Good Girls Revolt: Dignity Trumps Patriarchy 

                                                                                                               Photo credit Monika Nataraj

I just watched Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized TV account of the discriminatory practices that prompted women employees to sue Newsweek in 1970. Women were denied opportunities to write, or if they wrote a piece for the man they provided research for, the women did not get the byline. They were paid one-third the salaries of men while being expected to enthusiastically and submissively support the functions held by men—whether they themselves were more highly educated or capable. The series revealed the many ways in which women were—and remain—treated less well well than men.

On March 22, 1972, the US Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution banning discrimination based on sex. The States had seven years to ratify. Subsequently they were given a three-year extension. The Amendment was never ratified leaving half of us bereft of anti-discriminatory constitutional support. How ironic that constitutionally unprotected US women soldiers now serve in combat.

Nation states have their own security as their primary objective—not that of their population. State security is paramount as their charge is the interests of a particular minority—nothing more. States must remain capable to that end. As with traversing any course, there are degrees of deviation en route an objective. The 1960s and early 70s were a period of deviation—expanding benefits for the population. We exhaled a bit.

Since then though, The particular minority has been gradually taking back what they gave—and more—leaving many of us to hold our breath. A cycle of still tighter contraction is returning. Although an over simplification, high pressure always flows into low pressure. We live in a force/countervailing force Cosmos.

Irrespective of the degree of insolent or violent thought and action perpetrated on women—regardless of what’s being denied them—despite prevailing circumstances of oblique and undisguised systemic cavalier, dismissive and reckless disregard for girls and women—and the Feminine—the dignity, innocence and beauty of girls and women can never be sullied, impeached, abridged or expunged. I see this being true for boys and men too. I won’t go there now as we’re not at that point in our conversation.

Human decency—love and compassion, graciousness and generosity, kindness and respect, dignity, innocence and beauty—and the granting of standing, voice, and power to women—are not the province of the state, religion, politics or the law. This purview is ours alone! This responsibility is our individual sovereign duty! Quoting the comedian Amy Schumer “You will not define my story. I will!”

No one is a victim here. Patriarchy is equally dangerous to men albeit less obvious. Patriarchy has crippled humanity, retarded our growth, and is killing off possibilities to sustain life on our planet. By each of us having internalized patriarchal ethics we’ve created unnecessary divisions within ourselves, and between one another. Whether aware or not, we each are conflicted inside as societal ethics collide with our deeper Wisdom. It is within our capacities to wholly transform ourselves and change—for our betterment—from the seemingly perilous circumstances of our times—the larger system’s actions notwithstanding.

It’s not about “them” out there! Nor about what “they” are doing! It’s about us—ourselves. It’s about our own self-reckoning. Our accountability to our own sovereignty. It is our own responsibility to heal, grow, change and become the Beings and Forces that we genuinely are. Not to be at odds with “them”. But rather, to leave behind the invectives of others. To define our own stories. To celebrate and support our self-confidence and that of those around us. To identify and develop the capacities to give what we are here to give—then to give them. Not only for ourselves, but for those generations in the future.

Paraphrasing a master teacher of mine …a woman would be better off alone and starving in the desert than to remain in abusive circumstances… He is referring to the damage done primarily to the soul of a woman—the energetic aspects of her, distinct and beyond her psychologically, physically. This is equally true for men.

​I know and feel the heartbreak with every woman I coach. I see consequences of patriarchy in the men I work with too. I see its adverse effects in my mother, sister and the women I know or meet. And, I know this most intimately in my wife who survived my processes of awakening and maturation.

Here is a verse from William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” //For it is important that awake people be awake/or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep/ the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe—/should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Protecting your Radiance

“Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”
– Maria Popova —www.brainpickings.org

Maria’s words “…protecting your radiance” means standing strong in your pursuit of answering the two most fundamental questions of our lives:
• Who am I really?
• What do I have to give the world?

