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Gender, Tantra, Parenting and Liberation

July 8, 2010

I didn’t mean for it to be so long since I’ve posted, but I have a bunch of different topics rolling around in my head, and 10 draft posts to match, with none of them **quite** coming together. That happens sometimes to all of us. Knowing how energy cycles work, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all suddenly come together at once, and I post 10 days in a row (you’ve been warned!) But for today, I decided to put this one out there, although it still feels a bit unfinished to me, because maybe you all can finish it in the comments…

I’ve been thinking a lot about gender in the last few months, in relation to all my favorite topics – spirituality, parenting, the shifts occurring in the world right now, etc. It started with the excellent comments discussion that resulted from my interview with Jan Lundy a few months back, about women’s and men’s spirituality – whether there is value to such a distinction, and whether it’s a useful idea. Recently, it’s popped back into my head after my boy/girl twins’ four-year old birthday party, and an old post that I came across from Ken Wilber entitled The Need for Men’s Liberation.

That’s right, men’s liberation. The basic jist is, men need as much help redefining themselves for the modern age as women, and that in terms of social expectations, men are often as limited as women, with such a focus on the ‘public sphere’ that they do not feel they can explore the ‘private sphere’. Just as whole worlds of experience and public power have been denied women, so a whole realm of experience and power on the personal front, in terms of parenting, emotional range, etc. have been denied or suppressed in men. It’s a little more subtle than that, read the post for his full view (if you’re not familiar with him, Ken Wilber is the founder of the Integral Institute, the author of several related books, and wrote one of my favorite essays in Kundalni Rising, a book I recently recommended here.) Here’s a quote I loved from his post:

As long as men do not rise to the challenge of redefining themselves for today’s world, women continue to be pressured to learn how to “row on both sides of the boat,” while men keep to their own side. The result? The boat just keeps going around in circles….

Rowing around in circles, that feels about right. Now, what does all this have to do with my twins’ fourth birthday party? Ever since becoming a parent (my elder daughter is 19 months older than the twins), I have been somewhat stunned by how genderized clothes, toys, and just about everything else, still is. I live in Los Angeles, theoretically one of the most progressive, liberal areas of the country, if not the world, and certainly everyone I know talks that talk, but I was really surprised at the presents the twins got at their party (this was the first time we had a ‘kid’ party with their preschool friends, i.e. not just family):

My daughter: Nail polish, 2 Barbies, clothes, Strawberry Shortcake ‘fashion’ boutique, and of course, a slew of Disney Princess paraphernalia

My son: A Star Wars destroyer, a remote control car (designed to crash, mind you), a Lego knight/dragon slayer, and various Transformer and Spider Man paraphernalia

They loved all of it, of course. And I’m not a purist, my kids are exposed to some mass/pop culture (but Spider Man, Star Wars, and Transformers at 4? Aren’t these PG-13/R rated movies? Do four-year olds really watch these??? At least Disney movies – although often gag-worthy – are rated G! But I digress.) Really, this was a little over the top. Could we make the gender lines any more extreme? Girls: practice looking pretty. Boys: practice crashing and fighting. (I was cheered that after the party they mixed all the toys as they always have, combining Barbies, the remote-control car, Legos, dolls – which they ALL have, in both genders – and a slew of plastic animals to create a massive safari scene…)

Anyway, you get the idea. Although there is a twist to this theme when I look at the various classes my children take – there are plenty of girls in soccer and karate these days, but almost no boys in ballet. We’ve placed a lot of emphasis on girls getting to do all the things only boys used to do – while still practicing being princesses of course – but our boys’ options are still pretty limited – geek or athlete, brain power or physical prowess.

It makes me sad. I am sad to think that my daughters would ever be denied anything or think themselves less capable of anything they wanted to do based on their gender. But I am equally sad to think that my sweet, sensitive son might ever feel pressured to give up or deny that sweetness and sensitivity. Both would be a travesty.

It’s all about rebalancing. It’s not about men rowing on one side of the boat, and women on the other, or about everyone getting to row on one side, it’s about everyone getting to row on both sides of the boat. We still have a lot of work to do there, on the social level.

YabYum - Tantric Union

Tibetan Buddhist painting of Guhyasamāja and Adhiprajna in Yab-Yum union.

But I think what really got me interested in this, is the metaphysical component (of course!) In my Polarity vs. Spectrum post, I was kind of trying to get to this, but never quite got there. Historically, we have taken various human qualities, experiences, emotions, and energies, and divvied them up between men and women, under the headings ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. And when we do that, both genders end up being limited, both internally and externally. The spiritual journey is partly about reclaiming the other side, so that an internal rebalancing and totality can be found. A wholeness. This is what the tantric images of men and women in consort are meant to represent. And we are still not quite there, in our approach to it, either internally or externally, I think.

I do think this is one of the most important parts of the shifts in consciousness going on right now on this planet . Getting this rebalancing right is critical, and we’re all a part of it, in our parenting, our spiritual journeys, our social choices, and more. And it is about much more than gender equity or a union of energies. It’s about our ability to co-create our world, co-create with each other, and with the universe. Creation is always a union – that’s also what tantric consort images (called yab-yum) represent – the act of creation, and what’s involved in creation of any type, not just procreation. We talk so much these days about creating our own days, creating our own life. But what does it really take – on a global level – to recreate our world? Isn’t that what so many of us feel we are being called upon to do these days? I think redefining gender, and freeing ourselves from these limiting barriers on both sides, internally and externally, is a very big part of it. A modern tantra, on a global scale.

Thoughts?

50 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 7:17 pm

    Hey Lisa

    When I was a girl, my dad used to say “Hey boy” to me and it always bothered me. A few days ago in a restaurant I heard a father say to his six-year-old daughter “Sit up like a big boy” and it bothered me. Last night on TV I heard a father say to his twenty-one-year-old daughter “Man up!” and it bothered me. Do you think I’m making too much of this or would it bother you too? What are these men thinking?

  2. Jay permalink
    July 8, 2010 7:29 pm

    Speaking as a man who was once a very sweet, very sensitive young boy, I can tell you that almost certainly your son will be pressured to give up those qualities. I spent the majority of my life (from late childhood to just a few years ago) repressing those qualities just so I could “fit in”. Boys, and men, too, are encouraged to be strong and tough; sweet and sensitive is for “sissys”.

    Even as recently as two weeks ago, someone who claims to love me and be my friend told me that I was “too sensitive”. This, from someone who claims to be “enlightened” and “awake”, someone who encourages me to follow my heart.

    For me, a large part of my journey revolves around reconnecting to that sweet, gentle, sensitive child that I once was. I think as I move closer to accepting him, I move closer to accepting myself, and I grow closer to the Divine. Perhaps I *am* too sensitive, but I much prefer that to the “Comfortably Numb” existence I once endured, and the dark person it made me become.

