At my recent person retreat, I played with art supplies in the art room, and this piece of art emerged. What’s written below comes directly from the pages of my journal, intuitive and uncensored.
She Who Sees is Rising
It all started with the shrouded eyes, staring out at me from the front cover of a magazine. A woman hidden by a burka, and yet her eyes are watching. Seeing. Learning. Spying. Waiting.
She is silent now, shrouded by the patriarchy. Shrouded by those who are afraid of her power. She is hidden, draped in black, her sensuous curves too dangerous for the men who want her, who deny themselves her beauty. She is oppressed, beaten, raped, tortured, abused. She is mined for her resources, used for what she can offer. And then hidden, pushed aside.
They are afraid of her. She is too powerful. She is fierce and wild and untameable. She is a feral creature, gnashing her teeth at her captors. They fear her and so they trap her.
But from the bars of her cage, she is always watching. Waiting. Holding her strength in reserve for when she is ready. Waiting for the sisterhood to come of age alongside her. Waiting for the power to build up until the pressure valve erupts and she explodes into the world.
She is ready. Her sisterhood is gathering. Her captors are losing their power. They are wasting their strength, fighting each other and building their fragile empires.
She will rise. She will emerge like a phoenix from the flame. No cage will be able to hold her. No shroud will be able to hide her.
She will rise and take her rightful place. She will birth herself into the world. She will hold nothing back.
In her rising, she will silence the oppressors and then she will bandage their wounds. She will halt the destruction of the earth and then she will invite the destroyers to gather round the campfire.
She is fierce and she is a healer. She is powerful and compassionate. She will not hold back and she will offer a soft place to land. She will destroy and she will rebuild. She will fight and she will gather. She is a warrior and a lover. She is dangerous and she is safe. She is bold and she is humble.
She is rising. Her sisterhood rises with her. She will no longer be silent. She will no longer wait for her turn to speak. She will no longer watch her sons go to needless wars. She will no longer let her Mother be raped for her resources.
She is me. She is every woman. She is power. She is love. She is our future. She is our ancient lineage. She is our forests. She is our hearths. She is our food. She is our food. She is our hope. She is our beloved. She is rising.
We rise with her.
I am nearing the mid-way point of my journey. Tomorrow I leave the west coast and head to the east.
I have been trying to write a blog post about my amazing experience at Lake Tahoe, at the annual Gather the Women gathering. I have been trying to come up with the words to describe what it means to be held so tenderly, honoured so graciously, encouraged so generously, loved so fiercely, and seen so clearly, but the words fail me. It will require more processing than I’ve had time to do. For starters, this is what I wrote on my Facebook status:
For the past three days, I have been beautifully held – by a circle of women, by the earth, and by the Divine. I opened my heart, and it was guarded tenderly. I danced on the earth, and my body rejoiced in every cell. I spoke from the depths of my wild heart, and my wisdom was welcomed with grace and openness. I stood on the shores of the lake, and was healed by the beauty. I was hugged and held and touched in tender, nurturing ways that soothed the wounded child in me. I was blessed with an eagle feather and many words of love, and I offered back as many blessings as I received. I am woman, I am loved, and I am whole. Thank you Gather the Women for creating such a safe space for growth, healing and emerging power.
I don’t fully know how to articulate it, but I know that this is really, really important – this container that women create for each other – this safe sacred space where we can weep with grief, dance with passion, embrace with tenderness, speak with wisdom, and shine with the light of the Divine. Rarely have I been in a place where women can show both their vulnerability and fierceness (and many things in between) and be honoured in the whole beautiful complexity.
The women are rising. The feminine is waking. The energy is shifting, and we are the light bearers and the water carriers. We are the midwives and the edge-walkers. We are the healers and the dreamers. We are not only the caretakers and nurturers, but the fierce warriors who have the love and the power to help birth this brave new world.
We cannot do this work alone. We need a powerful container that can hold the birthing, heal the wounding, and balance the emerging power with fierce, unconditional love. That container was beautifully demonstrated in a circle of women on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
I am honoured to be holding my place in that container. May we have the courage to birth what is coming next.
Note: Please consider joining Gather the Women. Anyone who holds a vision like you see in this post is welcome. We need a container that can hold all that is emerging, and if you feel called, that container welcomes you.
Also, if you feel called to do this kind of work, please consider joining the next offering of Lead with Your Wild Heart. It will break your heart open, challenge you, encourage you, and prepare you for whatever your work is in bringing in this brave new world.
Yesterday I had this crazy idea: “Since CIRCLE is my word for 2012, wouldn’t it be perfect to usher in the new year with a small circle of women at the centre of the labyrinth?”
Almost as quickly as the idea popped into my head, the gremlins tried to shut it down. “It’s too last minute. Everybody already has plans. You’ll look like a loser for not having plans on New Year’s Eve. Nobody will show up and then you won’t have the courage to walk through the dark woods to the labyrinth alone. And besides, if anyone sees you carrying candles in the labyrinth at midnight, they’ll think you’re foolish.”