These two questions lead us toward our promise: The promise of genuinely being ourselves; and the promise of utterly and completely expressing ourselves—in our existence, and in the giving of our unique talent—that, by its very nature—benefits self, others and the whole. Our desire to help, to contribute, is hardwired.

Caveat emptor! Pursuing these questions adds levels of complexity to our lives. Our cultures support and expect conformity not individuality. Our cultures shunt our energies to others’ ends and not to our uniqueness nor its attendant and awaiting expression. Whether seeking, finding and expressing our gifts, or in living lives of conformity, we encounter unpredictable pressure waves in our daily lives. Yet, I offer another spoiler alert: The alternative to pursuing our own life has costs too: we live lives fraught with the vicissitudes of confounding feelings of being unexpressed accompanied by an incessant and illusive sense of emptiness.

In the greater scheme of Life, one way of living is no better than another. Yet, each path renders consequences. One is a path of Wisdom. One is not. One is expansive. One contracts. Looking at our wold today through these lenses, we see the effects of the paths of the majority.

Being genuinely ourselves and expressing our unique talent fills us. Makes us more. We become whole. In this we are changed. In expressing the radiance of being ourselves expressing our gifts, others are changed. Yet too, we do not find ourselves nor give our gifts to change others. Rather, we become and express of out of the necessity of our soul. Anything less lends toward folly.

The word pentimento is, in part, a lovely word. It means a visible trace of earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on a canvas. There are traces of earlier painting on the canvas of each of us. These traces are our ineffable Self. Our radiance. And, they are the paintings of our attendant and unique gift or talent–these brushstrokes issue from the Mystery’s palette. This is what we are to find with our questions of Who am I really? and What do I have to give the world?

Our pentimento is almost entirely concealed beneath the pigments of our ancestry, families of origin, and the cultural mores of our upbringing, education and training—the forces of our conformity. Culture renders our lives less vivid and less vital. Culture moves us away from ourselves and our great gifts. This is paradoxically necessary while simultaneously perilous. It is from this precarious layer we begin our search.

The not so lovely aspects of the word pentimento lie in its root: repentant. Little wonder so many of us apologize for who or how we are. Little wonder we often find it impractical to roll the rock of our becoming up the steep hills of our culture. Conforming seems easier.

Yet the Mystery orchestrates the placement of people and ideas and books on our path that, by virtue of their presence, rouse our awakening. Our remembering. They stir our self-discovery and becoming. Their visitations are vitally important. So too, there are people in our lives who see the loveliness of our pentimento when we ourselves have yet to find them. These people remind us apologies are devices of the culture and are ill-suited for us. They invite us to seek out who we are and our gift to give.

Yet, this discovery is, of necessity, our own undertaking. At times we require the assistance of others and we need ask for it. Help clearing impediments to our path. Too, they expand our awareness. Once we’ve sensed our gift, many of us must develop its expression through self-disciplinary arts that change us yet again in its process.

And you? Who are those people? those ideas? those books that rouse your radiance? Is it time to revisit them? Are you asking the fundamental questions of Who am I really? What am I here to give the world?

The Wild Rose

                                                                                                                                      Photo: Online

I’ve had a yellow rose bush in a terra cotta pot for maybe twenty-five years. I’ve dragged it from house to house. Two years ago I planted it near my front porch trimming it back severely. Last year its stems barely grew. I wondered whether the paltriness of its leaves could gather light or store sustaining sugars. I thought I killed it. Nonetheless, in the fall I cut it back but less harshly.

This spring it leafed out fully on long thorny stems—though thinner than those of its past. Returning home after work travel, it was awash with small deeply red roses. The bush had always borne yellow roses. The tiny red ones were gorgeous in a natural way—though quite unlike the corollas of its former domesticated self. I looked across the commons area into my neighbor’s yard: It was bursting with a plethora of large beautiful colorful roses—ones most of us have been taught to appreciate.

