The air is hot and moist, charged with the moving forms of fifty plus fully-embodied, dancing human-creatures. I remove my glasses; with my compromised vision, the outer world becomes a soft-edged, fluid sensuality woven of sound, scent, energy and the minutia of muscle, bone, breath and sweat.
This is Dance Temple, a place of free-form, authentic movement. Our brilliant, inspired priestess-facilitators lightly guide our process, setting our shared focus and helping us to inhabit this moment together. The rules are simple: move however you want, don’t talk on the dance floor, and respect yourself and each other.
What is deep, deep inside rises to the surface and speaks in the spiraling of my spine, the rotating of my shoulder blades, the gyrating of my hips, the reaching and extension of my limbs, and the fluttering of my fingers. I am liquid me, joyfully, ecstatically, powerfully present and free.
I cannot speak for the inner process of others, but what I witness around me are exquisitely beautiful people, of different ages, shapes, colors and gender options, totally giving themselves over to the music and the moment. This is diversity in motion — a kaleidoscope of swaying, bopping, twirling, grooving bodies, each with a dance as unique as their fingerprints.
I cannot tell you how or why, just that I feel an exquisite rightness inside of me and in our togetherness, a kind of collective homecoming within our moving, inspired flesh. Whatever emerges from this fusion is pure love, pure joy and pure magic, the very stuff that can heal our souls and transform our world.
We need more Dance Temple moments in our lives, where we stop talking, start grooving and let our body do its unique, delicious thing, speaking in its sensate language of movement and dance. Our bodies know what we need to heal, grow and flourish. Our bodies know how to be with other bodies in a place of self-expression and respect. Our bodies know how to cultivate joy, make love and weave beauty.
Maybe, just maybe, the thing that can change our world is as simple as embracing the dance temple which is our own sacred body, with its unique form of expressive movement and profound range of sensate knowing. Alone and with our dancing tribe, we can move and groove, waking and shaking things up, and finding our way home together.
Photo Credit: Christopher Campbell on Unsplash
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.
Don’t look outside of yourself to understand and source leadership and power, look within. Every one of us is a leader when we tap into the inner sovereignty of our unique configuration of beauty and power. To be a leader is to take full ownership for your best qualities and abilities, and gift them to the greater world through your presence and actions.
As a young woman, I was hungry for power and influence. From my middle school years onward, I was a consummate leader. My siblings, school mates and later my co-workers would most likely have told you I was bossy, competitive and a compulsive overachiever, but my mother knew different.
She sensed I was a gifted, high energy person adapting to the cultural options available to me for power and leadership. She steered me into a business education and corporate career, and couldn’t have been prouder when I graduated top of my MBA class and lined myself up for a prestigious consulting career.
Pivotal events conspired to rewire my understanding of power and leadership: the lightning flash of insight that my material, achievement-driven life was bereft of soul; my refusal to follow a career that required me to operate as a man in my woman’s body; and waking up to the mean-spirited, abusive underbelly of my culturally inherited, hierarchical model of leadership.
In this leadership model, leaders stand out from the crowd by being better or more than their competition: more brainy, more skilled, more charismatic, more influential, more connected, more aggressive, more of whatever attributes are lauded in a particular environment. Power is to be hoarded and shared among the limited, most worthy few.
There is no separation between out there and inside. What repulses and attracts you in the public sphere offers key insights into the passions, fears, experiences and world issues that drive your inner process and outer actions. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the individuals you have chosen as your personal heroes and demons.
The public stage offers up a plethora of demons and heroes. These are the larger-than-life characters — politicians, athletes, entertainers, spiritual teachers, philanthropists, and others kinds of leaders and role models — that draw our attention and elicit our revulsion and adoration.
These individuals help us make sense of the world. We divide them into camps of good and bad, worthy and deplorable, and draw insights and lessons from their words and behaviors. Yet these people are typically strangers to us. We project meaning and story onto them, without truly knowing their characters, motivations and personal experiences.
Therein lies the gift for your personal growth and pathwork: the meaning and story that you layer onto your heroes and demons contain a wealth of personal insights; they are an outer mirror of your inner landscape.Exploring Your Personal Heroes and Demons
In this exercise, you are invited to explore your heroes and demons as a means of engaging your inner landscape, including the bigger story, themes and issues of your personal pathwork.
1. Pick a personal hero and demon to be the focus of your pathwork.
Choose individuals, current or historic, that you don’t know but that you greatly admire or loath. Go with whoever first pops into your mind or someone who has long been one of your demons or heroes.