Friday, February 23, 2007

Feminine Spirit

"For women, spirituality is less a hero's journey to a distant land than a finding of our center in a God who is present in the homely practicalities of day-to-day life."

I recently picked up A Woman's Journey to God, by Joan Borysenko, while researching the Mother God for an upcoming class on Mary and Kwan Yin. It does my heart good to see her talk about women's spirituality being manifest in the day to day life, in the "home" where I spend so much time doing daily, practical (or impractical) things like cleaning up yesterday's hot water tank leakage, airing out the stinky cat litter box, or filling the house with the flavourful odour of beef stew simmering in a slow cooker all afternoon. Some days, it all seems so random; in spite of daily meal schedules, I can wander in circles all day feeling like I'm not getting much done, let alone living a life of 'spirit'. My goal is to get through the day, and the lists.

..."In the work world, where seminars speak of setting goals and objectives and then working relentlessly to obtain them, the apparently aimless exerse of walking without direction seems addled and unwise. Yet this is often an important theme of women's work and career stories. When we are walking Sarah's circle, there is no final destination. The process, the journey itself, is one of staying in alignment with what our own inner guidance is telling us. If we quit listening, we begin to feel anxious and inauthentic. The important relation to our own spiritual Self, and our relationship to God, suffers."

Joan Borysenko calls it wisdom and courage, not confusion, to wander in the 'don't know' space - don't know where I'm going, or what's coming next, or who I am. "It creates the space for something new to be born." How refreshing it is to read this. I am often in the transitional space lately, and it is comforting to know that I do not have to set goals, have answers, always know where I am going or who I am. Just trying to live in the present moment, in my body, paying attention to my intuition, to my gut feeling, to the feeling in my gut of butterflies or fear or nervousness or excitement, is challenge enough.

"Women's spirituality is about that presence (the wisdom and love we embody) as we walk through daily life, at work and at home, seeking the place of the heart from which healing and joy naturally flow."

"For women on a mission, coming into a balance of being and doing doesn't come naturally." (ie addicted to frenzied doing, burning out, we become dry and irritable and stressed vs calm, centered, relaxed) "The big question becomes, 'How can I get what I need without being selfish to others?'" (Borysenko) Maybe that is the burning question for ex-Catholics like myself, raised on a diet of Hail Mary's and good works, putting others first. Remember the oxygen mask on the plane - you need to put it on yourself first, then on the little ones.

I send out my prayer for connection with whatever is true compassionate love in the Universe, mother or father god; however that can manifest in my life, with the people I run into, spend time with, eat and play with. In the homely day to day 'stuff' of life that needs doing. I call out for patience and self-love, more compassion for my limitations, understanding how my being off-centre affects my family.

Mostly I pray to understand what love is, how to feel it.

Kwan Yin, mother of mercy, bring it on!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

The sexiest man alive is a dad pushing a pram

Great class today at the Women's Centre on Mary Magdalene - at least I thought it was great! What a neat group of women- (in case any of them are reading, they are super intelligent, deep thinkers and great conversationalists!).

No really, we have fascinating discussions, all over the map from child prostitution to how sensitive our boys are, to the legend of Mary Magdalene voyaging to Provence from the Holy Land, to what appeals to us in a man, all under the rubrique of the Da Vinci Code topic.

Ok so the movie was not a blockbuster and the book was a murder mystery thriller, not a literary masterpiece: I loved both of them! They popularized a topic that many boring academic types have been writing about for years, and found an audience for over 40 million readers (and I don't how many movie-goers). It's been a personal passion of mine to read up on all the books, the goddesses, the gnostic gospels; some are more familiar, i.e. the Christian stories feel like my stories - Eve, Mary, the Madonna - icons that have looked down on me from various portraits or paintings all my life. How to revivify them as female, whole, sexual, spiritual, and human images? Breathe life and energy into the old myths.

Sacred Feminine - that's the mystery at the heart of this class, and at the heart of the huge interest in whether Mary Magdalene was Jesus's lover - like Krishna and Radha, Ram and Sita, the divine feminine and masculine seek each other's arms. Maybe that's what I want, we want, to find that connection with a divine lover within; or even a human lover, a kind, generous thoughtful husband/spouse/lover who will support us, adore us, wash the dishes, read the books we love to talk about, push the baby in a pram (talk about sex appeal!).

I'm rambling here. Thanks to all the friends and people who have told me they read my blog occasionally. Now if I can just figure out how to count all my visitors, I'll feel even more gratified.

Leave a comment will you? don't go by in a rush anonymously peeking....


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Favourite Valentine

Was it the pretty young host of Global TV's Morning show as she accepted our box of chocolates and silk rose? was it Bernie St-Laurent in his cozy CBC Radio studio laughing in surprise at our Happy Birthday song (after the Valentine's love song) or the man working at Sky Services private jet hangar, blinking to hold back tears as fifteen co-workers flashed their cell phone cameras at him while we sang 'I don't why I love you like I do'.... or was it my husband's teary eyes as we sang to his 86 year old mother in her apartment?

