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.
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.
Think of a black box, with clearly delineated dimensions and solid, impermeable sides — this is a potent metaphor for our tightly held conception of reality, constructed of our beliefs, values and understandings of the world around us. Consider the vast, expansive space outside the box — this is true reality, unconcerned with our puny human constructs and limited imagination. What we can perceive and experience is delineated and limited by our black-box reality.
The Path of She calls us to step outside of the world that we know and to embrace what else is true and possible. Integral to this pathwork is enlarging the dimensions of our black-box reality, which in turn broadens the scope of reality and experiences available to us.
This is easier said than done because we’ve spent our whole life immersed in the self-reinforcing foundations and building blocks of our black-box reality, forged from the mainstream culture, our family conditioning and our personal adaptations to the world around us. Yet sometimes it only takes one illuminating insight or experience to crack open our black box and let in the light of new possibilities.A Personal Story of Cracking My Black-Box Reality
Early on in my spiritual journey, I experienced what I call a keystone moment — an event with enough potency to crumble a foundational element of my black-box reality and replace it with something new and expansive.
At the time, I was part of a Buddhist meditation group that met every Monday evening. Although my MBA-addled mind desperately struggled with the strange, new notions of my teacher’s weekly Dharma talks, still I had begun to sink into my meditations and experience a modicum of inner peace and spaciousness.
This night, shortly after I’d settled into my sitting, my body started to twitch and change. I felt my face extend into a long muzzle, with a cold, wet nose. My eyes became sharp, wary, and bristly, rough fur emerged on my cheeks. Then I flung my head back and opened my mouth in a long, silent howl. I had morphed into a she-wolf, perched on a hard pillow, in the middle of a group of silent, slow-breathing humans. The experience was visceral, embodied and undeniably real.
Now, I will admit, I was scared witless; nothing in my black-box understandings of life could help me make sense of this. But another part of me reveled in this glorious window into the true nature of my expanded, mystery-filled humanity.
My black-box reality suddenly, irrevocably cracked wide open, exposing me to a vast, wild world of spiritual truth, possibilities and experiences. So began the next phase of my spiritual unfolding that continues to this day.An Exercise In Expanding Your Black-Box Reality
Though my personal story appears to be a spontaneous, dramatic instance of expanding my black-box reality, I’d primed myself for this experience through my commitment to self-awareness and truth in my meditation practice. This exercise is also one of seeking self-awareness and truth that can prime you to step outside of your black-box reality and let in the light of new possibilities.
Our culture trains us to believe that only special people — the superstars of politics, business, sports, the arts — can have real influence and power in society. We give them the center stage, the microphone, our adulation and make them our leaders, while our own light is dimmed by their giant shadows.
While it is true that people with money, charisma and acclaimed talents do wield a disproportional share of societal influence and power, it doesn’t follow that they are the primary change agents in our world.
Over and over again, my dreams have been telling me one clear message: humanity is riding an evolutionary edge, and that transformative, life-affirming change will happen at the individual level, and then be passed on, person to person, in a great, long chain of touching and being touched by others.
Recently I had a powerful dream that speaks to this message.
In this dream, I am at a political rally with my partner. Two politicians are on stage delivering their speeches. They smile, look good, and make grand promises, but it is nothing but double-speak and empty words.
My partner takes the microphone from them, gives it to me and asks, “What are your thoughts on politics and leadership?”
And this is how my dream self responds: “Each one of us must ask ourselves, right now, this moment: What do we want as our personal legacy of our precious time on this planet? Are we not accountable for the future well-being of our children, and our children’s children, and the other life forms that share this world with us? Do we have the right to just do what we want and leave others to pay for our excesses? Can we stand by while our economic, political and social systems lead us down a destructive path?
“These questions apply to all of us, the citizens of this Earth. The time of expecting others to fix the problem, of recklessly pursuing our self-interest, and of burying our head in the sand is done.
“Be you poet, politician, gardener, caretaker, tycoon or gravedigger — it does not matter what you do, it matters who you are. The world needs you to show up more deeply and profoundly as yourself, and to trust that this is your part to play. What you have to offer is worthy; it is enough.
“Change begins when you settle your mantle of leadership upon your own shoulders, and when you stop grasping outside of yourself at things that can never feed your soul. Because what you most deeply desire is not money, nor power, nor the pretty trappings of the material world, but to live an authentic life, based on what is best and beautiful inside of you, and to reach out and honor the same in others.
“We humans are brilliant creatures that can solve most anything we set our heart and will to. We can be leaders in our own circles of influence, partner with those of like mind and intention, and set right the abuses and excesses of human society. Together, we can mend our hearts, our homes, our communities and our precious planet home.
“We each hold the destiny of humanity and this Earth in our hands. I call you to put on your mantle of leadership, to straighten your back, hold your head proud, and get to work.”Claiming Your Personal Leadership
This dream is an invitation for each of us to claim our personal mantle of leadership. Though this is the work of a lifetime, here are three initial steps to help you begin this crucial task.