  3. July 8, 2010 7:32 pm

    It is difficult to keep children away from the gender stereotypes. Until society changes as a whole, the children will suffer from this. My daughter comes from preschool with all these ideas about princesses and pink and all that. I try hard to sit and talk to her, show her the other side of the coin. She’s only four, but what her little friends say in school or on the playground still seems more believable for her than what I tell her.

    I also feel that the feminist effort to prove that we can do it all has been quite detrimental in the long run and we ended up expecting too much of ourselves and forgetting even about simple biological conditioning that cannot be fought away. After years of training and learning to believe that we can do it all, we become mothers and it comes as a shock to us how limiting it may seem. I don’t know. It is such a vast subject.

  4. July 8, 2010 8:02 pm

    Brenda – this would bother me too, although I’m not quite sure exactly what to make of it. Is it just habit? Or a wish (conscious or unconscious) that you/they were male (even if not, it seems to subtly be sending this message, which is troubling)? Or just a sign of what I was partly talking about here – that we’ve spent a lot of time in the last few decades trying to make women more like men, instead of redefining what it means to be either a man or a woman? I’m not sure…

    Jay – yes, this is what makes me sad. So many men with your story! And not enough awareness of it, of how divvying up qualities and roles according to gender has handicapped and limited everyone, and caused so much pain. I’m glad you are on your path. Interestingly, as a woman with a ‘male’ moon astrological sign (moon in Aquarius, moon is often related to our emotional nature) I have often been accused of being cold, of being too detached. I think in a man this would never have been viewed this way, it has to do with the expectations of me as a woman in terms of emotional expression. It’s been both bane and a gift – as everything is, lol! Don’t ever go numb again, passion is always better, even if it sometimes has to turn to rage in the learning process:-)

    Lori – thanks for commenting. Yes, exactly, the ‘do it all’ message to women is the rowing on one side of the boat. We have to start viewing both public and private spheres in a new way, as open shared realms. I’m not sure exactly how to do that, there’s a lot involved. And I definitely am not a believer in ‘men and women are identical’ either. You mentioned biological differences, and I’ve read quite a bit about gender neuroscience in the last few years. Also, all my energy studies and interests have to do with the different energy/subtle bodies men and women have, partly related to their biological/physical differences. So this is a difficult subject for me to tackle, because I don’t think men and women are identical, and yet I feel like a major shift in our perceptions of gender differences still needs to take place…a shift to looking at gender as a spectrum not a polarity, and that we all need to be free to explore the entire spectrum, even if we naturally gravitate towards one end or the other…

    P.S. are there Google ads showing up here? There’s not supposed to be, but I keep seeing them… anyone else?

  5. July 8, 2010 8:10 pm

    The tantric images of two gods making love, a male god and a female god represent an integrated being. When we do sex magic and integrate Tiferet and Schechinah, or Shiva and Shakti, we are creating an integrated energy that is both masculine and feminine.

    Patriarchal religions diminish humanity and exaggerates Divine strength and perfection and requires humans to submit to Divine will. In reality we are a manifestation of Divinity and in order for Divinity to manifest in a form that is integrated we must do the work for Divinity.

    Women are much better in our world today as you note in developing their left cerebral hemisphere, than men are at developing their right. You can not integrate both hemispheres unless you first develop them separately. History also shows this separate development. Now is the time in human evolution to begin to integrate ourselves and our culture.
    love and light,
    Stuart

  6. July 8, 2010 10:47 pm

    These are archetypes — the masculine and the feminine. It is for each of us to be able to embrace and have access to both. Without access to both (which amounts to fearing the individual qualities or shadows of the masculine and/or the feminine), there will be contraction and not expansion because both the masc and the fem are meant to be called upon as we move through life. Thanks, Lisa.

  7. July 8, 2010 11:41 pm

    Stuart – your view brings up an interesting idea from an evolutionary perspective – that the former ‘separation’ of genders, and imbalances, was a necessary precursor in a way to the current rebalancing that’s occuring. Is that the whole story? I’m not sure. Thanks for commenting.

    Kelly – I like what you say here, especially re: contraction and expansion – that relates to what I was saying about tantra and creation/co-creation in my mind. And I think very much along these lines at an abstract level. But I also often wonder what this really means on a concrete level in our lives – in our parenting, in our daily choices in many realms of our lives. For example, there is a certain level of spirituality that isn’t male or female of course, that’s just source. And yet, on the physical level, we are different, and we know scientifically that the hormonal differences for example cascade through our entire physical body, giving men and women distinct health risks, and distinct reactions to certain treatments. And I feel like the same is true of our energy bodies – that there are distinct subtle energies that flow and cycle differently in men and women. And those physical and energetic differences cascade through our entire being, shaping the ‘prism’ through which we experience everything, including source…so I guess I am saying – there is integration, but there is also a union of differences, which isn’t exactly the same thing…ok, reading that back it makes no sense, which is why I didn’t quite think this post was finished! But thanks for commenting.

  8. July 8, 2010 11:56 pm

    For me, personally, this topic often brings up a lot of anger. I’ve worked through a lot of the hurt that was fueling that anger, but I still have much to learn and release. There’s the anger at not being a boy and feeling somehow marginalized for that. Then there’s the anger at men, in general, for having the power and wielding it in such violent, aggressive, and insensitive ways. (Of course, I’m speaking in gross generalizations here, and I totally get that these darker manifestations of male energy have emerged out of an imbalance, and that men suffer by this, too.) Then there is the anger at having a boy as my only child instead of a girl, and the fear that he might somehow perpetuate the same male-dominant culture. There is so much to learn here, and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s no accident that I had a son.

    The image of women rowing on both sides of the boat while the men still just rowed on one side, well it just infuriated me … and completely resonated. So much so, that I just want to cry. This post really touched a nerve, Lisa. Thank you for revealing an area for exploration for me.
    Cheers!
    Alexis

  9. July 9, 2010 12:05 am

    This is a wonderful topic, one I always appreciate reading about. Especially after my most recent blog post … more to reflect upon. My concern is that our society has become so concerned with dichotomizing masculine and feminine that feminist and gay/lesbian studies suggest gender is performance. Indeed, it is, but I think it is also more complicated than this, and I also think that gender can be authentic. And, yes, this would mean that we all embrace both masculine and feminine qualities, but without performing them, or overthinking them, OR politicizing them, if this makes any sense.

    Society’s need to dichotomize masc. and fem. is strictly a means of establishing clear-cut roles (private and public), and it also provides easy categorization. Women do this, men do that. Anyone who does otherwise doesn’t “fit” isn’t “normal” (problematic assumptions, of course!). We see this in the queer culture now as well, a reversal of expectations. I think that if we were to think of gender in more spiritual terms, as you are suggesting here (at least I think you are), then we would have a more fluid gender. We would grow up without thought as in to whether we are satisfying a masculine or feminine or straight or queer role.