There were so many touching moments over the week of Singing Valentines with Timely Affair Quartet, that it's hard to pick just one as the 'best memory'. We brought love and chocolate (and roses) to the workplace of four unsuspecting men, to a Veteran's hospital, to Canadian Tire, to an import office on Victoria, to an apartment in Westmount and a young eight year old and her Romanian grandparents in Beaconsfield. (Not to mention the trek out to St-Hubert and Chateauguay on Friday). We drove in one of the biggest snowfalls of the winter, and sat in traffic for an hour and a half singing at one point. It seemed the whole week revolved around singing those two valentine songs - even in my dreams. (The second one was "I don't mind, being all alone, when I'm all alone with you.") Songs from the forties that my mother knows and I had never heard of. Songs sung in four-part barbershop harmony by three experienced harmonizers and myself, the newbie.

One of my best memories is of singing in the car, or that is, listening to the bass, baritone and lead parts of Jean, Marion and Nicole, sing all the songs they knew! Gorgeous harmonies, gorgeous voices, deep and rich, melodious and true. The traffic may have been barely moving but we were flying high!

I can't wait to start again next year - and this time, I'm telling all my friends to order a singing valentine!


Monday, February 19, 2007

counting the days until spring

One breath in, one breath out. Surviving the cold. Frigid sunshine, blasts of humid cold bone-chilling pant freezing finger frosting cold.

Ok, I'm counting the days until warm air and spring. My niece, just in today from Halifax but originally from the West Coast, remembers February as time of new buds, green things. Huh! not in Montreal. We searched for a restaurant at noon, and she, without gloves or hat, and I with skinny suede gloves, anyway we both froze.

But to switch topics, the day began well. Yoga class this morning started me off on the right foot, sur le bon pied for my French readers. Breathing, stretching, holding a pose till shaking. Calming down and feeling the energy throbbing in the chest or belly. Kripalu yoga is about being conscious of where the energy is moving in your body we were told, Alright! I feel it. I hold it as long as I can. Then remember to breathe.

Kept me in a smooth space all morning and afternoon, until I came home at 4:00 ish to see piles of newspapers, dusty table - in the sunlight the dust really shows - and 3 baskets of laundry litter, puppy needs out, sigh. I'm fine in my yoga class, alone in my car, typing in my home office, reading in my comfy chair....then life's little homely duties come tapping on my shoulder. Breathe in, breathe out. Counting the days till no more muddy floors and salt stained pant bottoms and boots. Till no more hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, nylon down-filled Michelin Tire type coats. Count your breaths instead of sinking into the blahs.

Just had to get it outta my system. Thinking about next class, and Mary Magdalene - now there's a worthy topic for next blog.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Being myself

I was leading a workshop on the weekend, trying to follow my introductory script, nervous because I had never lead a volunteer participation event like that - when my co-facilitator said something funny. I was writing down our "goals" on the black board (we were doing a bilingual routine on top of it). I automatically, without thinking, said, "Oh you should be a translator, you're so good at this" - and then I thought - Oops, I just forgot about my script about who I am - the facilitator, etc. and talked out loud something I was thinking casually. I was almost embarrassed, as if my slip was showing.

And yet, for a split second I was feeling natural, comfortable in my skin, as the French say (bien dans ma peau), and I just spoke without thinking about the effect on my audience.

A small moment of recognition, but an important one for me. Often, I find myself leading class discussions with the hat of 'teacher' on, or 'English and Mythology Major', or 'housewife' or 'menopausal woman'. I don't think those are my best moments. The book learning comes through, but the human presence is less. Less love, less feeling, less heart. When I talk to my kids, and put on the severe tone of homework-not-done reminder parent, there's not much love and it's very annoying to my teens.

When I forget my serious roles, and just laugh out loud at how happy I am cause my day is going well, or my singing makes me feel good, my daughter (14) looks at me, like "who is this person who's impersonating my mother?". I take my mother role too seriously, it seems.

So reading Eckhart Tole's new book, A New Earth, Awakening to your life's purpose, I was not surprised to read this : "Give up defining yourself-to yourself or to others. You won't die. You will come to life. And don't be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it's their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don't be there primarly as a function or a role, but as a field of conscious Presence."

Makes sense, doesn't it? Years ago when I began to meditate, the Indian mahatmas teaching us about the ego, the self, and the bliss within, often used examples and stories to show us that who we are really is not the 'hats' we wear on the outside, but the consciousness within. One of the Indian guys used to call me "Jennifer the Great" when he saw evidence of the ego pushing its way around. Then when the heart was open, he'd call me "Baby Jennifer". It was a cute reminder.

