I’ll be totally honest with you; I was a reluctant recruit to the notions that men too are wounded by our patriarchal world and the negation of the feminine aspects of our human nature, and that they need women’s empathy and support in their healing.
Then one day, my best female friend challenged me. I’d been sharing with her my exploration of the Goddess, the sacred feminine and magic, and my recent healing work with my mother and feminine nature. She stopped me midstream and asked, “What about men and their wounding, Karen? How are you going to help them heal?”
My response was something along the lines of, “Not my problem. Let them figure it out on their own.”
Not long afterwards, the Goddess came to me in a dream and gave me my marching orders, “I want my Beloved back.” And from there, many dreams and healing moments later, I realized that the tear in the outside culture between men and women was inside of me. And that I could only mend this tear, inner and outer, by extending the same loving concern and compassion for the wounding and pain of men as I did for myself and for my women kin.
Man or woman, gay, trans or straight, victim or privileged, we’re all born into a misogynist world that force feeds and constrains us within narrow, damaging male and female stereotypes and roles. For some the harm is direct and brutal, for others it’s more subtle and subtext, and none of us can escape the ever-present cultural negation of women’s ways, values and spirituality, and the mirror distortion and limitation of men and masculinity.Your Gendered Tear
In this exercise, I invite you to explore the gendered tear inside of you, but gently so.
This week marks the two year anniversary of the UN’s HeForShe Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. HeForShe invites men to join and support women in the fight for women’s equality and strives to reframe feminism from its man-hating stigma to a movement that seeks to benefit men and women alike by embracing the feminine side of our humanity.
My soul responds to this initiative and its mandate with a big yes! In the many seasons of my life — from my academic studies of feminism, gender issues and Goddess theology, my work as a gender equity consultant, my perilous healing journey with my own woman’s story in a misogynist world, my travels with the Goddess into the mysteries of the sacred feminine, and my Path of She writings — I’ve been on the trail of the lost powers and ways of the feminine elements of our humanity.
In my journey, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: what ails humanity, men and women alike, is the degradation and repression of the feminine half our nature that holds not only our nurturing and emotive capacities, but also our anchor in Mother/matter: our bodies, the natural world and the mysteries of the Divine feminine.
I would add that we women have to reach back, SheForHe, so we can heal our world together.Walking in the Other’s Shoes
The saying goes that we can’t understand another person until we walk a mile in his/her shoes. This most definitely holds true in the case of men and women. Only by actively increasing our awareness of the other gender can we begin to understand the world through their eyes and experiences.
A circle of candlelit faces gather around the center altar at a community ritual. We each speak our vows to the Goddess. I say simply, “I vow to be myself; to show up naked and unafraid.”
The path that led me to this vow began after a wake-up call many years ago. I was in my mid-twenties, totally lost in the mainstream culture, with a business education and a corporate career, living a material, achievement-driven life that neither fed my soul nor gave me joy.
My wake-up call was not gentle: a collision on a ski hill that fractured my skull and cracked my world open. I woke up four days later with a facial palsy that severely disfigured the right side of my face. For the next eight months, I found myself on the fringe, exposed to the ugly underbelly of our social order reserved for those deemed unworthy and undesirable; a place where strangers felt at liberty to cruelly ridicule, harass and repulse me.
As odd as this may seem, the experience was tremendously freeing and empowering. I had been roughly pushed out of the safe world that I knew into a harsh and abusive one, and I found that I was unafraid and undiminished. The stripping away of my outer beauty made me consciously aware of my inner beauty and strength, and of the profound circle of love and support of my family and friends.
My travels with the Goddess had begun. Like the tales of Inanna and Persephone, my awakening soul led me inward and downward, into the mysteries that underlie everyday reality and the shadowy recesses of my psyche. Layer by layer, I was stripped bare of my waking world masks, conditioning and wounding. Change came, constant and unrelenting. Anything that stood between me and my soul-based essence, what I came to know as my Deep Self, had to go.
Consider this for a moment. There are two versions of the everyday:
The status quo where you live mostly on autopilot, following your regular routines and the outer dictates of family, work and culture; and
The sacred feminine where you live from your deep, beautiful Self outward, connected to your soul-based needs and desires, the rhythms of the natural world and your body, and the self-chosen demands of your outer life.
If you are like most people, the status quo version best reflects your everyday reality. You may get tastes of the sacred feminine through your spiritual beliefs and practice, and in special circumstances like a weekend retreat. But to live your day to day from this ethos may seem impossible given the hectic demands of the modern world where practicality, not soul, reigns supreme.
I recently had a taste of living the sacred feminine as my everyday. My family spent a month in Costa Rica, staying in a simple house surrounded by tropical forest, with no car and no agenda. We woke with the sun, ate when we were hungry, worked (me on my next creative project) until the day was too hot to concentrate, swam in the ocean until sunset, cooked dinner using local, organic food, settled in for a relaxing evening of reading, and then went to bed early.
Every day we followed the same simple routine, listening to our bodies, responding to Nature, adapting to the heat, balancing doing and being, and taking our pleasure in the unruly wind in the trees, the radiant sunshine, the lush, exotic trees and flowers, the bright-colored birds and Jurassic-sized insects, and the wild ruckus of howler monkeys that woke us in the middle of the night.
This experience has rewired me in some fundamental way, and now that I am back home I find myself intensely motivated to find the sweet spot where the sacred feminine naturally informs and guides my busy, demanding everyday existence.How to Weave the Sacred Feminine into your Everyday
The sacred feminine is the feminine face of divinity. She is the Goddess, the love- and life-centered ethos that infuses all of creation, and the sacred matter of your human body and of the living Earth. How does this more esoteric understanding of the sacred feminine translate into your everyday life? And how can you access Her presence on a daily basis?
Though there are infinite answers to these questions, here are four concrete ways you can begin to weave the sacred feminine into your daily life. …read more
I was a feminist doctoral student in a business faculty when I first stumbled upon the Goddess and women’s history/herstory. But I couldn’t finish my studies; they did not take me far or deep enough. My feminine ancestors had other plans for me. Shortly after quitting the doctoral program, I had a dream that called me to do my PhD in women and leadership. I woke up to a voice telling me to go to witchcamp.
There I went, to the coastal forests of California, not knowing a soul, and not a thing about magic or ritual. But no matter, those ancestors had arranged everything. I found myself co-organizing a ritual on the burning times — the most horrific period of our women’s history where an estimated 40,000-100,000 people accused of witchcraft (mostly women) were brutally persecuted and murdered. There amidst the slashed and burned shells of grandmother redwoods, with vibrant daughter trees growing from their ruins, I opened myself up to be a voice for my restless feminine ancestors.
And this is what they said: “The wisdom of the ancients still sings in your cells —below the desecration and the horror, below the fear and the forgetting — we are there. You are the waking witches. We call you to embrace your grief, step past your fear and walk our path of feminine power once more. We have never left you. We have been waiting for your return to our ways and knowing.”
So began my deep studies of women’s power and leadership, and a feminism beyond and below that of my academic studies and my thinking brain understanding of these things — an ancestral feminism still living and breathing in my body and yours.