    I don’t know if this makes any sense, but these are my thoughts. I have experimented with my sexuality … I was with a woman for five years when I was younger. My partner is now a man. I see us both as possessing both masculine and feminine qualities (I am often regarded as too “masculine” with my emotions as well!), and I am quite happy with this. I do appreciate being a woman, though, and for me, embracing femininity is important because it helps me to be vulnerable, something I struggle with.

    I agree with you, by the way, that children are taught from a young age to recognize their “appropriate” gender roles; this is a problem. But that we recognize how society does this is a step in the right direction. Helping people to think about gender as more fluid, as not one or the other, but both, as an integration of masculine and feminine, is important. That way, we are who we are, not who we think we should be.

  10. July 9, 2010 2:00 am

    Alexis – thanks for sharing all of this, I can definitely relate. I had thought a lot about this issue before having daughters, and of all the things I wanted to pass on -and not pass on – to them. But as it turns out, I think raising a son, and feeling responsible in a sense for how this will play out in the next generation, has actually focused me in on it even more. The question is, will we sign our sons up for ballet (so to speak)??

    Juliana – (first of all I love the name Juliana, it was a contender for our first daughter.) Thanks so much for your comment and sharing. Yes, I have also come to feel that embracing my femininty has helped me to be vulnerable, and this has been a big evolution in my own path since becoming a mother especially. Also, “We would grow up without thought as in to whether we are satisfying a masculine or feminine or straight or queer role” – yes, I think on the social level this is kind of what I was dreaming of. But the path from here to there?? Don’t know. And I would also never want to deny there are differences between men and women, boys and girls – the ‘prism’ (not ‘prison’, lol) of our bodies and energies that we experience this world, including our spiritual truth, through. So it is not so easy to navigate sometimes.

  11. July 9, 2010 2:02 am

    “Just as whole worlds of experience and public power have been denied women, so a whole realm of experience and power on the personal front, in terms of parenting, emotional range, etc. have been denied or suppressed in men.”

    You are right. Too many of our brothers and sisters experience what you have said. It is what society demands from us, its units, so that it can serve its own purpose. I’m not exactly sure if this is good or bad, but I somehow agree with what a famous mythologist once said, “Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute”

    In my opinion, maybe the only way for a person to reconcile the male and female principles in a modern society is by leaving it to know more about oneself, and this is not something that most people would do or are even capable of doing. There are, indeed, many risks involved. Other than risks, 21 years of social conditioning is not something that is easy to break away from, and someone that age is, in fact, only just beginning to experience what it is like in the real/cruel world. When that person, however, realizes how much his/her society stinks, then maybe that is when the journey begins. Like you said:

    The spiritual journey is partly about reclaiming the other side, so that an internal rebalancing and totality can be found. A wholeness.

    When one becomes successful in finding one’s self, he/she can then come back to society to share whatever it is that was learned.

    A modern tantra, on a global scale. – Melikes! Great post, Lisa.

  12. July 9, 2010 2:59 am

    Good post.
    I want to say something — but, hey, like you say, this is a tough topic to discuss. Not that I am afraid of discussing it, but there is something that escapes …

    Hmm. I know we (as souls) incarnate in both genders through many lives. On the soul level, we all have both male and female energies. So is it stupid to assign gender roles and expectations? Certainly, excessive and rigid gender roles are no good. And I sure hope boys keep their sweet and sensitive nature, as well as girls keep their daring courage and strength.

    But I also think there are gender differences for a good reason. Boys and girls are quite different. For example, girls develop their linguistic skills more while boys are better at spacial recognition. Do you see these differences in your twins?

    So I think these is a point or two about letting the gender differences exist. If unisex is the ideal, then that would have been the way. But that doesn’t sound much fun…

    I totally agree with the ideal of becoming more “whole”.

  13. July 9, 2010 4:09 am

    Men’s liberation – totally. I’m almost an advocate of men in this regard because of how I see men and women in our society and power roles especially – may just be our neck of the wood of course, but men are absent from the home and seem completely powerless in it. I have a lot more to say and probably raising hairs in what I’ve already said!
    I have mentioned a book quite a few times – ‘Sibling Society’ by Robert Bly. He has a lot to say about men (and women) and this issue. I recommend it to you.
    This is one thing of the many things that OST is good for – equality and co creation – and getting rid of (or at least trying to) assumptions of power and gender.

  14. July 9, 2010 5:12 am

    Ryhen – great comment, I do agree. We have to be able to leave something, our conditioning perhaps in this case, behind, in order to come back to it new. Or at least experience ourselves beyond it, which is partly what I think meditation is for, personally.

    Akemi – I actually agree with what you are saying. I DON’T want a unisex world at all. But I think it is about talking at different levels. There are physical and energetic differences when we incarnate, so at that level, we have to honor the differences, and as you know, that is partly what I write about. But then on the social level, that has gotten solidified into something else, that is limiting to everyone. There’s got to be a middle-ground, a fluidity of some type, that does not exist right now, without trying to deny the differences. In fact, denying the differences is partly what got us into the current situation of rowing on one side of the boat – in search of gender equity, we ended up focused on public power for women, and now it’s time for a more full-spectrum shift for both men and women. Personally, I don’t think the consciousness shifts that you and I both see as possible right now can happen unless this occurs. I do think so much of it is rooted in a non-integrated energy that is in some way tied to these issues, on a social level and on a personal level…just look at the media, on what is popular, on the average state of attention, on public discussion on issues, on the way things are discussed and portrayed – it flows through to almost every aspect of society and therefore of our conditioning…ok, you can see how hard this is to talk about, it’s easy to get tied up in knots on it. But we have to try, so thanks for contributing.

    Ruth – yes, sibling society is actually on my library list from when you mentioned it before! And this is EXACTLY why OST does interest me from what you have said on it, because it is one attempt at trying to change the way humans are conditioned to relate to power and each other…so many topics, so little time, heh?

  15. July 9, 2010 5:19 am

    Akemi – responding to you again because I realized I didn’t answer your question on the twins. Actually, they are so interesting in this regard, because developmentally they defied gender expectations. My son spoke first, and is still more verbal. My younger daughter is very tactile, and very physical. There are other reasons for this I think of course – my very talkative older daughter being a piece of the puzzle too. And in other ways, they seem to conform more to the conventional thinking in this regard. It’s interesting though, because by virtue of being twins, of being at the same development phase together at each step along the way, they almost force me to look at some of these gender expectations more closely. For example, the linguistic/spatial differences that you mentioned – neuroscientists are not all convinced these are directly related to hormonal differences. They may be entirely environmentally triggered (the differing ways parents respond to infants of different genders for example.) There are other brain differences later on that DO seem innately tied to biology, but even then, because of neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to adapt and reform – they are not sured what is really ‘fixed’. A very interesting book on this is The New Feminine Brain…

  16. sarah permalink
    July 9, 2010 7:05 am

    your posts are always so interesting and thought-provoking. I especially loved what you said about creation being about union.