​I had killed my rose alright. Well, rather, I killed its domesticated yellow cultivated parts. Those bits long ago grafted onto a wild and natural red rose rootstock—in whose beauty I now reveled. The next morning my roses were gone. Deer got them, and they’ve dined on buds all summer. It’s late summer as I write this and autumn is in the air. As I look out my window, I see a wholly natural rose bearing long thorny stems and lots of leaves. Next year I’ll keep the deer away: I want this rose’s undomesticated beauty.

For years I stewarded my life as I had the rose being equally harsh with myself. I didn’t know this though, and am I’m only now getting it. Domestication is so opaque—so hard to see through.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve longed and worked assiduously to free my incarcerated self from the falsity and folly of domestication—though all the while being my own worst enemy. I’m changed and changing. I’m grateful. Something of wildness is flowering within.

Let’s toast to the growing and developing sufficiently to keep the ego in its proper place—that of serving our Essential rootstock.

Waking the Feminine

                                                           Image: Woman Asleep in an Armchair The Dream 1932 – Picasso

Poet David Whyte said that when he had a son, he felt the need to teach him. His sense was organic—an instinct to continue the species. We know instincts through drives, feelings, emotions and protective urges—those prompting us to care for and train younger ones, and our urges to flinch, freeze, fight or take flight.

When his daughter arrived Whyte said that he sensed a need to apprentice himself to her. His sense of apprenticing to the Feminine of his daughter arose not from animal, ancestral, familial or cultural inheritance—but rather, from the non-ordinary forces of the Mystery. Whether we have daughters or not, all of us—girls, boys, women and men—are constantly being invited, by the Mystery, to apprentice ourselves to the Feminine.  She is Life!

The Mystery’s forces and their invitations routinely go unrecognized/unheard. When heard, routinely unheeded. The forces of the Mystery are of a different order than our instincts. These forces are doing the Mystery’s bidding. They are inorganic. Non-instinctual. They derive from, and remain something other than physical matter, thoughts, or imaginings. Our upbringings teach us to disavow their messages when they penetrate our denial, surfacing in awareness.

Her bidding? Become Her Consort. Her Lover. Her co-creative collaborator—all the while growing into the sovereign forces that we ourselves are. Her bidding? Participate in the Whole of things… going to places beyond what our cultures and its institutions acknowledge.

When I was nine my brothers and I got a sister. I was ecstatic. However these things work, she and I have an uncommon connection. We SEE each other. I didn’t know then that I was unfathomably in love with the Feminine. I still am.

The Cosmos… the Universe… the Mystery… all are feminine. Our world—our planet, and Nature—the natural environment—are feminine. All of it is, save for periodic impulses of the Masculine. The Source… the Divine…  Allness… the central organizing force of the Cosmos… these words point to the same phenomenon, which is feminine.

Unawares, the human race has disenfranchised itself from the vital-peaceful-aliveness, the undomesticated motion and co-creative promise of our existences. We’ve done so by living out millennia upon millennia of patriarchal mores and acting in accord with its insipid best-practices. We, ourselves, today, continue this folly, equally oblivious, though we consider ourselves aware…

…all the while, furthering the diminishment of our intelligence, sensibilities, capacities and creativities. Though patriarchal mores compel our marching in lockstep, we can yet break our stride changing our lives and the future’s trajectory.

Gender essence possess charge. These forces, and their charge, have been wholly and profanely misunderstood and acted on. The charge between the sexes has been corrupted and contaminated culminating in unspeakable violence. The Feminine and the Masculine gender essence forces are something other than what we’ve been brought up to believe or imagine.

I contend that we—all of us—are profoundly, staggeringly, breathlessly and ecstatically in love with the Feminine, though we are wholly unaware of this, and callous in our ignorance. If we want to leverage change, we will be well served to bring this love into our conscious awareness; to say “Yes!” to it, and act in accord with the our love of the Feminine. Doing so will render boon upon boon to ourselves and others.