Fortunately, I have a lot of practice wrestling gremlins, so I was able to silence them fairly quickly. Within moments of having the thought, I posted my idea on Facebook and sent an email to a few friends. Before long, three of them had said they’d be there (and several others wished they could). That was enough for me!
Just before 11, I gathered a few candles, a lighter, and our camping lantern and headed out the door. Except for one of my daughters (who has as many crazy, spontaneous ideas as I do), everyone in my family thought I was a little off-my-rocker. (One of them even said “what if a pedophile attacks you in the woods?” And I said “well, a pedophile won’t be looking for someone as old as me, so I’ll be safe!”)
Pulling into the all-but-deserted park, my heart did a little skip when I recognized one of the cars parked there and saw two women standing and waiting for me. They came! I don’t have to be crazy alone! A few minutes later, another car pulled up and two more women joined our little tribe.
It was a magical night. It was warmer than I’ve ever remembered New Year’s Eve being. The clouds in the sky glowed with the reflected light of the city, which in turn made the snow glow under our feet. I carried the lantern through the woods, but we never needed to turn it on.
I was nervous and a little giddy when we reached the labyrinth. It felt a little surreal that this was actually happening – that I had managed to manifest this with a crazy brainwave and a quick email.
Without much introduction, we began to walk the path of the labyrinth, one by one. It wasn’t easy to see the path in the snow, but I’ve walked it often enough that I could almost walk it blindfolded. At first, two women walked in front of me, but when they lost their way for the second time, they stepped aside and waited for me to lead the way. It felt like a little metaphor – accepting my place as leader when I have wisdom about the path that will help keep others safe.
Once, a woman behind me stumbled and fell into the snow. The woman picking up the rear stopped to help her back to her feet and the two of them enjoyed a giggle together. Another lovely metaphor for life.
The walk was as beautiful as I’d hoped. Snow crunched beneath our feet. Far off fireworks reverberated in the air. Occasional airplanes lit the clouds above us. It felt magical. It felt sacred. As I walked, I welcomed Sophia to walk with me.
At the centre of the circle, I took the candles out of my bag. “Even though we don’t need these for light,” I said as the other women joined me in the centre, “it’s important to have a flame at the centre of the circle to give us warmth and light and to hold the centre as we around the edge hold the rim. Imagine a bicycle wheel – there are invisible spokes holding each of us to the centre of the circle.” I handed the candles to the women and lit them. One of the women had her own candle in a glass candle holder.
There was only a tiny breeze, but it was enough to blow the candles out soon after we lit them. We huddled closer and re-lit our candles from the flame in the glass candle holder. Soon we learned that the best way to keep the candles burning was to hold them together and create a common flame, and then lean in, with our heads nearly touching.
“There are two questions I’d like to ask,” I said. “First, what do you wish to leave behind in 2011? If we had pencils and papers here, I’d ask you to write it down and then offer it to the flame to be burned.”
“And the second question is, what do you wish to invite in for 2012?”
One by one, we shared our secrets. I said that I wanted to leave behind my attachment to the outcome. “I want to let go of always feeling responsible for the results. When I offer up the gifts I feel called to offer, I want to do that with faith and confidence that I am doing the right thing whether or not the result feels ‘successful’.”
And then when it was my turn again, I said “I am carrying two things into 2012. Circle and light. I want to bring the healing power of circle to more people. And I want to be a light-bearer, helping people navigate in the dark.”
After we had all shared, someone looked at a watch and we discovered that it was past midnight. We’d ushered in the New Year with the flames we held in our hands, helping each other to keep a common flame burning, leaning in to protect it from the breeze. A circle of support and light. It was pure magic.
“Before we leave the circle, I’d like to offer you a blessing,” I said. “In 2012, may you find the path you need to walk on. May you continue to follow it even when that feels difficult. When you falter, may there always be someone there to help you get back on your feet and find your way again. May you hold your light boldly in the world and may you find a circle of friends who will help you protect that light from the forces that want to extinguish it. May you have the courage to lead when you need to lead and follow when you need to follow.”
And then we blew out the flame and wished each other a Happy New Year. Each of us left when we were ready, either along the direct path out, or along the same meandering path we’d taken to get in. I chose the meandering path. I needed a little more time to process what had just happened and to dream about what was to come.
Around the outer edge of the circle, I thought about all of the connections I’ve made with people who are bringing similar work into the world – people who are boldly carrying their own light and leaning in to join it to mine to create a stronger flame together. People who are holding the rim of the circle with me. With each footstep, I spoke the names of those people and offered them a silent blessing.
It was everything I’d dreamed of and more. Circle, light, labyrinth, wisdom, hope, support, women… all of my favourite things.
The blessings I spoke for others returned to me a hundredfold.