  17. July 9, 2010 12:19 pm

    Most definately! My husband and I have recently become hooked on the DVD version of “Mad Men,” a popular TV show set in the 1960’s. (We are both in our mid fifties so we remember that time pretty well.) And you can see how men were just as trapped in their roles as women were, even as the tides were starting to change on a mass level.

    In my generation, women took on BOTH the male and female roles and tried to do it all with the result that we exhausted ourselves to severe illness. My husband worked himself into a blank state, and it has taken him three years, marriage counseling and a whole lot of love and patience to work himself into a better place.

    Great post!

  18. July 9, 2010 1:10 pm

    Hi,
    In India, One philosophy states that God shiva shares his body with his wife barvathi devi. Normally we can say a male is 51% of male and 49% of female and vice verca.
    Nice information. The comments are really superb 🙂
    Cool blog and keep it up.
    🙂

  19. July 9, 2010 1:19 pm

    This is such an important subject, and I love the conversation that has developed from your post. Raising children puts us in the thick of gender issues– in the work of caring for them, in our approach to dealing with gender in their lives, and in what it shows us about our society.

    My experience with young children was that even in a preschool environment that encouraged otherwise, the play of boys and girls, in general, was different. This surprised me at the time. I had resolved to have no toy guns in the house, but for my son everything became a gun. He built them out of his Legos. But when I finally relented, he got past the gun stage and it lay neglected at the bottom of his toy box. My daughter dealt with power issues in more subtle ways, though narratives played out with My Little Ponies. Each had serious work to do through their play, but had to do it in their own way. As they grow, they need opportunities to try on all kinds of roles and to have all kinds of experiences, learning to bring openness and curiosity to their lives.

    I think you’re absolutely right in saying that much of the spiritual path is integrating the male and female energies within ourselves. Both kinds of energy are powerful and beautiful and very much needed for a full life and for a healthy culture. More and more, I take the Jungian perspective that we help creation heal and move forward by doing our own inner work. When enough people learn to manifest both male and female creativity and generativity, we’ll all get to a better place. When we embody that integration in our own lives and in our interactions with others, we change the lives we touch.

  20. July 9, 2010 2:58 pm

    This is an immense task related to highly complex issues that touch our core identities. We have to accept that we’ve barely begun.

    Lisa, you mentioned being in LA. I just visited the city, and I was struck once again by how leading-edge it is on such issues as gender. Which is a polite way of saying the rest of the world is dragging its feet on this topic and often pulling as hard as possible in the opposite direction.

    The drive for change is coming from inner levels, where there’s a planet-wide yearning for a saner attitude and a situation that will permit human life to continue and evolve. Consciously, though, that inner yearning is simultaneously producing a scream of anxiety as vast social constructs and power structures, both collective and personal ones, seem threatened. Genuine inner promptings are scary things, especially if our environment of friends and family provides minimal support for what those promptings are telling us.

    I do think almost any conscientious spiritual practices inevitably lead towards balancing of inner polarities, whether those practices are eastern or western. They produce the ‘juice’ that manifests on more tangible levels. So, while shifting things on the physical plane helps, I think it’s only going to be many people’s inner work that produces the real collective shift. As far as the gender-specific toys go, I think Susan Brown already said what I think. Kids will make their own calls over time.

  21. July 9, 2010 4:10 pm

    It is crucial as parents that we do help our children not stifle any part of the whole self. We are all born with Yin and Yang and for some of us either of those things will come out more or less for us than others of our gender. It doesn’t mean we are any less a man or woman. It is imperative to support the natural healthy inclinations of each of us. When I was a child I loved to hike, play in the creek, play basketball and run. I didn’t like wearing my hair fancy, wearing makeup, or “outfits”. This was the perception of girlhood for my very well meaning mother. I was put in beauty pagents, slept in sponge rollers, and as a teen encouraged to fix my hair, wear makeup, and curl my eyelashes. 🙂 I did not enjoy it a bit, and as an adolescent bucked it entirely. I had my own idea of what feminity meant, and it didn’t include those things. I think for a long time this made me not embrace certain things about my womanhood that came with being female including moontime, and birthing children. I hated my period, and I was never going to be a mother. Just the nice Aunt that my neices and nephews ran to. 🙂 However, all that has changed, and as I found a way to reconnect with the female gender, I also refound myself as a feminine woman who doesn’t wear makeup, do fancy dos, fuss too much over clothes, and loves hanging with the fellas. This woman also loves cooking, being pregnant, nursing babies, a sappy movie ever now and then, to be comfortable in my own skin, studying yoga, and other things thought to be feminine. We are individual. I married an artist and musician, who isn’t afraid of taking part in birthing, crying, deep conversation about deep, “woman” things, playing dolls with little girls… someone who doesn’t do sports all that much, could car less about fast cars, but loves Star Wars, a nice banjo, sometimes UFC hehehe… We are who we are… it’s about embracing the allness of ourselves.

  22. July 9, 2010 4:45 pm

    Wow, you all are brilliant:-) So many different expressions and aspects of this theme being touched upon here…

    Sarah – yes, creation as union is something I am still trying to comprehend, there is something more in that theme for me I feel. I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but really I think that theme is even more relevant to me right now personally than the social gender stuff…

    Cate- I haven’t seen Mad Men yet, but from what I’ve read, it does seem like this is part of it’s allure – that it is depicting a period when alot of these shifts were in high gear, and is focused on both family and work life so shows how complicated these shifts are…and thanks for sharing you and your husband’s story, I think alot of people can relate to this, including my husband and myself.