What will you do? How will you be? as you awaken to the actuality that you cannot not love the Feminine? That you cannot actually hate life and the living…That you are instead wholly and completely and ecstatically in love with Life, the Cosmos, others, yourself—the Feminine?

Privilege

                                                                                                        Photo: Digital art from the internet

“…systems break because they are rigid and unbending. If we spend our lives trying to adjust to something broken we break ourselves in the process…” ~ Shane Koyczan

There is something to the Buddhists’ worldview regarding the immeasurable privilege of being incarnated human. The breathtaking number of life forms on the planet alone—options in which we could be playing out our lives—render the odds of being human infinitesimal. This says nothing of sperm ovum failures nor the myriad other existences we could inhabit in other worlds.

Privilege does not mean human life is more important or more valuable or more significant than other life forms—but rather—different: The Beings we are, are privileged to access a greater range and type of motion than others…privileged to join and connect and move with one another with greater nuance, and to engage more complimentarily… privileged to experience and express endless possibilities of creativity…privileged, too, in our particular form of sentience and capacities for experience, and all that this renders…

Whether we believe or not, to presuppose privilege garners us boon upon boon. Assuming privilege now, irrespective of circumstance, revises the overarching stories of our lives by providing non-ordinary color, syntax and meter which changes us and our lives lending greater ease in an uneasy world.

Whether done with Grace or done inelegantly, people are staggeringly adaptive. Adapting is required to navigate the day to day. Yet, we are no more open, agile, flexible or creative in our adaptations than our personal and cultural stories allow.

Inasmuch, there is yet another privilege: That of being autonomous, sovereign, unique. Though our individual and cultural stories eschew our sovereignty… Nonetheless, and paradoxically, we cannot genuinely join others without claiming and inhabiting our autonomy—being our own selves. And this, we can’t do until we acknowledge the privilege of our humanity, itself… Hmm?

But wait there is more: The sovereign ones that we are are being urged by the Mystery to creatively express what is uniquely ours to render… This, too, requires acknowledgement of human privilege…of sovereignty…of the necessity to connect with others and forces beyond ourselves…

What’s really going on is a, a recursive process requiring new iterations from us in each spiraling arc…

And you thought it was easy being a person…

For me personally, my practice is graciousness without being polite. Gracious in saying Yes! to the promise of the privileges of being human. For me, it involves disciplining myself to be here and now in my body. Keeping my attention on what I love, and connecting with the Intents of the Mystery.

A Goodbye to Patriarchy 

                      “…bent on building an ennobled world of dignity for all…”– Maria Popova

In 2010 the Dalia Lama proclaimed “The world will be saved by [the] Western woman.”

Recently the Pope declared 22 June as Mary Magdalene Feast Day.

The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers gave the world this message:

“As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to. You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it. Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you. Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.”

In 1988, though not original to her, the former USA State of Texas Governor Ann W. Richards said “If you give us the chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.” 

Irrespective of how the subordination of girls and women and the disparaging of all that is feminine became the norm… No matter that our doing so is inexcusable and unjustifiable… No matter that all of us—girls and women and boys and men—are conditioned to debase more than half of the people on the planet because of their sex… In the name of human decency… In the name of dignity…. In the name of Love…

Personally, as an activist of the human heart… of decency, with a bent toward that which is just… We must now direct our attentions and resources to counterbalance the forces diminishing the Feminine. We must do so with our unequivocal action in support of women’s power, place, standing, voice and contribution—to feminine wisdom and process. We must do so while maintaining the dignity of boys and men and the Masculine. We must take a stand within ourselves to think and act differently within ourselves… With one another.

We are in the midst of a transition of epochs: we are leaving the patriarchal and moving into an honoring of the Feminine… an honoring of girls and women… Though the path ahead is arduous, we must now construct the circumstances for furthering—for enabling—cooperative and collaborative partnerships of Feminine and Masculine… of women and men. This will take generations to realize of course, yet we must do our part now to enable succeeding generations to do theirs.