This morning, I had the sudden urge to watch the sun rise over Matthew’s grave. I’d been working on the re-write of my book and was thinking about him in the early hours of the morning. And so, before anyone else was awake, I headed to the graveyard.
Something caught my eye when I got there. A statue of a woman, only about 50 feet from Matthew’s grave. Though she stands about 15 feet high, I’d never really noticed her before.
I carried my camera across the snow and took a few pictures of her. I wasn’t sure who she was. Mary was my first thought, but then I puzzled over why she was holding a book and standing in front of a globe and a stack of books.
It wasn’t until I started walking away that I had a sudden realization… she’s holding a BOOK! I came here (like I’ve done many times) for guidance about a book. She’s holding MY book! Only, what came out of my mouth was…
“She’s holding MY FUCKING BOOK!” (Yes, I swore. It was one of those moments.)
What I wrote in my journal was: “Sophia God is holding my book. I guess I’d better trust her with it then.” And with that thought came a huge sense of release and comfort.
I don’t have to worry about my book, or about how I’ll get it published or whether people will want to buy it. It’s in God’s hands. All I have to do is show up and finish it.
I don’t know what the statue is meant to represent to other people who visit the grave, but I know what she means to me. And I can’t help but be amused at the way she remained hidden from me all these years, until now, when I’m standing on the precipice of finishing my book and getting it into print (my hope for 2012).
Sophia God has a sense of humour. And a lovely way of bringing surprise and wonder into our lives.
UPDATE: After I wrote this post, I opened my daily email from Fr. Richard Rohr. At first I skimmed it, thought it didn’t interest me, and ignored it. But then I opened another email from a friend who’d quoted Rohr’s email, so I re-opened it. Wouldn’t you know it… December 17th is the day associated with Sophia, feminine wisdom. Don’t you love synchronicity?
Today, December 17, (according to the Antiphons) begins with the letter S for sapientia. Wisdom—sophia in Greek, sapientia in Latin, sabiduria in Spanish—was the feminine metaphor for the Eternal Divine, as found especially in the books of Proverbs and Wisdom. One might partner or compare Sophia with Logos, which is the masculine metaphor for the Divine. It is interesting that Logos was used in John’s Gospel (1:9-14) and became the preferred tradition, but Sophia was seldom used outside of the monasteries. On December 17 we invoke the feminine image of God as Holy Wisdom. – Richard Rohr
I am not a goddess. And I don’t have super-powers.
I am ordinary, flawed, and often rather boring. My laundry room is in a perpetual state of disaster, I often take the easy route and feed my kids processed food, I don’t floss regularly, and I haven’t thrown a dinner party in a few years because it takes too much work. Sometimes I even pick my nose.
But you didn’t come here to read a list of my flaws, did you? Especially not the nose-picking thing.
Sometimes the language I read around blogs and self-help books targeted toward women worries me. We’re supposed to claim our superhero alter-ego, step into our power, and become goddesses. Now, if you’ve used that language, please forgive me – I’ve done the same on occasion. I understand the point of it – we want women to feel special and empowered and endowed with the Sacred. There’s nothing wrong with those things.
BUT… the problem is, if I have to have a superpower or be a goddess, then it starts to feel like I’m putting way too much pressure on myself to be invincible. I don’t want to be invincible. I want to be okay with being flawed. I want to be able to forgive myself for sending my daughter to school in dirty pants because I didn’t get the laundry done (again). I want to be ENOUGH.
The other thing is, in those moments when I’m feeling weak and flawed and at the end of my capacity to cope, I want to be able to reach for some kind of source of power that is external to me. I don’t want to BE a goddess, I want to SURRENDER to a Goddess and have Her carry me.
If being a goddess is up to me, then where do I go to be refilled when my tank is empty?
You can call religion a cop-out or a panacea – that’s up to you. But I still need it in my life. I still need there to be a God/dess, I still want to know I’m cared for by a Creator who thinks I’m special and beautiful, I want to be extended grace and forgiveness by a compassionate Being outside myself, and I want to know there is Sacred power that has absolutely nothing to do with my capacity.
It doesn’t matter to me what you call that Higher Power, but for me, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the concept of Sophia – the feminine nature of God. (A concept, by the way, that originates in the Old Testament.) When I feel weak, I call on Sophia for wisdom and grace. I picture Her as a beautiful, full-bossomed, long-haired wise and fierce grandmother type. I curl up in her arms, and her long flowing hair hangs around me like a curtain, sheltering and protecting me from harm.
This is the image I turn to most these days, but I am also still quite comfortable with God as father-figure – the kind of Father who is the embodiment of the strong and compassionate masculine nature I mentioned in my last post.
Having a God/dess in my life helps me take myself off the hook when I just can’t seem to get things right. S/he thinks I’m good enough.
Note: This is part of a blog round robin called Support Stories – Strength from Within. Click the link to find other stories of finding strength.