I have been writing about the consequences of our staying on the surface in the outer world and not doing the deep work in the inner world from which what occurs in the outer world springs.
From the responses I’ve received, it seems to be such a difficult thing for people to look at, take in, acknowledge, and commit to working with. As a result, starting this month I am going to begin teaching in relation to a few arenas in our world where the interplay between the inner and outer is more obvious than others. This month’s theme is that of women.
Part 1: Women
The efforts to make things better for women in our world have been widespread, courageous, and impactful. They are even celebrated internationally in March with International Women’s Day on March 8. And we need to be thankful for every woman – and every man – who has participated in helping women toward claiming and living their rightful places in society.
We also, at this point, need to do two other major things in this journey for women – two things in our inner worlds:
First, we need to grieve that in our world there even needs to be a journey toward women’s living as the equal beings they already are.
How can we only focus on the advancements and not also honestly look at the places we lag so far behind . . . even the places we have fallen behind once again (like right here in the US)? In some places in our world the oppression of women is seemingly subtle; in some places open and blatant. In some arenas it is right out in the open; in others, behind closed doors. There are some locales in which the oppression of women is preached, advocated, and bragged about openly; and others in which it’s whispered, a hushed secret. In some areas that oppression is psychological and emotional; in others it is visible and physical in addition. In some localities it takes place in the board room; in some, the office; in some, the streets; in some, the living room; in others, the bedroom. There are places where the oppression of women is fought against; there are places where it is simply accepted; and there are places where it is fought against on the surface but simply accepted beneath the surface. In some places, the oppression of women is done under the guise of law; in some, under the guise of cultural custom; in others, under the guise of religion . . . and in some, under no guise at all.
That warrants our grief. That calls for our mourning. That insists upon our taking seriously the bereavement that is within and amongst us. And if we deny this, we are only harming ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.
We may have a lot to celebrate in terms of our progress. But just like everything else that we refuse to really grieve, the lack of a true, full grieving process ends up haunting us and holding us back from the kind of progress and success we could really accomplish and create. When we avoid what’s within us, like our grief, we may do some good things in the outer world, but we create unconsciously from the inner world we turned our backs on. This is a common theme in our world. This is a common theme in our country. And as a result, this is a common theme in my writing. For example, I have written numerous times on the consequences of our failure to grieve after 9-11.*
Even some of the leaders of the feminist movement in the US have acknowledged this in their own way. Recently, in a documentary on Gloria Steinem, she acknowledged that … “being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself.”**
Think of all the activism that is taking place today all over the world – but especially in the US both during and in the aftermath of the 2012 elections. The activism that is occurring against women – known during the election process as “The War Against Women.” And the activism that is occurring in behalf of women . . . by more and more women, more and more men, and more and more belonging to all political affiliations, as a result of the bizarre, cruel, and out in the open efforts during the campaign to deny women their rights. It sure makes a conscious, reflective mind and heart wonder what inner issues these men and women were revealing – without being aware of it themselves – when they said things like no child would be conceived during a ‘legitimate’ rape, an invasive transvaginal ultrasound would be required before an abortion, states should be allowed to ban all contraception . . .
In the field of healers – medical, therapeutic, and energy alike – a foundational guideline is “physician, heal thyself.” Unfortunately that is not practiced by enough healers. Too many go out to heal others instead of healing themselves, with dire, destructive consequences. Nevertheless, the guideline is filled with wisdom and necessity . . . not only for the healing professions, but elsewhere, as well. For example, still, in the US, there is no Equal Rights Amendment. In our country, our supposedly civilized country, time ran out and women still do not have equality under the Constitution. Women still do not have full equality in America. We go all over the world claiming to help others have equality – women with men, citizens with rulers, one faction with another – but where is the equality at home? There is no equality of women with men . . . among many discrepancies in equality. No matter how much progress we’ve made . . . no matter how far we’ve come . . . and no matter how equal women truly are to men . . . we need to grieve for the lack of full equality legally and culturally in our country. And the grief is mammoth!
If we don’t grieve what has occurred and not occurred in the outer world . . . we miss a huge piece of the puzzle. If we only grieve what is visible in the outer world and don’t grieve what occurs and doesn’t occur in our inner worlds . . . we miss another gigantic piece of the puzzle. By doing so, we tie our own hands in the journey.
Grief is a cauldron of feelings that gets stirred up within us when we experience a loss of some kind – any kind – including the loss of our basic rights as human beings . . . the right to our dignity; the right to respect; the right to be taken seriously; the right to be viewed as an equal human being, not an object and not a toy; the right to fulfill our true potential as human beings; the right to equal pay for equal work; the right to equal protection under the law . . .
So as I said above, we also, at this point, need to do two other major things in this journey for women – two things in our inner worlds: The first we’ve just explored . . . we need to grieve that in our world there even needs to be a journey toward women’s living as the equal beings they already are.
The second, women need to connect with themselves within . . . and they need to reconnect with themselves in the places they’ve split off.