In these actions we will heal ourselves, one another—and avail ourselves to see into and work hand in hand with the otherwise ‘unseen’ Universal forces of Wisdom—we will see into the forces of the Mystery beyond mind/imagination, body and matter.

Were we to look into the eyes of the 13 Grandmothers we’d see there is no New Age dribble expressed here, but rather, ancient Wisdom from our future…

Beauty

A couple years ago I discovered YouTube’s Britain’s Got Talent. When I have time I watch and listen while making breakfast or coffee. In sharing their talent, those auditioning reveal their beauty and at times, I cry. The poet John O’Donohue said the human heart cannot live without beauty.

Before YouTube, I read Nobel Laureate acceptance speeches looking for beauty. I also read things like the inaugural speech of the Czech Republic’s first president, Vaclav Havel. His honesty revealed his beauty. Though I sometimes grouse about the stupid things people do, I know of and see humanity’s staggering beauty. I always find it. For me, it’s important to direct my attention to beauty as doing so makes it easier to maintain clarity and resourcefulness—particularly in difficult times.

For the past two or three years I’ve been reading interviews of writers and writers writing about writing. The Fragrance of Guava: Conversations with Gabriel Garcia Marquez is lovely. Garcia Marquez said “I know my wife so well that I don’t know her at all.” In seeing his wife, he saw the Mystery in her. Now that’s beauty!

Not knowing how to love is what prevents us from seeing one another. What was it Thich Nhat Hahn said? “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.” This has been my experience—from both sides—the one ostensibly being loved and the one ostensibly doing the loving.

Its taken me so long to learn to love. So long to leave a child’s way of loving. I could lament this but don’t. Rather, I’m gratefully and utterly gobsmacked with my new capacity and experience of loving in a mature way, of experiencing the heart-touching and arresting force, or whatever it is, in and beyond my wife—that ever present ineffable something that I’d been oblivious to, yet, so desperately seeking. Phew!

This ineffable force is, of course, its own thing—yet, too, it infuses everything. To know this now is beyond my ability to express. Though books and film opened me, it is through another that the Mystery bequeathed me this boon.

Even so, I yet have impediments to the freedom that will ensue from loving myself more fully—from uttering my unequivocal “Yes” to the Mystery. It seems that I’ve had aspects bent on defining myself by others’ and my own ill-fitting invectives…

…rather than by the best of me. Hmm?

As for tears in my appreciation of others’ creative expression… Well, yes, there is an honesty in those tears; yet, too, my story and tears have also been a ruse. One that fooled me a long time. Recently, my story shattered: I now see that my tears were me feeling sorry for myself—for not yet having creatively expressed what I long to.

I either get my, now-shattered, limiting story… or I can do what it takes to do the things I say I want to do…

I bow to beauty of the forces rendering impermanence to my story…

Being Bold

                                                                                                                                          Jackson Pollock

“Change in society is of secondary importance; that will come about naturally, inevitably, when you as a human being bring about change in yourself.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Some scientists say the universe is expanding. Others say it’s contracting. Mystics see the universe as a dance of opposites. Easterners speak of Yin and Yang.

Concerned about global chaos? Be calm. Concerned about greed? Be generous. Concerned about hate? Be unafraid. Concerned about an insensitive world? Be gracious.

Concerned that governments and business are uncaring? Care for another and experience the love that ensues. Concerned about the world’s ill-will? Be kind. Concerned about evil? Do good.

​You lonely? Connect with another. Unhappy? Do things you love doing. Is the world moving too fast? Slow down. Complexity got you by the throat? Simplify. Too much in your head? Come to your senses.

Want to live boldly? Counterbalance things!

Wanna really be bold? Value, understand, honor, respect, care for, love, and support the self-confidence of girls and women. See them. Support gender equality at every opportunity.