    Susan – I do know what you are saying about the differences between young boys and girls. But I do wonder about the whole nature vs. nurture debate, based on some neuroscience stuff I have read, and the incredible neoruplasticity we are discovering in the brain. By preschool age, I think boys and girls have already received alot of gender-specific ‘messages’ from their parents and other adults interactions with them…that being said, I do see certain differences that seem innate, and of course certain hormones like testerone are already in very different levels in girl vs. boy children from what I understand, so that has an impact…so finding that line of understanding differences without enforcing rigid barriers and repressions is the task I guess…and I do like your Jungian approach, I resonate with that also, and I do believe change radiates outwards (although like many of us I suspect at times I have moments of doubts, and think how is this helping feed anyone or change anything in a way that truly impacts the daily lives of most people in the world, who are after all mired in issues of subsistence, not metaphysics…another post for another time perhaps)

  23. July 9, 2010 4:54 pm

    Edward, you are so right, LA is leading edge, from what I have seen in the world, as was NYC where I lived for so long, and this is why these presents honestly surprised me, especially coming from parents that have selected a Montessori preschool for their kids, since Montessori classroom materials are very non-genderized and non-commercial and that was part of the appeal for me in selecting it for my kids. But there is also the Hollywood film/TV/music industry influence here, and of course a lot of that is still very much based on the axiom that sex – especially objectified sex – sells. So it’s a mixed bag like many places I guess. I do agree about the shift radiating out from the inner plane, although see my comment to Susan, sometimes I have my doubts about this too, although it’s been my life’s path and work to date…I think an integration of inner and outer change is needed, otherwise things can get stuck in a ‘vacuum’…and I look at how some religious factions have politicized gender in this country recently and it makes me nervous that some of us are missing the boat by not being more explicitly involved on a socio-political level…as I mentioned to Susan, another post for another time perhaps

    Kelli – I can so relate to this! I also did not fully embrace my womanhood when I was younger I feel. I was very focused on manifesting my power in the ‘public’ sphere, in my career, in martial arts, even in my spiritual path, for many years. And that was actually appropriate at the time I think and a huge part of my growth. But pregnancy, birth, childrearing has totally changed my orientation in that regard, and opened up a whole new world. It is a welcome balance.

  24. gramma7 permalink
    July 9, 2010 6:12 pm

    Being much older than all of you are, I find it interesting to find that this discussion is generations old. We each think that our generation has changed the discussion so much that it’s inconsequential. I am really surprised your children’s toys were so gender specific, as there are so many toys out there that are not.
    When I taught early childhood parenting classes, I would often get asked which child is easier to raise – son or daughter (I have one of each). I always said “daughter”, because in our society it is alright for a girl to be a “jock” or a “tomboy”, but it is not as accepted for a boy to only like music and art and not like rough and tumble activities. He would be called a wimp or wuss or worse.
    This discussion is one of your best. I will have to follow the discussion to see what else appears.

  25. July 9, 2010 8:42 pm

    How interesting! And yes, I forget about the brain’s plasticity. We are far more flexible than we think.

    I do think we are moving toward the more integrative direction. Do you think it’s possible that America is actually not that advanced in this? Certainly better than Japan and some other Asian countries, but I think some European countries are more open minded.

    For example, you know US companies are not allowed ask things like marital status and number of children when they do job interviews because that leads to discrimination. I used to work with a Swedish girl and she told me asking these questions is not a problem at all there because they don’t care anyway. And then, in my home country, they still do ask these questions and they do discriminate. We were amazed how the three countries differed.

    As much as US women like to think they are liberated, I remember some stats that said, in female representation in politics or entrepreneurship, US ranks quite low.

  26. July 9, 2010 11:39 pm

    Gramma7 – yes, I don’t know if it’s kind of a reflection of the backlash against feminism or I’m just being too sensitive or what. Any one of these toys is fine, I was just surprised every single toy was very clearly a ‘boy’ toy or a ‘girl’ toy, especially amongst a Montessori school crowd, as I mentioned to Edward. It is interesting that your generation thought they’d moved through it – from my perspective, that was a bit of the ‘rowing on one side of the boat’ phase, which led to the backlash that’s still playing itself out…

    Akemi – yes, from what I know when it comes to things like family leave for both parents and childcare, etc. there are many countries much further along than the US. And I remember reading that some African countries (can’t remember which) actually have 50% (or close) women in their national legislative bodies, because the tribal culture viewed certain aspects of communal government as very much a female role, so that has carried over to modern government bodies. So it all depends on what measures are being used. If we look at things like gay/lesbian rights, etc., it’s a different picture, or the number of women in white collar jobs etc. I think the other thing is that the U.S. is so large, and different parts of the country are in very different places on this. Having lived all over, this is certainly true. Alabama is as different from LA or NY as England is from Japan in many ways! Then of course there’s the religious division going on here, that isn’t so pronounced in some other places, that has partly driven a renewed ‘women belong in the private sphere, men in the public’ push amongst some sectors of the population. So it’s a very mixed bag…

  27. July 10, 2010 2:48 am

    I have never bought a single Barbie doll for my two girls. They received theirs as birthday gifts from others. I know that it is considered part of normal developmental growth to play with dolls but I cannot understand why they have to be Barbies. Even with my two girls, I note how different they are in their balance of masculine/feminine qualities.

    Schools have taught me to strive to a particular ideal. I need to go unlearn what schools and society is expecting of me. I need to learn about honoring who I really am and to accept myself in every way.

  28. Jennifer Browning-Patrick permalink
    July 10, 2010 2:41 pm

    I often feel that boys are amputated emotionally by society. I am a graduate student studying counseling and can often see how this emotional amputation boys leads to many problems for men. The natural feelings of hurt, grief, sorrow, depression and even love that we all experience are suppressed and represented by the somehow more “socially appropriate” emotions of anger and indifference. This is definitely an equation for anger issues and we see this a lot.

    As the mother of a boy I have struggled with this concept as well. If I do what I think is right and raise him to embrace all of his emotions he could be mocked by society? If I don’t he could end up with all of the anger and communication problems that keep most men from living an emotionally healthy and holistic life? Issues of anger can even rob him of his potential success. I’ve tried to split the difference. I teach him that there are no good and bad emotions. No acceptable and unacceptable emotions. There are just emotions. However, he also knows how the world looks at it and luckily for me he seems to understand. So, he has at least one safe place to experience all of his emotions (with his mommy :-). He may put on the brave front in front of his buddies on the playground..but then he comes home and works it all out in the safety of his family.

    After all, we all come out of the womb crying. If we weren’t all meant to cry then wouldn’t the boys come out swinging instead?

  29. July 10, 2010 3:22 pm

    Evelyn – My girls also have Barbies, also as gifts. At first I cringed, and considered dumping them when they weren’t looking, but in the end I decided to use the Buddha’s ‘middle way’ approach with most pop/media influences. After hearing from other parents of older kids that total denial of certain things – sweets, video games, etc. – just created a ‘forbidden fruit’ type desire for them in their kids, and in one case really resurfaced as a problem in adolescence, I decided to allow but comment. I told my elder daughter I didn’t really like Barbie dolls because most women don’t look like that and it might make some women/girls feel like they should look like that and judge themselves against that. To which she incredulously responded “Why would anyone want to look like a Barbie doll?” And that made me realize I was projecting all sorts of things on to her that might be as much of a problem as Barbie dolls. So I don’t mean to overreact to my twins’ presents. All that being said, I do believe in trying to make things age-appropriate – i.e. not introducing them to things they might not be ready for age-wise. And I think I will never hide my opinions on things, I’ll just try and help them to feel they can always disagree and I respect that. I guess like everything in parenting, it will evolve:-) And I agree, it’s all about unlearning and reorienting to ourselves, and that’s the journey. So in that sense, our gender roles just serve as a starting point for going deeper, and aren’t always barriers, perhaps.

