The beat of her drum resonated every cell of my sweaty body and the chants of the people around me were united in a deep sense of surrender. The mind could not compute, the body felt like it was melting and all that was left was the breath inhaling air that singed the hairs of my nostrils. Like a womb, darkness clothed us as we huddled together in the sweat lodge; held together by the interwoven beats of her drum and her chants. It reminded us to stay, to breathe and if we could, sing with her the songs of her indigenous tribe. The excruciating heat was radiating from the steaming rocks facing me. As if it couldn’t get any hotter, someone took the towel from my legs, more heat, more sweat, I felt naked as I blinked through the sweat and saw the glow of the red hot stones next to me. Our abuelitas grandmother stones bringing us relentless fire.
The five day course was held by two phenomenal teachers; the incredible Pat McCabe, an inspiring woman from New Mexico who came to indigenous knowledge through Lakota nation. She moves from the central knowledge that “We, The Five-Fingered-Ones, are born into Beauty, as Beauty, for Joyful Life”, she has a powerful presence and brings the understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing into discussion and inquiry. Alongside her was Charles Eisenstein, a visionary and author of The Ascent of Humanity (2007), Sacred Economics (2011), and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (2013). Since 2010, he has spoken over three hundred times in over one hundred cities around the world. His events are held voluntarily, organized by others who invite him to speak. He generally charges people expenses but no fee, leaving it up to them to give him something if they feel the urge. This appeals to his ideal of generosity and “living in the gift.”
During my time at Schumacher the protests at Standing Rock had begun and we were amidst the presidential elections in the United States. There was something incredibly reflective in what the world story was showing. Indigenous tribes around the world were uniting in peaceful protest against oil companies penetrating their sacred lands. The protection of Nature, our life-giving mother, that which sustains us, was embodied in the acts of those tribes. And then like the flipping of a coin, stories of Donald Trump sexually harassing women, a man who personifies the capitalistic system, standing for one of the most influential positions in global politics was infiltrating my consciousness and my Facebook feed. What could be a greater metaphor? I wondered.
So humbly held by these two incredibly inspiring human beings thirty of us sat in circle everyday, shared, absorbed, discussed, and debated. The process itself was illuminating as all our realities and perspectives were shared in the common union of space. And so over 5 days we commenced an inquiry into the Masculine and the Feminine; exploring what might be the limitations, opportunities and re-modelling necessary to empower the co-creativity of these dual forces within us all and for the betterment of our world today.
During this course I became profoundly aware of the many layers of pain in the relationship between the aptly termed “Men’s Nation’ and “Women’s Nation”. The suppression of the feminine being a story I am all too aware of. I’ve found the genocide of European witch-hunts, in some inexplicable way, living in me, like an embedded tale of devastation buried in my DNA still burning a fury. And then onto the modern worlds distorted perceptions of beauty and objectification with manipulated images of women tantalising our eyes and loins yet creating insecurity on how life can be beautiful without the superficialities of make up, pert boobs and smooth legs.
I went into the course feeling frustration towards the male dominated world that has somehow planted seeds of insecurity in my psyche based on my sex and collectively created a world that continues to poison our planet in our endlessly consumerist culture. It became clear I wasn’t the only woman feeling frustrated about it. It wasn’t long before we were licking our wounds, sharing tales of heart wrenching violation and misguidance. It became apparent that there was much distrust towards ‘Men’s Nation’, especially, with his capacity to contain the great rage accumulated over the generations that the feminine had burning begging to be relieved yet without a safe place for it to go.
What I hadn’t appreciated before attending this course however, was how confusing and upsetting it also is for our men in our world today. In a world with industrialised ideas of ‘what it is to be a man’ with the numbing of human emotion, along with the backdrop of war, competition and destruction, no wonder there’s much confusion. And having sat in circle, sharing our truths on the subject we witnessed the dynamics playing out as we interacted with one another. We could see how women also played a role in the great divide. Women at times did not hear men and even shut them down while displaying behaviours counter to what we might consider feminine in nature such as nurturing receptivity. So I left five days of inquiry feeling incredibly compassionate towards ‘Men’s Nation’ and incredibly aware of the roles women play in enacting the divide between the two.
Pat McCabe explained the ‘devices of deception’, how one day she saw how we had been tricked into believing in a separation between these polarities and furthermore, pitched against one another creating mistrust within the relationship. A sense of clarity has since found me able to better discern when these devices come into play and practicing, to the best of my ability, non-involvement and compassion with full consideration for all I have learnt and humbly recognising my own prejudice. I have found my personal journey to wholeness requiring me too to reconcile the masculine and feminine energies within me. What the future holds for humanity however remains to be seen, but as we prayed for in the depths of our sweltering womb; I hope it will be supporting our togetherness in wholehearted relationship, co-creating a world that serves our planet as well as one another.