In a quiet moment – nestled somewhere between phone calls, emails, family feuds and general, all’round distractions from my own inner landscape – I found myself wandering through an e-zine website. There I found articles on a variety of topics in areas of interest to women. As I browsed, something hovered just outside my awareness, not quite a distraction but more like a whispering in my mind. And then it occurred to me: the articles getting significantly more hits than the others (240 on one vs. 12 on another) were clustered around four topics:
- Digestive disorders
- Food/ fat/eating/size/weight control/management
Hmmmmm… I wondered… what’s this all about? What’s the message here? What is it that these ‘obsessions’ are trying to tell us by screaming at us through our own bodies? Each of these things has in common the sense of doing battle with or being betrayed by our own bodies. My musings continued to lead me down a path of enquiry: Are these really different and unique things or are these different expressions of the same thing? How else might I consider these if I were to see them as aspects of the same thing? What do all of these have in common? What is the underlying thread that pulls them all together?
And finally, the last thing that came to mind: what if the genius that my body carries (as offensive a notion as we have been taught to consider that to be!) was presenting me with messages rather than problems? Messages or invitations to be entertained and considered, rather than problems or challenges to be wrestled to the ground, beaten into submission and overcome? What if these were not afflictions but were instead unavoidable markers along the path of my own evolution, letting me know what’s working and what’s not? How else might I need to consider myself, my world and my resourcefulness in moving through that world?
In that moment, I was reminded of the ancient Egyptian goddess, Sekhmet. In those long-ago times, in the twisting sands and scorching heat of that most mystical of places, the presence of Sekhmet flooded the awareness of Egypt and her people. With the body of a woman and the head of a lioness, there continues to exist to this day controversy about who she was, what she stood for and the meaning of her undeniable, potent presence.
For some, Sekhmet came to be associated with notions of destruction; of power gone awry, drunk with its own potential, for its own sake. And yet there persists amongst the writings that describe the force of Her presence, references to Her as the most ancient of the deities in the Egyptian pantheon. Regarded as the Source goddess – that which seeded all other gods and goddesses – Sekhmet represents the simultaneous presence of good and evil; creation and destruction; the ability and willingness to nurture and protect life, and the ability and willingness to take it away. Hers was a presence that came to be associated with the ‘still point’, that silent, open moment of motionless engaging…watchful, awake, alive and without fear…just prior to the choosing and the will to take action as required. Her power allowed for and evoked both the Crucible and the Spear, flowing as expressions along the continuum of a single force – undivided and without conflict. Authentic… whole… aligned… and complete in Her ability to choose with power and intent.
The woman’s body that was Sekhmet carried the potential for creation – for birth and new life. The head of the lioness that was Sekhmet carried the portent of destruction – of danger and death reflected in the steady and piercing gaze of the hunter that she is. All that is soft, loving and nurturing, and all that is dark and dangerous, rolled into one being. She is all that and much more – and so are we.
Through time, women with power – and powerful women – have often been depicted as demonstrating themselves to be unable to wield that power; devoid of the mastery required to choose with intelligence and the wisdom to exercise that power with mindfulness and force. Many are the stories that depict powerful women as evil, dangerous and harmful to creation. So completely have we mindlessly succumbed to this notion that around the world, women have held the keys to the dungeons of our own demise. Women themselves have learned to teach other women that their Fire – the powerful force that moves through their own bodies, screams NO and is unwilling to comply and capitulate – is dangerous to all, including themselves and should, at all costs, be kept hidden and unexpressed or silenced completely. Worse yet, we have taught each other to hide ourselves in shame when we feel that Fire move, learning instead to lie and betray ourselves and each other rather than claim the unknown territory of its expression. For some of us, we have come to question our right to feel at all.
And yet, it is well known that when lions hunt, as much as the males bellow and roar, it is the females who come together to capture and take down the kill. Their skill and precision is what allows the species to survive. It causes me to ponder: where would we find ourselves if women were to reclaim the Fire that moves inside them; engage with each other to encourage this reclamation and move as one force to shape the world in which we live? Perhaps the time has come for us all – men and women – to reconsider what has been in order to discover what we might all become.