Somehow, ageing, working, studying, mothering, I have become identified with my 'hat's. In those brief moments when I am brave enough to be myself, it feels very freeing to let them go, let the wind twirl them off my head. Be 'baby me' again.

When I allow just being me to be enough. "I am enough" without my hats on. I don't need to change to earn your love, or praise, or good thoughts.

It seems there are always more ways of being enough.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

poem for the dark goddess


dream zooms me to a stone Virgin
in a field, on a mountain side.
her cloak is blackened by fire
she walks before me tall and stern
turns to look at me from inside
her dark hood. I am knees to
the ground trembling and scared,
ready to kiss her feet
or the tips of her fingers.

she tells me my sorrow is too
heavy, and I stutter, Why?
why do the babies have to die?
I throw them back, she says
like fish too small to catch.
she can't stand to see them suffer.

she smiles while I comb and braid
her long red-gold hair
awash in sunlight
in her dressing room fragrant with flowers.
she says, they bring me roses because
I'm tired of lilies

cc Jennifer Boire
Little Mother, Hochelaga Press

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Singing for Valentines

I should have let you know, oh well it's too late now: my quartet was singing on Global TV this morning on the a.m. show - showing off our Valentine songs. Maybe they'll post it on their web site next week. Sweet Adeline's....

It's only been three weeks since we started practising - although the three other members of my barbershop quartet - have sung together for years.

What a treat - to start the morning with someone doing your make-up and hair! Then many sound checks, and vocalizing warm-ups, before standing under the bright lights and performing our two Valentine songs.

I love to sing - the tenor part is challenging but sounds so pure and crystal clear when the voice is 'on' and warmed up. With rich baritone, bass and lead singing beautiful harmonies, voices melding richly, it's yummy!

I love singing, have always loved singing, and pure joy comes out of it, when we get it right. It's good for the heart.

Have a lovely Valentine's Day. Give someone you love a treat and sing them a love song, straight into their eyes!



Thursday, February 01, 2007

Valuing the work I do at home

Lately, I find myself answering the question of what do I do all day by saying, I work at home.

That covers it all: volunteer work, organizing the women's circle speakers, preparing classes for Embracing the Feminine, driving my kids to and fro, walking the dog, laundry, housecleaning and meal preparation, phone calls to replace missing objects like telephones and remote controllers, fixing watches...anyway you get the picture.

It may not be paid work, but it is work that keeps me busy, that keeps the household running smoothly, and food in the fridge and on the table. Plus I have the pleasure of being here at 3:30 when my teens get home from school, to nod at them briefly as they pass through the kitchen.

I asked my women's centre class today how they reconciled mothering with feminism. I got some interesting answers. The thing that bugged these mothers the most was the lack of public recognition for women's work at home, and also their husband's assumption (and sometimes a mother or mother-in-law's too) that we have it so easy, we have nothing to do all day, since we have time to take classes and do yoga. That it's not seen as 'real' work to be a full-time mother.

I don't know when I stopped being mad at my husband for not being an equal partner in the child and house-care department - probably the same year he started spending his weekends skiing or golfing with two teens, or was it when he decided to pay for a cleaning lady? We do have a traditional set-up, in the sense that he works outside the home, and I work inside it. But my work as a writer and teacher (part-time) has always been valued too. And he knows better than to make snide comments - he knows how demanding it is to be a mom.

It's not the mothering part that I don't value - at least theoretically, I think it's the most important job on the planet - to raise kids to be kind, compassionate, helpful (ok maybe some of the time) human beings. But housework - or keeping a spotless house was never my goal, nor my mother's.

Maybe that's why the Greek goddess I am drawn most to is Hestia - not because I am like her, nor because of images I have of her - there are none - but because she made housework sacred: she kept the home-fires burning. In the days before electricity or coal, that was an all important task if you wanted a hot meal or heat in the house.

She was called Vesta in Rome, where the Vestal Virgins kept the perpetual flame alight, symbol of the heart of the Empire.
Within the home, the hearth was her altar, the fire having been brought in a torch from the bride's mother's residence to light their first household fire, and make a connection to the ancestors. Vesta or Hestia also symbolized the centre of the world and the innermost mysteries - the sacred space within. (Pamela Matthews, Goddess cards)

In order for a house to become a home, Hestia's presence is required. She symbolizes intactness or wholeness, the one-in-herself quality. (Goddesses in Everywoman, Jean Shinoda Bolen).

According to Bolen, taking care of the details of housekeeping is a centering activity for Hestia types, equivalent to meditation. A woman with a Hestia archetype gets a feeling of inner peace from what she is doing, just like a nun in the service of God.

Well, I'd like to call in that archetype, to balance the Artemis in me. Here's to Hestia and housework, and to tomorrow's little ground hog seeing his shadow....