Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mothering Myself

I stir from sleep, one ear off the pillow. “Mommy”-- I hear my daughter’s plaintive voice. Red numbers flash 4:30a.m. Groggily, I tiptoe down the hall and sit on her bed. Kate pulls me close – sobbing, a bad dream. She wants me to lie beside her because she’s afraid to fall back asleep. Chalk it up to one more night of interrupted sleep. At age 48, with insomnia and night sweats kicking in, some mornings I have a serious sleep deficit and would much rather stay in bed than get up and make breakfast. It’s not possible for me to quit my job, since my full time work is house-manager and mother for now. But before lack of sleep and pre-menopause turns me into mommy ogre, I’ve decided I need to mother myself.

Recently, there is a voice that is downright insistent about the need to take good care of myself. It complains that it doesn’t want to walk the dog, because she pulls on the leash and hurts my sore shoulder. Get the kids to walk her. (The physiotherapist said the same thing). It whispers to me to jump into bed with a heating pad right after the kids are tucked in. Or let them tuck me in! It gives me simple advice, like ‘sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, go pee when you have to’. Simple wisdom, but it’s hard to put into practice.

If that inner voice were my mother, what would she tell me? First, she’d say in that endearing way she has, quit complaining you’re tired and go to bed earlier! No more reading past midnight. She’d also tell me to sit down properly at a table, not shovel food standing up at the counter on my way out the door to the doctor’s. She’d say, slow down the pace - take a nap. My mother took a nap every day (8 kids in ten years forced her to). She’d ask me why I load up the agenda with an overwhelming list of chores to do. Before I’m even dressed the mental list starts humming: call the vet, get the tires changed, shampoo the dog vomit out of the carpet, get a quote for new garage doors, buy the latest
‘cool’ item for the kids’ lunches…. I read that keeping overly busy is a way of masking the inner voice, and leads to exhaustion. Maybe taking one item off the list per day will leave more room for creative time, help me get to that story I’ve been meaning to write.

Leaving open space on my agenda would make room for spontaneity too, like going for a walk in the park instead of letting the dogs out for a quick romp in the yard. Finding time to ‘be’ more and do less is a real challenge for a busy mom. Even if I don’t work outside the home (besides volunteer work), my inner task master doesn’t allow much free time for my own projects -- I could be more creative if I listened to my gentler, inner voice who coaxes me to sort through the pile of poems on my desk or to go out and rake old leaves, discover new shoots in the garden. I need quiet time to replenish the soul (in spite of the nagging voice that says, get back to the dishes, the laundry), to allow some moments of beauty into the day to reflect on the life lived, as well as living it.

The one thing my inner voice is adamant about is making time to sit quietly early in the morning before the family awakens. If a child wakes up and wants me to put in a movie on the weekend, I settle her in, then head back to my cozy chair by the window to contemplate the peace within. It soothes me like a comforter to rest inside the breath. I catch up with my sense of serenity, my purpose for being in the world seems confirmed, now that I am centered again. For me, morning practice is best, before getting caught in the phone calls and email trap.

Listening to the soft voice within has many benefits. Allowing myself these special moments every day allows my heart to appreciate the abundance in my life, the warm sunshine, the birds in the back yard, a new moon in a dark sky, and lets me be all here for my gorgeous children in the limited amount of years they need me so totally. So I’ve decided I can’t put off mothering myself until they leave home. That’s too far away. Have you noticed in the video instructions for putting on an oxygen mask on the airplane, you are told to put it on your own mouth first, then on your children? I think of that as a beautiful metaphor for mothering myself, which will help me be the best mother for my children.


Monday, August 28, 2006

sacred feminine

Ok - I just googled the Sacred Feminine and came across all kinds of debates about whether Mary Magdalene should be seen as Jesus' wife, a sacred harlot, inferior to the Virgin Mother Mary, and lots of Christian sites that react to Brown's book DaVinci Code, etc for even bringing up the subject of a divine feminine who is other than Mary the Mother of God.

I have read a lot of the literature recently, and have come up with my own idea of what is sacred - and what is feminine. (The question of whether we have a sacred masculine has never even crossed my mind, probably because we are all supposedly made in "god's image" and he was a Father. But Marion Woodman has called it the creative masculine or imagination.)

Here's my take: women have something divinely natural about their bodies that makes them co-creators with the Universe - they have a reproductive cycle that brings forth new life (yes, sperm is part of it too). But women have a monthly cycle that follows the moon in its waxing and waning - two weeks of building creative energy, two weeks slowing down towards the period of rest or bleeding time. Lots of people have written about how intuitive we are at this time, so I won't go on about it here. But that is the female body's link with the Universal Energy, through getting to know our bodies. And if we could link the sexual, creative aspects of our bodies with the divine aspects of universal energy....voila, Sacred Feminine. (Many other cultures have already imagined this by the way: Isis, Ishtar, Shakti, Demeter, Cybele).