In the oppression of women, keeping them from connecting to themselves and staying connected to themselves has been both a tool or weapon in the oppression, and also a consequence of the oppression. In some families that starts very young. Think of the cultures in which girl children aren’t wanted, and those in which men are so glad they have been born male. How do you think the females in those cultures and families feel? How connected do you think they are to themselves?
Think of the societies in which females are thought of as objects – objects for the use of the males, however subtly or blatantly, however unconsciously or consciously, however intended – with or without harm. How do you think those females in those families feel – about themselves and about being female? How connected do you think they really are to themselves?
If women – and the men who help them – keep fighting only on the outer level . . . the changes will happen only on the outer level. And then even once the changes have occurred, they will disappear again because they haven’t been rooted within. If they aren’t rooted in our inner worlds, they cannot possibly be sustained in our outer world.
Let’s use the example of the U.S.A. Changes in behalf of women and their rights were fought for and won throughout the Twentieth Century. First the vote for women in 1920. Then the right to choose what happens to their own bodies – Roe v Wade 1973. Then the efforts to put in place the Equal Rights Amendment. How many of the women and men fighting for those rights were conscious of the need to not only be activists in the outer world, but to also be activists in their inner worlds? How many of those women fought not only to determine what happened in their wombs, but also to be deeply connected to their wombs?
Not very many. I can tell you that for sure. How can I tell you? Because in the late 80’s and the early 90’s one of the ways I was helping people connect to themselves was by helping women be connected with their cycles . . . their menstrual cycles, their menopausal cycles, and their wombs. It was such a new and such a strange idea to so many people. Many women were (and still are) afraid of the work I was offering. Many just wanted to stay in the outer world as activists or in their heads as intellectuals and do women’s work from there. But the women who came to work with me on their own very personal connections to themselves through their bodies, their wombs, their cycles . . . discovered wounds to their beings that were calling out to be healed, and in healing those wounds became more and more deeply connected with themselves . . . and more and more empowered in their own lives.***
I witnessed firsthand some of what happened with the women who were afraid of the womb-work. At what could have been an amazing crossroads in their lives, many moved more and more out of their connections with their female bodies and their female selves (perhaps re-enacting early responses to early wounds) and into their minds alone (as a defense). They became less and less aware of the roots of the activism that had taken place, and took it more and more for granted. And even if only by example, they taught the women in their lives to do the same.
I also witnessed firsthand so very much of what happened with the women who committed to their womb-work. They became more and more connected with themselves as women. They more and more healed the wounds to themselves as female . . . wounds that began even in their early childhood. They more and more helped to untwist the distortions to the female in their lives and in our world. Out of that healing and undistorting came real contact with who they were as women, what their true inner power was, and how they could claim and live it in their world.
If in the 50’s and 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s even a large number of the women in that time had done their inner work . . . the eating away at the rights of women to choose what will happen in and with their own bodies would not be occurring in these times, at least not nearly to the extent it has been. Of course there would still be a backlash, but even that would be different. Once people do their inner work, the outer is created from within in a different way. A different way from just doing the outer activism and being haunted by what hasn’t been tended to on the inside. A way that helps sustain what has been created consciously through healing from the inside out.
March is one of many times for honoring women and all we have created in our journey to wholeness. Let’s honor women and our journey this time with a commitment to do the inner work now . . . so we can sustain the changes we create from the inside out.
© Judith Barr, 2013.
Interviewed in the early 90’s when she wrote the book Revolution from Within, Gloria Steinem said …”being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself.”
***To read more about this . . .
My book, A Menstrual Journey: Through the Old & the Dark to the New, the Light, & the Possibility & The Goddess Has Many Faces (Judith Barr; Jan 1, 1990) available through Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Menstrual-Journey-Through-Possibility-Goddess/dp/1886264007/ref=sr_1_14?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361108232&sr=1-14
My audio cassette, The Call of My Blood Mysteries (Judith Barr; Apr 1990) available at my website at
https://judithbarr.com/shop/ (Click on the “Audio Tapes” tab)
The Wise Wound: The Myths, Realities, and Meanings of Menstruation (Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove; Nov, 1988)
The Wild Genie: The Healing Power of Menstruation (Alexandra Pope; Dec 31, 2001)
WHAT YOU CAN DO
TO HELP MAKE YOUR AND OUR WORLD SAFE . . .
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
As we approach International Women’s Day and go through Women’s History Month . . . take some time to explore your own relationship with the feminine.
If you are a woman . . . how truly connected are you with yourself as a woman? With your womb and with your cycles? Are you doing the inner work to truly heal your relationship with your own feminine self, on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual?
If you are a man . . . have you explored your deepest feelings about the feminine in all aspects of your life? Are you doing the inner work to explore and heal your relationships with the power of woman? And . . . have you explored and healed your relationship with the powerful feminine aspects within yourself?
Whether you are a man or a woman . . . Explore within yourself your feelings about women in general. What feelings come to you when you contemplate the women in your life and in our world? Can you trace those feelings back to your early experiences of and about women in your past?
We have much to be thankful for this International Woman’s Day and this Women’s History Month . . . and much work left to be done. We, of course, need to work in the outer world . . . but we also need to do our own inner work if we are to make lasting sustainable change in the status of women in our lives and across the globe.