Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rites of Passage

Just spent the weekend chanting, drumming, rattling, dancing with Marcelo Lobos at Kripalu, in the Sacred Passages workshop.

Coming home is always interesting - I was in a peaceful state, a kind of 'zone', driving through the mountains with blazing red and yellow colour along the road, with my friend Debra. Then I arrived home to an empty house - everyone had gone out to a hockey game, and left me a note. I noticed the spaghetti sauce I had made was still in the fridge, so I prepared some noodles and ate, before listening to a new CD I'd bought there and falling asleep.

It was a rite of passage weekend for my son, turning 18, and three parties later (Friday night until 4 a.m. at our home) he had a very gravelly voice over the phone when I called on Saturday. My daughter, 16, was even allowed to participate in the party, and all his friends loved her. (News for my son, your sister is a cool person to hang out with!)

So he was drinking, dancing and partying - and I was chanting, drumming and celebrating my womanhood. There were 30 women there, forming a circle, holding the space for each other as we entered the spiral, or danced our darkness away in the fire, or bathed in the lake to wash the past away and welcome the present moment, as well as the future. We dressed up, put make-up on each other and acted 'silly' in some of our old 'mother voices' opinion. We danced until we dropped at 11:30 p.m., after a full day of ceremony. We birthed a new self, said good-bye to an old way of being. We entered the birth spiral to be transformed. And it was good.

We hugged and said good-bye on Sunday, with sparkles on our skin and lavender scenting the room. We thanked Marcela and her helpers for providing the sacred space and the structure to hold us safely as we journeyed. It was very simple, much lighter than I imagined it would be, the warmth of laughter and tears and women's faces holding me up. It was exhausting to dance and sing all day, but how liberating!

And so, back to the home, the cooking of meals, the washing of clothes, the keeping of sacred space inside this smaller circle of four. I feel different. I feel closer to the seasons, to the fall, to mother earth, pacha mama. I feel more. And that's a blessing.

happy new year to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Women's mysteries

I am off this weekend for a special workshop with Marcela Lobos at Kripalu Centre in Mass. It's called Sacred Passages - here's a brief description.

In this weekend with medicine woman Marcela Lobos, you will move through the stages of the journey from maiden to mother to sage in a conscious and sacred way. You will participate in and explore all the passages of the sacred feminine, from puberty to menopause, learning to gracefully enter your years as a wise elder. Women at all stages of life are invited to come discover a more fulfilling and authentic experience of yourself and your life journey.

Can't wait to come back and tell you all about it. Should be something very useful on both a personal level and for my future workshops with women.

All I know so far is we need to embrace our feminine cycle, our women's mysteries with curiosity, reverence and compassion for ourselves. Any symptoms or energy blockages are really messages from our bodies, signals that we must tune in to and listen to to discover the underlying truths, our real story, written in the body.

Let's free the wild woman within, the naturally, spontaneous lover of life, the balance seeker, the true voice - unsilence the wisdom, let it speak up and give our lives their true meaning.

I'm looking forward to this new adventure, and promise to share it with you on this blog.

take care now,

ps a wink and a nod to all those participants at the Lecture last Tuesday - I appreciate your coming out to hear more about the feminine mysteries, and for joining the circle to share your stories

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Menstrual shame, body shame and sexuality

Cycles of shame: menstrual shame, body shame, and sexual decision-making

(an article about how our view of our body, our view of the menstrual cycle and our experiences around sexuality are linked)

from the Journal of Sex Research, Nov, 2005 by Deborah Schooler

Although menstruation is a natural, reproductive process, it bears a strong cultural taboo that commands that it not be seen, discussed, or in most ways, acknowledged (Kissling, 1996a; Roberts, 2004). This desire to keep menstruation secret is often paired with an attitude that menstruation is dirty and disgusting (Martin, 1996; Roberts). Many girls report shame about being seen with a menstrual product or, worse yet, about bleeding through clothing, and some adolescent girls report that they are embarrassed simply by the fact that they menstruate (Lee & Sasser-Coen, 1996; Kissling, 1996b; Roberts). These feelings are likely compounded by media portrayals of menstruation as a hygienic crisis (Havens & Swenson, 1988; Raftos, Jackson, & Mannix, 1988; Simes & Berg, 2000).

Shame about menstruation is often extended to the vagina and its surrounding areas, which are considered by many women to be unspeakable and upleasant (Braun & Wilkinson, 2001; Lee & Sasser-Coen, 1996; Reinholtz & Muehlenhard, 1995). Participants in Lee and Sasser-Coen's (1996) qualitative study spoke of menarche as an experience that "contaminated" their bodies, and their genitals in particular. Despite recent attempts to celebrate the form and function of women's anatomy, such as Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues," and the growing comfort some women have with their bodies, it is still common for women to feel shame about their bodies, to use euphemisms so as to avoid naming their genitals (Braun & Kitzinger, 2001), or to experience confusion about the makeup of their external genitalia (Kirby, 1998). What are the implications of feeling shame about menstruation and the body? Conversely, might women's comfort with menstruation promote well-being in other areas of their lives?