Losing Our Minds and Coming to Our Senses

​Biologists tell us there are seven signs of life: moving, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. Mystic Paul Richards suggests differently. Life is creativity, he says. No creativity—no life. There are gradations of life: more creativity—more life. He’s onto something more significant than we are wont to appreciate.

I’m not suggesting everyone sculpt, cook gourmet foods or write poetry but rather that we open ourselves to relationships with the Mystery’s muse forces beyond mind, body and imagination. In doing so our lives open to the Mystery’s Enchantment and our actions—from the nuanced to the overt—radiate something transcendent.

Life itself is Enchantment. It can’t be measured or sussed out rationally. It is instead experienced directly. Most of us deny Enchantment’s existence as we rarely allow ourselves to fully and directly experience our lives via our senses. Enchantment is not eschewing us nor does She limit Her visitations. Rather, it is our own unwitting bent on over-thinking our lives that precludes Her touch. Our penchant for thought is a form of collateral damage. A consequence of our personal histories. This can be changed. We can come to our senses.

I’m no one to talk. I jumped from the ship of my body as a child and roamed the ethers. Seemed more pleasant than consigning myself to feeling. My curiosity and interest in learning and understanding drew me to the refuge of my thinking mind and imagination. I can tell you that living at distance and living conceptually don’t render a good life.

I am only now beginning to know the lightness of Being which ensues from directly experiencing my sentience—the ups and the downs. I am only now knowing the life giving beauty of creativity. Only now perceiving Enchantment’s delight. Only now being disciplined enough to let go of dispiriting and disheartening habits of thought and action. Only now disciplining myself to creative ends.

How do we do this?

It’s giving ourselves over to magnificent music or getting lost in the myriad flavors and warmth of a meal, coffee or a glass of wine… It’s feeling the wind tousling our hair; basking in a lover’s touch, or feeling heartened in seeing the light in another’s eyes… It’s watching the way happy people move as they go about their day…, and seeing the angle of falling rain, and becoming entranced by the concentric circles forming in puddles…

Get out of the city. Go to the park. Nature is so compelling, so solicitous of our what’s real in us…

Reading is no substitute for direct sensory experience. At their best, words inspire and rouse us to come to our senses. Here are a few such words by poet William Stafford:
Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Don’t believe me. Experience life for yourself.

2016–Just Sayin’

​Many cars have GPS. You know how they work: they chart a course from our current locations to our destinations. They continuously calculate the relationship between our here and now and our desired there and then—and re-choreograph our movement when we veer off. We do this in our lives too. I’m curious whether the places we seem bent on going are actually the places we imagine them to be? I’m curious too about being goal directed by things out there versus meeting our deeper needs. Just wondering…

​GPS records our starting points. It remembers. No matter our present situations or seemingly similar destinations—because each of us have differing points of origin—we can never compare our experience, positions nor degrees of progress with others. What do we need in order to let go such comparisons? I wonder…

…The safest and easiest way to drive at speed through sharp or broadly sweeping curves requires fixing our sight on a moving point. Where we place this moving point depends on:

1) which side of the road’s centerline we drive on,
2) whether we’re on a multi-lane road,
3) whether the curve in front of us bends to our right or left.

In North America we drive to the right of the road’s centerline. Here on a road having one lane in each direction approaching a right bending curve, we need look to the painted line near the right edge of the road in front of us. We must fix our sight on a point on this painted line as far into the curve as we can see—and continue moving this point into and around and through the curve—and beyond as the road straightens.

Were we to look elsewhere instead, our systems would take us there. If we become aware of this change in course we would need to exert additional force to again move in our desired direction. Sometimes we right ourselves. Sometimes no.

As we coordinate our systems of attention and intent (navigating curves elegantly in our own ways) by seeing that moving point in front of us—and connect these with our mind, body and environment, we more graciously approach the contours our journeys bring—whose changing conditions we only discover by approaching and moving into and through them. In our connecting we join larger forces informing our motion, applications of effort and creativity.

—In this flow—we are the Mystery’s graceful escorts.

How and where will you look this year?