    Jennifer – ‘amputated emotionally’ – that is such a great way to put it. And you have expressed exactly the balance I am struggling with with my own son also. And the price of that is exactly what you said – repressed emotions becoming anger. Of course that happens to women also, but it seems so pronounced in many men I know. In that post on women’s and men’s spirituality that I linked to above (the interview with Jan Lundy), this came out as a major part of the spiritual journey for men in this day and age – reclaiming their emotional lives. Thanks for commenting!

  30. July 12, 2010 12:52 am

    Dear Lisa.
    I do think children are subjected to a lot of do’s and don’ts about a lot of things, gender issues as well as emotional issues or just honestly saying what they think.
    Society stereotypes so we are easily recognizable and categorized when we apply for things.
    We do it consistently with tests for example. Nobody dares to look at differences and then trust what they think about that themselves.
    I had the issue when parents wanted to enroll their child in alternative education, they would have loved it but were afraid that the child would not be fit for society later. The same when their son liked dancing, it was alright for the neighbor’s son but not for theirs.
    This is also racism, this gender issue and it is often invisible.
    We are entering the Aquarius time, of collaboration and that means appreciating differences. Really embracing the differences and paying honest non judgmental attention to how each can add value.
    We are so NOT used to discerning, we look at others to tell us if it is alright or not and until we dare to decide for ourselves we will have these issues with everybody in society.
    It is extremely hard in this time to be different, that is why we all look for towing the line.
    Indeed women have taken on many roles and are more free in that sense and yet now we think we need to do them all and the poor men are left standing.
    Until we can make up our own mind, we will be like sheep and follow what the herd does, dependent on where your herd lives you will act.
    Until you kind of separate yourself or look for a herd that suits you.
    I cannot wait till the transition is over and we all appreciate everybody and their difference.
    Much love, Wilma

  31. July 12, 2010 4:06 pm

    to me the “real life” practical is about clarity, openness, and equanimity in the moment… either you are in fear/resistance, which hurts, or you are, well, happy, which is about embracing the wonderful qualities/shadows of the fem and/or masc as they bubble up, and they constantly are.

    for in the opening in the moment to WHAT IS (and who gives a !&%*# what we call it as it runs through us — masc and fem are just two of the archetypes (although I think they are the foundational ones..)), there is freedom. that IS the great transcendence through inclusion, which is the union to which you refer, i think. TRUE integration in my way of thinking is inclusion and embracing (no resistance), so sort of synonymous with union. ?

    in our realtime situations, parenting, etc, either we are UNHAPPY/resisting what is or HAPPY/open to what is.

    when i say contraction and expansion, i’m talking more about emotional contraction as in resistance and expansion as in openness.

    i think i’m very far afield of your original post. 😦

    i like your “eye” avatar. very cool.

    kelly

  32. July 12, 2010 8:51 pm

    Wilma – yes, on the social level your example of the child whose parents were afraid to enroll him in an alternative schedule is a very sad example. Out of fear, we can parent from a desire to help our children fit into the status quo, but then where will change come from? This idea of difference, of what it is and isn’t, is very intriguing, because the Age of Aquarius is also about technology, and globalization, and the increased awareness we all now have of each other because of it, which also inevitably leads to assimilation, and on some levels, like religion, I am just fine with old institutions dying out, at least in their current form. So it seems there are trends moving in both directions…

    Kelly – This discussion has been all over the place, so you are really ‘in field’ I think! From where you are speaking from, the source in you, I understand. And at the level of parenting, I do think that ultimately this kind of mindful/intuitive parenting (as some fellow bloggers have come to call it) is what resonates for me also, as opposed to parenting from an ideological stance. But in another way, this conversation has helped clarify for me the different levels we can discuss masculine and feminine – physical, energetic, social gender roles, internal energies, universal archetypes etc., and that conflating/connecting them as I did in this post is perhaps not the best way to understand them. There is a general theme of integration/union, and a general theme of recognizing/honoring differences, but depending on which realm/level we are working at, one or the other theme is more relevant and helpful. That is where I have come to anyway.

    On another note, that is related in my own mind, but may not be for others, lol – in recent years I have come to have some discomfort with the idea that change comes from inside entirely, i.e. change occurs in us first, and then radiates outwards. On a philosophical level, I still am there. But I also have come to see how we all play different roles, and sometimes change really does work from the outside in, so challenging things in the external world i.e. activism in certain stances, including gender roles, is necessary, and that that might sometimes apply in parenting too. It’s a dialectic of internal and external, impacting each other….We’ll see…I will probably post on this sometime too, and see what the comments yield…

  33. July 12, 2010 8:55 pm

    P.S. as for the eye of horus gravatar (or ra, can’t remember which, facing one direction it’s horus and the other is ra) I am still not sure! It is kind of jarring to me actually, every time I see it. But it is one of my favorite symbols, and a very personal one for me. So I’ll use it for now…

  34. July 13, 2010 2:32 pm

    I recently read Geneen Roth’s “Women Food God.” I loved the book because it points out that awakening is accessible to everyone, in simple portals like conscious eating. I loved the book and might feel even better about it if it wasn’t targeted for just women. I understand why it was–that is of course Geneen’s experience.

    Men are probably under-represented in the world of spirituality. (I’m not complaining about that 🙂 ). Possibly it’s because of cultural expectations, and also because women are probably closer to awakening than men are.

  35. July 13, 2010 4:30 pm

    As far as changing the world goes, I think it’s gotten harder than it used to be. Multinational corporations own and operate the world’s consumption-oriented nations while dictators control elsewhere.

    And while women have made progress in career options, it seems to me that in our personal lives gender expectations are perhaps more stereotyped than ever. If you’re a man you’re supposed to be cold and hard or express feelings that are variations of anger. If you’re a woman you’re supposed to be easily excited, sweet and nurturing, and love shopping.

    Ugh…

  36. July 13, 2010 5:41 pm

    yes, we can discuss masculine and feminine in different ways and different levels — transcending and including, transcending and including, transcending and including all the while as our consciousness expands. that’s great.

    you say: change happens or CAN happen (something like that) by “challenging things in the external world i.e. activism in certain stances, including gender roles, is necessary, and that that might sometimes apply in parenting too. It’s a dialectic of internal and external, impacting each other….”

    I totally agree and that takes us back to co-creation. It’s always a CO-creation. So…here is how I think of it: you/we need to be 100% totally honest and authentically self-expressing in any given moment. This is how co-creation happens, and this is FUN.