This study considers how shame about menstruation is related to sexual decision-making. Because menstruation and sexual activity often share the same intimate location on women's bodies, shame regarding menstruation might influence a woman's general approach to her sexuality. Furthermore, girls are often socialized to connect menstruation with sexuality. Many girls first learn about menstruation in sex education classes, where both menstruation and sex are presented as means to the end of procreation (Martin, 1987).

At the same time, much of early mother-daughter communication about sex focuses on menstruation (e.g., O'Sullivan, Meyer-Bahlburg, & Watkins, 2001), and likewise, much early communication about menstruation and menarche focuses on the emerging sexual potential inherent in a developing woman's body (Lee & Sasser-Coen, 1996). Because of these connections, girls' and women's attitudes about menstruation might shape their developing beliefs about sexuality and the sexual decisions they make, even when they are not menstruating.

read more (long article, another 19 pages):;col1

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September Nights

A short story

September is a month of abundance - flowers, foliage, full moon...and tonight the pale orange Harvest Moon looms large on the horizon – Katie and I are in the back yard at dusk. "Let’s write a story about the moon wearing a Pumpkin mask for Halloween," I say. "It should be in October, that pumpkin moon, shouldn’t it, mom?" says Katie. With cooler nights yet still warm days, September sun gilds the air. Brown-eyed Susans, purple coneflower and pink-tinged hydrangea are drooping under the weight of such fullness (a bumper crop, a bellyful of flowers, if we could eat them).

The garden this time of year is riotous with purple Sage battling the cucumber vines growing up the cedar hedge, and something brown I thought was yarrow. The garden is too full of bees buzzing so my girl won’t dine outdoors. ‘But it is the best season, the finest weather’, I say, but she refuses to eat on the patio.

‘Come join me on the swinging chair,’ I call to her now, but she only alights a moment, jumping over the wet grass in her pristine white socks, then flits over to the trampoline. Ugh, a fat spider sits weaving. She screams and goes indoors.

‘Mom, you are my idol,’ she says later that night when I invite her into my bed for a snuggle. When I ask why, she says ‘because you have everything I want – a nice house, two kids (gorgeous kids like me) and a good looking husband’ (he is cute, isn’t he, I said) ‘and you’re so full of love’ – (‘Oh, but I whisper under my breath, you will be less cranky and impatient than me.’ ‘Yes, of course’, says she.)

Kissing Katie good-night is never short and quick -- she kisses my left cheek, then my right cheek, reaches up and places her arms around my neck in a deadlock, plants another kiss on my lips then up to 30 more kisses if I let her -- all over my face. Butterfly kisses with eyelashes, Eskimo kisses with noses rubbing. Nine-year-olds are good kissers. Sometimes I get impatient and want to get to my own bed where glorious sleep will envelope me. Sometimes I sing, K-K-K Katie, beautiful Katie....

Her other favourite drawing-out-bedtime routine is “Guess how much I love you mommy?” where we outdo each other with incredible numbers – as many as there are stars in the sea, as many as the blades of grass in the whole planet, as much as the distance from the earth to the moon. This usually goes on for as long as I can stay awake, standing in the doorway with one foot out the door, or until my exhaustion starts to show and I try to ease out with a quick good-night.

Earlier in the swinging chair, I had bowed my head, tired after battling insomnia the night before, and said a silent prayer of forgiveness to my mother, having suddenly come face to face with my own similar shortcomings – and not having the heart anymore to condemn us both to coldness and bad feelings for the rest of her life. Thus, I assuage my guilt about being a rebellious teen-age daughter, and hope my prayers for her happiness will ensure my own happiness, and that of my daughter as she enters the pre-teen years.

Just for tonight, I let myself be cajoled and held by Katie. I know she fears being alone at night in her own bedroom. Even though she is supposedly big enough to sleep alone, I am too tired to fight her off and send her back to her room. All day she has wooed me in a flurry of drawings, poems and scribbled notes on scraps of paper: Je t’aime maman! Passionate, headstrong Taurus foil to my passionate, stubborn Scorpio. So just for tonight, I let her stay a bit longer, hug her and tell her that she’s gorgeous!

By the time she’s fourteen, I know those kisses will be rare. We'll be missing that abundance.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Life's Quest

There are two quests in my life. The questing girl seeks a connection she already has but has not been aware of - the deep knowledge of the feminine way, a woman's way in the world. A way of knowing and being that is not based on outer knowing only, or facts and logic, but is whispered to her just before she acts, take this road, choose this way. Without knowing company is coming, she sweeps the kitchen floor and changes into finer clothes, and within 10 minutes the phone rings, mother-in-law with guests on the way over in half-an-hour. S

Sometimes she knows who is calling before the phone stops ringing.

She doesn't always listen.