Over the years, in the work that I’ve done with women individually or in small group processes, I have often been struck by the restlessness of these women. Hidden in the conversations about relationships, children, work, parents, etc. is an underlying restlessness… an agitation… like a single, emerging thread twisting through the tapestry that is their lives… rising to the surface to remind them that something is missing or is calling to them, then diving deeper into the fabric of their lives, hidden and waiting for them in those dark, unvisited places inside themselves, just under the veneer of their acceptable lives. This relentless restlessness keeps pressing them to pay attention to that molten, swelling Fire that flows with great force deep in the body, well below the surface of their behaviours in the world. But before they can get to it, there are two discoveries that must be moved through. These are consistent, regardless of age, economics, religious or cultural bias:
- Women are terrified of the depth of their own rage! After decades and generations of swallowing hard and holding back – years of saying ‘yes’ when we want to say ‘no’; years of doing what someone else wants because it’s just easier that way;’ years of not asking for what we want, surrendering what we care about, taking less than our share, being still so as not to disturb anyone else, curbing our exuberance so that we blend into the flat-lines around us; years of not trusting ourselves, lying to keep the peace, covering our eyes so as not to see what is in front of our face……after years of swallowing back, holding in, hunkering down…..it would make perfect sense that the Fire in our bodies would have gone into lock-down in some way. Better to kill ourselves slowly than to risk killing someone else, we tell ourselves……
- Women have bought the story – you know, the one that says ‘be good, be nice, be loving and understanding, and you’ll be taken care of by (fill in the blank – the husband, the culture, the system, the group, etc.) – only to discover that it’s all bogus! After decades of doing what we never really wanted to do anyway, we discover that we bought the goods and there’s no delivery. So, not only are we enraged about that – but NOW we have to learn a whole new skill set in order to be able to function effectively in the shaping of our own lives.
Fire! The Fire of our rage! The Fire of our despair! Fire moving fast and furiously! Sensations in the body that are old and familiar, yet sensations that are now moving in ways that we have no skills to manage – not because we’re stupid but because no one has ever taught us how. Fire that we’ve been told: don’t go there or you’ll hurt someone’s feelings… get hurt… be rejected… be left out. Don’t go there because you’ll be unattractive, undesirable, unwanted. And the greatest Fire of them all: don’t go there because when the other women (your primary line of defense and to be sure, your fallback position) circle the wagon, you’ll find yourself on the outside – unprotected and unsafe. Comply! Go along! Don’t make waves or you make us all look bad! And we already know the brutality with which the collective will punish its own in order to maintain ‘order’.
And then we wonder why our bodies start screaming at us, yanking and pulling and tearing at us – unwilling, for one more second, to be silenced by our own hand. And the restlessness only increases…
Control the Fire! Control your body! Lock down – curl in – be silent and be still. Disconnect from yourself, if that is what it takes (depression). Silence the scream of your rage by occupying the Fire with digestion; distract yourself by directing the Fire at controlling what has come to be acceptable to be defined by others – the size and shape of your own body (food/fat/eating/size/weight). And finally, if over decades of doing so your body is unwilling to be so managed, let the Fire move – but let it fill you up and consume your reason and your measured responses to the world around you – and let it burn only you (menopause).
For an entire generation, the exercise of power and the ability to create has often demanded of women that they choose one force at the expense of the other. And yet, there is a restlessness – inside, where we live – that will not allow us to forget the wholeness of who we are. The energy that is the Sekhmet presence in our lives – always there, always watching, always waiting for us to awaken – is the invitation for us to reclaim our natural, instinctive, innate ability to be both the Crucible and the Spear. Our natural instinctive ability to create family, community and organizational systems that honor and nurture the power of ‘relationship’ and its rewards (the Crucible); as well as our ability to make the tough choices, draw the line in the sand, hold to our intentions and demand what we know is required to make the difference (the Spear). It is not that we desire or prefer to strike; it’s that we must be both able and willing to do so. Not only to protect others but for our own wellbeing, clearing the space of body, mind and soul for us to engage a meaningful life.
Get off your knees! Stand up for what we all, instinctively, know to be true of who we already are – powerful, versatile, creative innovators. Just as we are capable of great nurturing, we are also capable of taking apart that which no longer supports and sustains life. The restlessness within your own body is not disease or something wrong…it’s something right! It is the invitation to rediscover and embrace the full range of your own potential; to allow yourself to reclaim the territory of those internal landscapes and navigate by the stars of your own inner truth.
Stop apologizing for who you are! No matter your age, the color of your skin, the size of your ass or your bank account – take back who you are and what’s meaningful to you in your own world! Don’t wait for someone or something else to declare you free to be yourself. As long as you need permission, you are at the mercy of what you hold more powerful than yourself. As long as you need permission to be equal, you aren’t.
Allow yourself to open your mouth and say what’s true for you…what’s real for you….and what you hold as meaningful in what sometimes feels like your meaningless existence. Only by allowing the restlessness to be fed – allowing the Fire to move! – will we ever be able to claim the life that we desire. We begin by claiming ourselves. We reach out into our families and communities and organizations, and we become the invitation for change within our collectives of choice. And with the unstoppable, combined forces of Attention and Intention, we come together to build new and larger collectives that are required to change the world.
If you’re ready to play at this level of the game, there are many others just waiting to play with you. You are not alone – and the only way you’ll ever know this is to step into the Fire and let it flow.