To my early Christianized child's mind, it was comforting to hear stories about a Divine Father - but the Divine Mother was a virgin who had never had sex! So for all the people who resist the idea of making Mary Magdalene a spouse or consort of the son of God, just imagine for a moment that the sexual and the spiritual have been divided for so long, it is refreshing and liberating to imagine a beloved in the arms of God (and by her own choice, not as a child sold/given away to a temple to service men sexually, as someone spuriously suggested could be part of the Sacred Feminine).

Perhaps the Sufi's have it right (Rumi) when they say we are all the beloved of god. But I like the idea of seeing breastfeeding, menstruating, childbirth and other aspects of physical humanity manifest in the female form as having a Divine function as well. And thank god/s for birth control and freedom of choice so that women do not feel enslaved by pregnancy and childbirth, at least in part of the world.

What I do to balance out my 'language' problem with using the term God or Lord, is now I pray to Our Lord and Lady. It's not perfect, I know the universal energy of life has no gender, but I do this to balance the programming I received as a Catholic. It links me to the ancient mythology of the Sacred Marriage, that perfect balance found in the union of opposites, of male and female (see The Hebrew Goddess for a discussion of how the holy of holies in Yahweh's sacred tabernacle relates to the sacred marriage ritual).

Sacred feminine - is the yin as opposed to the yang, the receptive, moist, creative, inward, intuitive side that is in both males and females, and seemingly since it's less active, it's seen as less essential in our busy world. Yet millions of Chinese are dying this year due to overwork (they call it the mattress culture - they sleep under their desks!). Connection? We are so outward focused, so work and success oriented, so Yang and masculine in our culture of work, that there is little value placed on the yin, the receptive center, the place where we rest. Sabbath has been lost, the sabbatu or heart's rest, the sacred day off of Ishtar, Queen of Heaven at the full moon, when she was menstruating.

Anyway, getting off topic a bit - Kundalini energy is inside of all of us too, men and women, and it's not yin, although it could be visualized as the fiery hot flashes that menopausal women experience, and therefore connected to the sacred feminine.

Just thought I'd add to the mish-mash of ideas on the topic of Sacred Feminine, a topic close to my feminine (father's daughter) heart.


the dance of intimacy

Something about writing and blogging and putting my work up for public consumption without the safe borders of a published book is scaring the bej'sus out of me, and I think it has to do with what Suzanne Falter-Barnes calls writing authentically: I have to get in touch with the scared, vulnerable part that doesn't want to come out of hiding. This means writing intimately.

Right now there's a tight knot in my stomach as I write. I've been doing Suzanne's Dream Binder exercises. It's one thing to dream, another to put it down on paper, and quite another to go public with what you think you've found out is your soul purpose.

Part of my soul purpose involves communicating with women about what I am learning. I had a great chance to learn more about women's issues from two of my sisters and one sister-in-law this weekend. We had a good old-fashioned girl chat in the kitchen (where else?) while it poured rain outside. All my favourite topics were on hand, the budding sexuality of teens (and why they want to dress like Paris Hilton), why girls are giving themselves away so easily in the 'bitch-whore' gangsta culture of hip-hop, how to instill awareness of the dangers of drinking in mixed company, (already a problem at age 14). It seems like the old double standard hasn't gone away. Girls still need to be told to watch out, don't lose control or a guy will take advantage of you. Girls still need to learn how to find pleasure for themselves, not only learn how to please a man.

How do we get wise, anyway? And how to pass on that wisdom in a way young girls will hear and not judge 'old-fashioned'?

One of my sisters is a senior tech writer, unmarried at 40 and veteran of the dating game, longing for a meaningful relationship with a caring, commited guy. Another is divorced, a young grandmother at 50, and through different self-help techniques is working on releasing old patterns so she can love herself and attract the right man. My sister-in-law has only been with one man, my brother, for almost twenty years.

I have been married for twenty-two years, was celibate before that for almost ten years. We are all over forty, approaching menopause or in the thick of it, and three of us have daughters. We have had mixed-emotions about our relationship with our father, and perhaps with men in general.

The big question for me is, how do we model self-love, self-acceptance, and self-respect for younger girls, if we haven't found it ourselves? How come it has taken over thirty years for me to learn as much as I know about myself? What can I do to cut the learning time shorter for Caitie? or does she have to learn by trial and error as I did? Can I protect her from hurt, damage at the hands of callous guys?