The other quest is on the inside too, but has no real name. It's not a labyrinthine journey, it's a thirst. The heart that is human, partly divine, partly mortal, seeks it's other half - it's Beloved or best Friend. The one who knows, the one who doesn't speak in theory, but who knows the joy of living. For no reason, for no external purpose. Fulfillment, you could call it. Just receiving with open arms, accepting the gift of life and knowing a deeper purpose - gratitude, kindness, peace.

Could it be that the quester has the answer inside her all the time? like the story of the musk deer who seeks the source of the musk, thinking it is in another musk deer....

Recently I heard this:

Think of life like this: It is your opportunity to spend time with the best friend you ever had. It is your time. This chance to be with the ultimate clarity that there is in this whole universe. It is your chance to spend time with the ultimate kindness. It is your chance to spend time with the infinite. It is your chance to spend some time with the ultimate joy.

What a turn around from my conditioning of life as struggle, life as 'comme ci comme ca', life as teacher that you can't always get what you want.

A chance to spend time with the ultimate joy?


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Feminine Mysteries book list

Kathleen, a recent reader of musemother, gave me a great idea today. So I am posting the resource list of books from my class on the Feminine Mysteries. It's been a wonderful journey of over twenty years of don't try and read them all at once. Pick one that appeals to you....sends a tingle down your spine...

Most of the books are either entertaining, informative and/or inspiring. I would love to hear from you if you have a book that should go on the list. (Most are non-fiction but I've included the novels that explore the world of the feminine mysteries in an evocative way).

Adam, Eve and the Serpent, Elaine Pagels (Gnostic Gospels)
A Woman’s Journey to God, Joan Borysenko
Blood, Bread and Roses, Judy Grahn (how menstruation created the world)
Daughters of Copperwoman, Anne Cameron (Native Canadian myth/stories)
Descent of Inanna, Sylvia Perrera (in depth discussion of myth by a Jungian analyst)
From Eve to Dawn, A History of Women in the World, Marilyn French
Her Blood is Gold, Lara Owens
Longing for Darkness, China Galland, (seeking the Black Madonna)
Inanna, myths of ancient summer, Kim Echlin (poetry/story format with artwork)
Mary Magdalene, The Bride in Exile, author?
Menopause, Initiation into Power, Joan Borysenko (4 cd set from Sounds True)
Out of the Garden, Women Writers on the Bible, ed Buchanan and Spiegel
Pathways to Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation, Joseph Campbell
Reclaiming Goddess Sexuality, Linda E. Savage, Ph. D.
Shakti Woman, Feeling our Fire, healing our World, Vicki Noble
Sister Moon Lodge, The Power & Mystery of Menstruation, Kisma K. Stephanich
The Birth House, Ami MacKay (novel)
The Blessings of the Curse, no more periods? Susan Rako, M.D.
The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler, * symbols in antiquity
The Change, Germaine Greer
The Crone, woman of Age, wisdom and power, Barbara G. Walker
The Divine Feminine, Anne Baring and Andrew Harvey (see website)
The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Myths and cult Images, Marija Gimbutas
The Goddess Obscured, Transformation of Grain Protectress, Pamela Berger
The Golden Bough, J.G. Frazer (A Study in Magic and Religion)
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Jean-Yves Leloup, translated from the Coptic. 2002.
The Great Mother, Erich Neumann, (psychoanalyst, lots of great photos of statues)
The Hebrew Goddess, Raphael Patai
The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdoch (Woman’s quest for wholeness)
The Language of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas
The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Patricia Monaghan's Llewellyn, 1997.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant (biblical fiction, rituals described in pre-Hebrew times)
The Sacred Hoop, Recovering feminine in American Indian Traditions, Paula Gunn Allen
The Silent Passage, Gail Sheehy (menopause)
The Secret Wisdom of a Woman’s Body, Pat Samples
The Song of Eve, Manuela Dunn Mascetti (feminine archetypes)
The Power of Myth: “The Gift of the Goddess”, Joseph Campbell
The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood (rewriting of Odysseus’ return)
The Return of the Great Goddess, ed. Burleigh Muten (poems and artwork)
The Unknown She, Eight faces of an emerging consciousness, Hilary Hart
The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler
The Wild Genie, Alexandra Pope, The Healing power of menstruation
The White Mare, The Dawn Stag, Jules Watson (fiction, Celtic priestesses)
The Wise Wound Myths, Realities, and Meanings of Menstruation, Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove Bantam Books, 1990The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker
Understanding the Old Testament, Bernhard W. Anderson.
Urgent Message from Mother, Jean Shinoda Bolen
When God was a Woman, Merlin Stone
Woman at the Edge of Two Worlds, The spiritual journey through menopause, Lynn V. Andrews
Woman’s Mysteries, Esther Harding (Jungian analyst, written in 1930's)
Woman, an Intimate Geography, Natalie Angier
Women who Run with the Wolves, Clarssa Pinkola Estes,
Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christian Northrup
Women of the 14th Moon, writings on menopause, ed Dena Taylor, A C Sumrall

In Her Words, anthology of poetry about Great Goddess, ed Burleigh Muten
Claiming the Spirit Within, sourcebook of women’s poetry by theme