In the last years and months I am seeing in myself, in my clients and other women in my life, huge shifts towards empowerment and self-hood. This is very reassuring for me at a time in the world where misogyny and domination are more visible than ever. I believe that these things are more visible now because we are deep in the midst of a cultural paradigm shift out of patriarchal power struggles into greater equality, freedom and stability.
Here I share with you experiences I have had within somatic explorations about a year ago. I wrote about them at the time and now I offer excepts and some of my thoughts as I look back at that writing now.
I am sitting with Aisling Richmond, a colleague of mine. We are holding space for each other to move and process. I feel very still and also notice emotion under the surface. I ask for some time to be with whatever this is. I stay present to the stillness for a long time. I see a tree outside the window. I see the strong trunk of the tree and feel the solidity of my own torso, I take a deep breath and sigh. The emotion raises a bit closer to the surface. I think the tree is old. I pull back the projection…I am old. I feel a wave of grief. I am with a sense of my own body weight and density, it feels meaty, satisfying. I also am with a lighter feeling, a little outside of myself…a sense of an echo of who I used to be. I can stay present to both simultaneously, and to the tree… The tree trunk divides into two towards the top – I see that. I feel my own left and right sides, a sense of the meridians either side of my heart, energy on one side, rising, on the other side falling, creating a vortex which spins my heart and the emotion comes right up and few tears fall, one sob and I say “I was so beautiful” a bittersweet smile, my eyes are stinging, my heart turns more slowly. I feel glad of my maturity and its weight and also I grieve for the loss of this young woman that I was. I see a branch of the tree reach out into the sky; its twigs seem to be flailing about as if searching. I feel my own peripheral nerves; they are embedded into my flesh. I am grateful. I remember what it was like for this young woman in me, nerves stretching out, seeking, looking, craving. I am glad this is different now. I say, “I am not looking for excitement”. I feel the restfulness of that, the calmness and I like it. I feel sober and I hear a younger voice within me say “you are boring”. For a moment I feel hurt and then that fades away leaving me in a body that feels still and strong and begins to move. I am turning, sensing muscle, connective tissue, organs, all of it with a new density, a new depth. I feel gratitude for this body of mine. My movements are small and satisfying. I think of something a teacher of mine, Antoinette Spillane said once and as I move I tell Aisling about it. She said she was watching two men dance when she was in Africa, one in his twenties was leaping about and throwing all sorts of amazing shapes, the other in his 70’s shuffled along and there was so much more beauty and presence in his shuffle. I find my body coming to stand and shuffling along the wooden floor towards the window, towards the tree and I smile. I feel the young woman within me smile too and I know she is not lost, but woven into the greater fabric of my being and still accessible. I feel glad to be myself in my own wholeness in this present moment. The process feels complete for now so I look at Aisling and I sit down again.
The experience of beauty I describe above is familiar to me, it isn’t about how I looked when I was younger although that is part of it. It is more a felt sense of beauty and lightness. In this place I feel innocent, pure and radiant. It is the innocence of a young woman who believes the stories of a just world she has been told, and that, in this experience above, is what I am grieving. At the same time however I am fully embracing the feeling of my older, adult, more embodied self. The meaty, fleshy, weighty body which I am now inhabiting is dense and rooted in this earth. The younger me was not, was floating above and beyond.
I feel more adult now, more capable of being in the world and truly relating to myself and others. I feel more empowered and responsible. I like this a lot. I have become accountable for myself and my actions in a way I never could have been before.
I see similar themes emerge all the time in my client work with women. It is as though we are as women incarnating in a way we have in our culture not been able to before. I hear myself and other women say “This is mine” as we point to our own bodies. Our bodies have not been our own, our psyche’s have not been our own. They have been owned by others.
We have internalised the shame of being female in this patriarchal world so so deeply. It happens in the womb…coming right in through the umbilical cord along with the blood and nourishment we need to survive. To survive we had to take it in, there was no choice. Now as adults however we can choose and the more we embody, the more we feel the rage and the more we become able to say ‘no’ to the shaming, to the violence, to the repression. Then we stand in our rightful place in the world, we occupy the space we deserve.
And until we can inhabit our rightful place in the word we remain both victim and perpetrator. For the disempowered woman becomes a part of and an upholder of the patriarchal system and passes the shame and restriction through her very blood into her own daughters’ body and sense of self.
Here is an except from another somatic exploration:
Poem that came after movement
I begin in profile. Do I want you to see me? Do I not? I can’t tell.
I am here anyway. In all my ugliness,
Feeling the sludging of shit, Deep in the dark bowels of me.
Dark, Stuck, Sticky…
Yet still I am here.
Yes I want you to see.
I want you to see how ugly I am.
I move, gut wrenching me, turning me,
I could scream, I wish I could scream.
I am here anyway.
“I hate you, you know”, “I know, I hate you too”
The relief of that.
I breathe again.
I am here.
I am curious now, recognising that what in that poem I call ugliness in myself brought with it a sense of strength in my muscles, a dynamism and huge personal power within my body which created powerful movement. I would not have expected that. As I feel this power in my body now as I write, I feel young, a child just and I hear them say, ‘what a pretty little girl, so cute, isn’t she lovely” and I feel my jaw clenching, rage in my heart…fists form…The child in me says:
See me, see me as I am, the raw ugly power of me. It is here, do not deny it, you see it, I know you do. You are not all love and light either. See it in yourself, then you will see it in me.
At the same time as the little one in me is expressing this I am also in touch with the adult woman and mother that I am and I realise that I must see the raw power of myself if I am to be able to recognise it and mirror it for my daughter.
And I understand that this is me coming into conscious contact with inherited trauma and I do not want to pass it on to my daughter. I want it to stop here now.
This denial of female power, this deep coupling of female power and ugliness is so deeply engrained in me and in our culture… the belief that this power is ugly in a culture that highly values a particular female beauty keeps my power repressed, keeps women repressed. So let me see my shit, my rage, my ugliness, my true beauty and let me then see this in my child and in all us powerful women and girls.
We must realise the power we have as women, the power to influence so strongly the next generations and the evolution of our human consciousness.
It is only when we can bear perceived loss of our own innocence and burst the illusionary bubble of protection offered by patriarchy and ownership by the father, only when we can bear to leave the fathers house, only then can we own ourselves, our own bodies, our own minds and our own power. Only then can we experience freedom and raise children who are free from the constraints of the insidious and sickening power regimes we are in.
We must be willing to feel our own guilt. To take responsibility for our parts in keeping ourselves small and quiet, to stand ground and become accountable.
We have inherited the belief that we are not good enough. We are good enough. What we received was not good enough, perhaps not good enough parenting, not pure enough nourishment, not adequate safety in our environment. The child takes this not good enough in and makes it their own, she twists it into herself, ‘I am not good enough’. Coupled with a cultural belief that women are less then, weaker then, need protecting, need to be lead and guided by men… well the truth is I am good enough, you are good enough, we are good enough, strong enough, capable enough.
When we work through the grief and guilt and shame – and it is work – we can come to pride; a healthy, radiant, opening of heart which is pride in the self. I think of Antoinette again telling me that Minnie Mouse was a role model for her. I was more than surprised at the time. It’s the way Mini skips along, she said, her chest lifted and open, full of self-pride.
And now I smile feeling my own chest lift, my own heart swell and open. In its’ fullness it has much to offer the world. You too have much to offer the world. We all do.