My mother it turns out, was not the best source of advice for myself or my five sisters. The feminist way that I espoused early on, to be independent, free and act emotionally detached as most men appeared to (i.e. sleep around), has not worked out for women either, I believe. I think we have a biological need to be 'attached', and from puberty on are hard-wired to find a suitable mate and make a nest/home. I don't think women can sleep around as easily without getting emotionally involved.

Shouldn't there be some training in how to be intimate, when it's appropriate, when not to give yourself away, some secret code that all women share about how to tell a sexual fling from a long-term relationship?

I don't have the answers, only questions. My hunch is that when I understand the connection between spirtuality and sexuality, I will be closer to understanding the nature of Longing and Desire.

stay tuned,


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Soul of a Child alive and Well

At the recent Taos Writer's spa, someone wrote a note about my creative play presentation : soul of a child alive and well!

I put that one on my desk, in front of the picture of the gazebo with chaise lounge by the sea, where the Queen of Heaven has installed her self to rest and recoup for the busy days ahead.

The quote I picked one day at the circle was "Let the beauty you love be what you do" (Rumi). That too, is a reminder about what I am here for. I love the 'doing', but the 'letting the beauty be' is harder to hold on to in the midst of summer vacation, nephews visiting, kids plans overriding my own projects, and dizzy housecleaning after painters have come through and left plaster dust over three rooms. So the challenge yesterday was how to find beauty in housecleaning -- not so hard, after all. After I had mopped the floors (enlisting help from daughter and son), replaced the hall carpets, the office/library carpet and chairs, plugged in the modem and set up the computer, done five loads of laundry and some grocery shopping, the house felt beautiful again and my peace of mind returned.

Soul of a child, inside the mother, alive and well. I am reminded of that daily, as I begin to lose patience with the holidaying TV watchers, or go hysterical in the car with two teens teasing each other, pinching, squealing in loud voices. I can laugh and giggle too. I don't have to take myself so seriously.

Play, create, be a child again was part of the precious Taos message. We found the joy in creating something from nothing in our last workshop - I made a crown for the Queen of Heaven out of paper rollers for coins, scissors and tape, then walked around the group parading it, while telling the story I had written about Ishtar, Queen of Heaven, taking a day off at the full moon when she was menstruating. Rest, the key word for menopausal women, mothering women, and menstruating women. Rest and renew. Give yourself a break, and a nap.

So, off to breakfast for the troops, and a day at the water park. Guess I'll play a bit more before school starts and my work days begin in earnest!

top of the morning to you,


Sunday, August 20, 2006

wellspring of life, divine mother

I have a small card on my desk found in a store in Taos. It has a picture of a woman standing on the crescent moon in a white gown, a halo of stars on her head and four wings on each side of her. It's called Divine Mother, Wellspring of life. On the backis marked: The Eternal Womb... "the soul will cleave to the divine intellect, and it will cleave to her...and she and the intellect become one Entity, as if somebody pours out a jug of water into a flowing spirng, so that all become one." Issac of Acco.

Part of my continuing search to learn/teach about a woman's life is a quest to embody that feminine energy, to bring it down out of mythology and symbols into a felt experience.

The other morning I was doing some yoga in a hotel room near Quebec City, (on my way to a vacation in the Gaspe Peninsula), and as I did the Warrior Pose, I felt such a flood of energy into my core, somewhere in between the lungs, near the solar plexus and up to my throat - and it felt so powerful and grounding. I know we are used to thinking of the symbols for god as Father and Mother, but I felt keenly the balancing of energies that have been called feminine and masculine, down my centre. The age old yin and yang, the merging of which would be called the Tao in my uneducated guessing.

It reminded me that I want balance. We women are not little men. Yet we have a masculine or yang energy, and a feminine, or yin energy. As a young feminist, I remember resisting the idea of being feminine, passive and receptive. I wanted to identify with the Yang, the active, the outgoing energy that accomplishes great things. I have so much to learn about the beauty of the Yin, the receptive, the open container which holds the yang, the creative spirit that Marion Woodman once described as the fiery thrust of the masculine energy, entering the container-made-ready of the feminine within.

These are all just words. What I want is to accept my femaleness as alright. To be feminine is not a sign of weakness, (as it has been taught us). We have learned to follow the male model, but our bodies and our brains are female (see the recent book The Female Brain). I have no intention of returning to the Victorian ideal of womanhood as submissive, obedient, passive. But I want an ideal for femalehood which values the yin as well as the yang, that gives me the freedom and the choice to live in harmony with my biology, not see it as a limitation.

As soon as a girl begins to bleed, she must come to terms with her femaleness, her body parts, her need for rest and nurturance. Her needs are different (even at birth) from her male brothers/friends/partners. As she grows into her power, she learns about her cycles, her body's rhythms. She has a chance to lear that the blood mysteries are sacred and are a gift to women, co-creators of new life with men.