    (We CAN slip on a banana peel and “wake up”/create change, but usually, for most of us, change doesn’t happen all within ourselves in a vacuum, as you say.)

    Here is the problem though: honest and authentic communication assists in co-creation. It ADDS to the dialogue, yes, but sounds more like a confession than a judgment or opinion, which is how activists (as you mention, in example) may go astray. (And i’m not excluding myself from that category).

    i.e.

    A. Authentic Self-Expression… adding to the conversation –> When I see people eating meat, I am heartbroken and in pain. Animals are suffering, the planet is suffering, and I feel this pain, and I suffer, too. I feel vulnerable. Therefore, I’m a JOYOUS vegan, I would love to tell you all about it! This is my stance and I will never cease in discussing it until every animal is free! (or whatever one is called to say authentically and from a place of *openness and expansiveness*) (Also, one needs to TOTALLY love what IS, including people eating meat, which is the really tricky part and that is another blog post all together, so I will leave that one for now..)

    B. Opinion and judgement driven… not necessarily as effective –> People shouldn’t eat meat because it is wrong. People are ignorant if they eat meat. etc. (this comes from a place of *contractedness* (word?))

    The above may be obvious to many people, I realize. Here is my REAL point (to YOUR point)… If you can’t get from B. to A., (beyond opinion and judgement to authentic self-expression), sometimes speaking your B is a totally valid way to go!

    If your *intent* is to get from B to A, then you will be paving the way to A by speaking your B and being OPEN to getting to A through dialogue and through awareness and openness to what you’re truly feeling.

    If your intent is to be opinionated and judgmental, you will be stuck there (in B). Ouch. Not fun and not particularly conducive to co-creativity.

    If your intent is to co-create change, you will be better off authentically self-expressing (A) and inspiring change rather than getting stuck in B. B is harder to hear because it can put people in a place of defending themselves. Plus B just hurts, too, which is always my compass. What hurts? What doesn’t? Find your way to what doesn’t hurt.

    So, yes, change can work from “the outside in” as you say, and the HOW of it is what I’m getting at. “Outside in” can be anywhere from violent to not-so-helpful to transformational/alchemical. But I truly believe that each of these ways is valid for different people at different times.. it all has the potential to add to the conversation in one way or another… particularly (only?) if we observe the effects of each and we learn from them and we clarify our intentions to speak from the most open part of ourselves as we joyously reconcile with what IS.

    The Horus/Ra is jarring because it is powerful! Love it! 🙂

    Kelly

    PS I think I will post some of this to my Twylah blog!

  37. July 13, 2010 7:46 pm

    Hey Lisa, I ran across this Sacred Geometry video and wanted to share it with you. The author uses the Eye of Ra to depict God, the straight line to depict masculine energy, and the curved line to depict feminine. It’s the best defense I’ve seen for why the generating principle in the universe is said to be male and the creative principle female, i.e., it takes two intersecting straight lines to give a circle its parameters and three straight lines to give a sphere its dimension. Perhaps God is a guy after all. 😉

  38. July 13, 2010 8:23 pm

    One more thought, as my earlier comment was WAY too short. 😉

    It’s all about becoming vulnerable. Authentic self-expression allows for a vulnerability, which allows for grace and love to pour in (not love as mere sentiment but that which is at the heart of creation).

    Sometimes we feel vulnerable in our A conversations (when we are B people, primarily, in our consciousness) and sometimes we feel vulnerable in our B conversations (if we are aspiring-to-be A people in terms of our consciousness, but we’re genuinely just not there!)

    Be vulnerable. But only if you want to create the conditions for a complete surrender and free fall.

    :),

    K.

  39. July 14, 2010 1:51 am

    Paul – yes, it is surprising to me to see how fixed gender expectations can still be, especially in media. And energetically I am all about recognizing male/female differences, but there’s just still too many limiting stereotypes out there, which is not the same thing.

    Kaushik – Well, although in the West today the spiritual movement is largely driven my women, at least in terms of the book and workshop market (which I think I read is about 70% women), that hasn’t been the case historically right? Women were excluded or marginalized in most spiritual/religious traditions, and very rare as teachers. And percentage-wise I think that is still true – there are many more male religious leaders and spiritual teachers, although women may be their primary market. So we’re still in the initial stages of the overall rebalancing in my opinion…which is why I do feature women teachers and profile historical women mystics here…my little contribution to that rebalancing…as for women being ‘closer’ I think sometimes it just seems that way because many of us are more connected to our emotional lives, but overall I think it balances out – there are just different strengths and weaknesses, gifts and pitfalls, depending on where you start from…

    Brenda – I love this! A novel I like depicting an Ancient Egyptian Mystery School called Initiation gets into some of this sacred geometry, as does Kabbalah – what he says here about Genesis being an esoteric transmission of the process of creation any type is completely Kabbalistic…I am going to sit with this one, I would like to do a post on sacred geometry at some point, this is excellent material on it…

    Kelly – yes, I am totally with you on everything you said about A and B, and that is really where I was coming from. (And you described it so well too, are you certain you should not be writing something?) And I think sometimes looking back when I have played a ‘B’ role, and created friction with someone else in the opposite ‘B’ position, there has been growth, sometimes after a long time, from the dialectic/opposition…a seed was planted that did not come to fruition until later…so there are so many different ways this can play out, on the micro or macro level. It is humbling really. All that being said, I think the best case for A consciousness as opposed to B consciousness is simply that we suffer when we are in B consciousness…it is uncomfortable…a very Buddhist way of looking at it, I suppose, but that’s really what eventually nudges us to shift from B to A, when that’s appropriate…

  40. July 14, 2010 7:30 am

    our societies go throug shifts and changes that are steps to the next evolutionary point. like we needed the fierce feminism to get women out of the domestic sphere. but then it went so far as to make us think we’re supposed to be super women – do it all, have it all.

    but the evolution of men seems very slow. i mean, it isn’t new, questioning where men fit into the ‘new’ society of strong women. of course, women were oppressed for centuries, but relatively speaking, considering the spiritual strides we have made in the last say 50 years, it is slow.

    it’s a different journey. women were oppressed, so that instills a fight, a fire within, to create change. whereas men are self-oppressed i think, to put it simplistically. they want to allow themselves sensitivity, but it scares the crapoutof them.
    an external enemy is easier to fight than the enemy within.

  41. July 15, 2010 12:47 am

    Everyone in one’s scope of awareness is mirroring back messages about inner self, even one’s kids. In this way, every experience, every encounter and every person in our lives is a timeless gift. Its not everyone who chooses to reflect on how their own behaviours and lifestyle choices contribute to their experience. We invite people into our lives based on our values, principles and behaviours. Many are unconscious or ignored. Even attending movies nd playing video games has consequences.

