-sold it to me from the inside of my very own being.
In that moment, I felt, in my belly, a profound realization: if I couldn't feel worthy just-for-being, no amount of doing could ever be enough to give me a dependable sense of value. Underneath all the achievements, accomplishments and applause I would always know and feel a deep sense that any false step could reveal the empty, worthless core of me.
In that moment, (although I would not fully understand it for many years) I took a powerful, empowering leap into an alternate reality. I began by practicing a different response to the periodically recurring sense that I wasn't enough. Each time, I risked doing less (rather than more) of what I was already doing at the moment I had the feeling of being not-enough.
That practice began the process of refusing to accept the whole crazy-making framework that kept telling me that only more, bigger, faster, yesterday was valuable or okay. That practice began (just barely) the process of learning to listen to the deep (yet faint) voice of the Sacred Feminine (the Great Mother/The Grandmothers) re-emerging in my consciousness.
Over the years since that luminous moment, I have been listening more and more closely to the now not-so-faint voice of the Sacred Feminine as it speaks through my inmost self. I am coming to live and move more and more of the time in that parallel, sometimes invisible, universe where woman-centered values, ethics and inner-knowing guide my choices. I remember to love my self no matter what anyone else thinks or says about me. I go only as fast as the slowest part of me feels safe to go. I am compassionate, gentle and tender with my self. I remember that rest is a sacred act: as significant, productive and meaningful as any other activity. I remember to listen inward when I feel confused, trusting my body and my belly to let me know what is so for me. And, I keep letting go of all the rules and forms I've been taught when they conflict with what my inner knowing tells me.
In work a close friend and I have been doing together over the past few years we have been taking what we each have learned from our separate experiences of listening inward to our deep selves and begun the exciting process of exploring how collaboration unfolds in the field of the Sacred Feminine. We repeatedly discover that old forms and ways (even those that are much honored) feel confining and deadening. It seems almost impossible to have new things happen through the old forms. We are constantly being taught to create only loose and permeable containers for the work; to be willing to let go even of provisional form if what comes to fill it takes us somewhere else. We are taught to stay with intentions rather than to be limited by more focused goals, to stay unattached to outcome and to be willing to range where the energy in the moment takes us.
We learn to follow the lead of Spirit/our inmost selves taking the first steps as they come to us, believing that the unfolding energy will shape and refine us as we move along with it. We trust that we do not need to see where we are going, only the step that asks to be taken next. We learn to stop all forward motion whenever either of us feels uncomfortable (even when we are barely able to articulate the nature of the discomfort). We have faith that the discomfort in our feelings or in our bodies is an important message about what is or isn't going on in the sharing. We accept that what becomes manifest in either of us has significance for both of us in the shared field.
We talk about what has words, we listen inward and we listen to each other. We sit in silence, we ask Spirit for help and guidance. Sometimes we rant about our frustration, sometimes we cry. Sometimes we just slow down and breathe. We are clear about our differences when they emerge. We do not require that we agree, or that we do things similarly, only that we clearly hear each other's view/concern/need. Rather than homogenizing our selves or compromising the best of what we each hope for, we risk sitting with the edges and discomfort of our differences until we see the way that honors the essence of what both of us need.
Sometimes it's excruciating, this process, this waiting. We stay long past the threshold at which the discomfort might in the past have caused us to cave in. We stay because we believe it is possible for each of us to have 100% of what we need in the shared space. Sometimes the path to resolution reveals itself easily and magically.
Sometimes when it's hard, we each give our selves permission to walk away from it all for a time (or even to entertain the possibility that we might just let it go forever). Then the magic creeps up behind us and happens anyway. And, what looked like an ending or a detour instead opens a whole new path.
Opening to the energy of the Sacred Feminine Field (and our deep selves) has kept us both moving beyond our limited earlier visions: of our selves, of our collaboration and of the work we are being asked to do each moment.
In the Sacred Field of the Feminine we remember that we can be loving, compassionate and tender with our selves in every moment no matter how imperfect we may believe we are. We remember the magic of going slowly, the voluptuousness of resting, the extraordinary strength of vulnerability, the wisdom of not-knowing, the pregnant richness of empty places within and around us, the lavish healing gifts of the natural world, the soothing balm of silliness and the numberless other wonders that we, in our inner knowing places, can't help recognizing as familiar, even if long forgotten.
May we all keep learning to ever better hear the voice of our inner knowing selves, and may we always walk and dance in the wisdom and beauty of the Sacred Feminine as She lives within us.