My favourite book this week is A Woman's Book of Life, by Joan Borysenko. She has some wonderful thingsto say about our life's journey as women.

Let's accept our power as women, not diminish it by becoming little copies of men.

grateful to be still learning,


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Soul Purpose: making the unknown known

I made this promise to myself at the Taos Writer's Spa, in the closing circle, that I would help make the unknown known. Once a clairvoyant friend had also told me that my goal in writing was to make the invisible visible.
What does it mean to me? I wondered after I spoke it. What is the unknown? Actually it's simply whatever we do not know (yet), what is not visible to the seeing eye, but definitely visible to the seeing heart. We have all felt Presence within us - at special moments, at our daughter's wedding or the funeral of a dear friend or parent; watching a sunrise or a sunset, contemplating the multitude of stars in the night sky while camping, visiting a wilderness spot in the mountains or just sitting in meditation or doing yoga - glimpses of the unknown are rare, but they do happen.

What does it mean to make it known? For me, it is to write about my own experiences, as a young person thirsty for self-knowledge or meaning, as a mid-life quester seeking answers, the “who am I” phase that has dogged me all my life. The heart is the doorway to the unknown, where feeling masters intellect, another way of knowing.

In Taos, I found the voice of encouragement I was seeking, in the persons of Suzanne Falter-Barnes ( and Jennifer Louden (, two marvelous facilitators who helped me believe in me, and gave me the courage and encouragement (courage: comes from Coeur, heart) to manifest on the outside what I was looking for, my soul purpose.

My three main projects were already in infant stages, but I was stalled, waiting for confirmation of my talent or something outside of me, I don’t know what. There, I discovered that the themes I have been working on a long time are still the right ones for me: women’s cycles and spirituality. I ask the circle of friends from Taos to pray for my continued learning and the courage to spread my wings.

I get it now, I have lots of work to do and I also need to pace myself. I left a lot of sadness and old aches behind me – a rebirth of sorts occurred in view of the Sacred Mountain of Taos. I thank the goddesses of creativity and the women who have touched my life, and my generous husband, for the learning I brought home and the continued learning in the future.

follow your heart,



Thursday, August 10, 2006

A new reality

So, back from Taos, and easing into the new 'real' world. Funny about reality, how it changes with your perspective. My life feels like a movie, or a story, that is constantly unfolding. What did I want to find at the Taos Writer's Spa? The freedom to choose, to express my creativity in new ways, to play, to open up to the unknown, to the possibilities, to learn how to work without pushing myself too hard. I have so many ideas for projects that I wanted time to settle down with my self in a quiet, supportive setting and listen in, to decide which project called to me.

I heard coyotes howling almost every night in the mesa behind the Mabel Dodge Luhan lodge. We walked on the pueblo land and saw the sacred mountain up close. There was a very quiet energy flowing through us on that sage-filled land.

Taos Mountain was sitting in front of my window every day. It/he/she made a believer out of a skeptic. I started to fall into a comfortable place inside, a deeper more meaningful place, where I could believe that what I feel is real. Morning affirmations and visualization exercises helped to ground me, and to connect within. to beging to trust my inner guides and messages, start to pay attention to the little things, like the humming bird that hovered beside me on my little 'deck' one morning; to drop down into my spidey senses, and be in my heart-space. It feels like being at home, at one with my body, not separated into mind-body or in my head.

It feels like I'm going against the 'program' to believe that messages can come from inside to guide me, but it also feels increasingly right in my body to believe that I am guided from within with every move I make, every step I take. I begin to let go and trust that the universe loves and supports me.

One morning in between conversations, a rabbit ran right by me - then froze not far away. I walke closer, and it turned and showed it's one eye was watching me. Rabbit in my Native American cards represents 'what you resist will persist'. Time to let go of fear.

"The dream of my life
is to lie down by a slow river
and stare at the light in the trees --
to learn something by being nothing
a little while but the rich
lens of attention."
Mary Oliver

Here is a poem I read at our last council meeting with all the beautiful, creative women there:

Taos Mountain

The air smells of clean laundry or detergent.
A huge cumulus cloud sits over the mountain, called Sacred.
A field with a leaning tree-pole fence leads towards the green foothills
and birds are chortling in the trees nearby.

What is it I came here to find?
Why travel so far to find yourself?
It's inside us, yes, but ungraspable, covered over, like the cloud that
covers the mountain.
From a certain viewpoint or perspective it all becomes clear -
I sit at the foot of the mountain and watch the splendour of cloud shadow
moving over its face.
Without words, the wind reminds me of my breath.
A few thousand miles away from home
I find myself at home.