    It never ceases to amaze me to notice the uplifting experiences that unfold in my life. I attribute what is unfolding in my scope of awareness to redefining prioirities. This includes choosing to give my tv away, changing my diet, moving to a new place, giving up watching traditional news and engaging more deeply in meditation.

    As one allows the witness within to emerge, one listens more closely to intuition and simply does what feels right. There is no doubt, no second guessing about what is good or bad. Polarity loses its influence. You simply do what feels good, reconnect with nature and find the self shifting many paradigms. What used to be important is no longer. In fact, by losing what ego mind thinks is important, one actually feels what matters is something very different indeed. Making a list helps.

  42. July 15, 2010 9:56 pm

    I completely understand the gift thing. For the first few years, we literally kept all Disney or princess related gifts away from Naya. Now, we let her choose, and she doesn’t seem to want just ‘girly’ toys. Alas, I know society will influence her choices, but I’m hoping she’ll be able to appreciate her masculine side.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  43. July 17, 2010 12:46 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    I totally agree. I’ve always been very adamant on being able to express more feminine qualities, though I got attacked for it a lot in school (I found it hard to make a shield to this sort of stuff, so I just avoided people till I found my tribe).

    I thought I “was” feminine for a while. But really all I am is real. I am both, I don’t limit myself. Sometimes being gentle and playful and sensitive and feeling emotions is best, sometimes other things are good. I certainly wouldn’t want to live a whole life without doing these things ever – though some men choose to try to do just that.

    It’s insane and “oppression” really is the word for it.

    Love,

    Andrew

  44. July 19, 2010 12:16 am

    Mon – it’s interesting, this idea of men as self-repressed and women as other-repressed, at least in this time, or at least using this as a model for looking at certain aspects of it, of how the overall energy imbalance manifests energetically

    Liara- I think what you’re talking about it the dropping away of old paradigms, whether on the individual or collective level, and if so, I agree, that is really what this is about…

    Kaveri – yes, this is the balance I am trying for too, neither denial or indulgence, hoping that a balance will be struck…

    Andrew – glad it resonated! As more men (and women) own all sides of themselves hopefully men like yourself will not feel so much like outliers…

  45. August 2, 2010 6:39 pm

    Oh for goodness’ sake, this touchy-muchy healy-feely junk is making me feel a bit nauseous. Toughen up!

  46. August 3, 2010 7:26 pm

    Suzanne – you crack me up.

  47. August 5, 2010 9:20 pm

    Good. Be playful…that’s all there is.

  48. Ryan permalink
    March 14, 2011 4:12 am

    I’m so glad I found this discussion, it resonates a lot with me.

    It seems that men either live in their heads or wear so much emotional and physiological/bioenergetic armoring that they can’t open themselves or communicate with any situation from a place of openness.

    I had a kundalini experience last July in which my heart opened, for two and a half months afterwards I could reconnect with what felt like an endless source of ‘bliss’ or compassion or love by focusing on my breathing for a few moments, and during that time whenever I looked at the other guys in my platoon, I saw them for what they are, which is to say big albeit heavily emotionally armored teddy bears in dire need of a hug, etc. The energy or shakti or whatever emanated from my heart chakra, but it wasn’t coming from me, it was coming through me, as if during that time period I could connect somewhat directly with the energy, which is love, that sustains the whole universe. I built a small altar in my barracks room which I (half tongue-in-cheek) called the Temple of the Sacred Feminine, posters of a renaissance Italian madonna with child, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, a poster of Lady Gaga in her Telephone outfit because I had a dream about her once in which she was a Sophia-like figure. It seemed obvious that the depression, alcoholism and rage which are endemic in military culture, especially in infantry units which are all male, is caused by a lack of feminine awareness or energy, shakti. So I did what I could to redress the balance, got a lot of the other guys interested in yoga on the strength of its obvious health and fitness benefits (I’m not saying yoga is feminine in and of itself, it’s not, but this culture does see nurturing the body and learning to inhabit the body fully and love physical expression and not treat it like a tool or weapon as non-masculine), but like anything else, the high that I was on faded even though I tried to hold onto it with various spiritual disciplines.

    I didn’t play with guns as a kid, I was a bookish introvert. Most of the men I work with are in the age range of 19-23, and they enlisted because they wanted, even if in an unconscious and inarticulate way, to be initiated as adults in a culture which tends to infantilize its young into good consumers and which lacks any kind of initiatory tradition in the sense of opening people to spiritual reality the way traditional cultures do. I can’t speak for what other branches do, but the USMC takes all this unconscious spiritual yearning and doesn’t really satisfy it but feeds on and teaches hatred and destructiveness to the young people who willingly submit to it. The end result is the rifleman on the ground who, in his rage and emptiness and technique and so on, is theoretically just a technological extension of the geopolitical will of somebody working in an office in Washington, DC, as opposed to what would have traditionally been called a warrior.

    Right now is a strange time for me, my platoon found out last week that we’re deploying three months early, on the 27th of this month. Everyone is experiencing the inevitable psyching up and anticipation. The woman who teaches the yoga class I go to said that my third chakra was so intensely active, she could feel the energy of aggression etc.

    I agree with everything in the above discussion. In alchemy, whether Western or Taoist or Buddhist the practitioner learns to embody and integrate both male and female energy within his or her body, because people are made in the image of the divine and the divine is both the polarity and its own union. Whatever the lessons I chose to learn in becoming a part of the culture of war, which is a culture dominated by men, it’s going to be so incredibly healing and balancing and integrative when I EAS from the military and go back to college, finish a degree in gender studies, become a yoga and skydiving instructor, learn energy healing, and start taking ballet classes, something I’ve intended to do since I saw the movie Black Swan, as dark and Jungian and relentless as that movie is. Balance is the main thing though I think, always balance. If I were in an environment that required more yang or masculine energy to balance it out, I would probably gravitate more towards that kind of energetic expression.

    I was reading another article on the blog about protecting one’s energy body; if anyone has any specific advice on cleansing negativity, protecting the energy body and purifying the chakras, I would really appreciate hearing it.

    You all sound like awesome, beautiful people and I wish you all empowerment on your respective paths.

  49. March 15, 2011 8:25 pm

    Ryan, thanks for your great comment, and especially for sharing your experiences in the military. I think you have had some profound insights. As for cleansing and protecting the energy body, it sounds like you already found the posts I had here on it, and I think in most of those I have included some book references. I don’t know if those are realistic for you right now or not – it’s important to work within the realistic parameters of your situation. One of my favorite overall books is Chakra Yoga by Alan Finger. If you want more in-depth chakra healing work, The Complete Book of Chakra Healing by Cyndi Dale is great, although much more advanced. In any case, just focusing at all will help you stay balanced. I wish you well on your new deployment, may you be safe and strong. – lisa

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