Month: January 2015

Cultivating the Masculine in a Very Feminine Woman

To what degree we each identify with the masculine and feminine energies varies between every person. I’m female, and I have a large amount of feminine energy, which I love, cherish and celebrate. But we all need to find a healthy balance of both energies inside ourselves, and sometimes my crazy amount of feminine energy becomes unbalanced. With a deep connection to change, the unbalanced feminine in me can sometimes lack direction, foresight and follow through. I’ve also spoken about King Energy in combating hyper-vulnerability in my blog, How to Harness Vulnerability in a Powerful Way, I like to use the King to balance the chaos I can sometimes be, because the King represents order. Regardless, as a female with a lot of feminine energy, I need to cultivate the masculine in myself to be balanced.

Stories provide powerful frameworks to help make sense of ourselves and the world around us. The story of Manawee is a mythological story of African American descent from the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It illuminates secrets about both masculine and feminine forces and can be understood either in terms of how they relate to the inner world of every individual, or how they relate in the outer world, in relationships between men and women. It has helped me, significantly, in understanding the masculine, and how to develop it in myself. The story goes like this:

There was a man who came to court twin sisters. But their father said, “You may not have them in marriage until or unless you can guess their names.” Manawee guessed and guessed, but he could not guess the names of the sisters. The young women’s father shook his head and sent Manawee away time after time. One day Manawee took his little dog with him on a guessing visit, and the dog saw that one sister was smarter than the other and the other sister was sweeter than the other. Though neither sister possessed all virtues the little dog liked them very much, for they gave him treats and smiled deep into his eyes. Manawee failed to guess the names of the young women again that day and trudged home. But the little dog ran back to the hut of the young women. There he poked his ear under one of the side walls and heard the women giggling about how handsome Manawee was. The sisters, as they spoke, called each other by name and the little dog heard, and ran as fast as he could back to his master to tell him. But on the way, another dog had left a big bone with meat on it near the path, and the tiny dog smelled it immediately, and without another thought he veered off into the bush, dragging the bone. There, he happily licked at the bone until all the flavour was gone. The tiny dog suddenly remembered the forgotten task, but unfortunately, he had also forgotten the names of the twin sisters as well. So back he ran to the twin sisters hut a second time, and this time it was night, and the young women were oilling each others arms, readying themselves for a celebration. Again the little dog heard them call each other by name, so back he ran in a fit of delight towards the hut of Manawee, when suddenly from the bush came the smell of nutmeg. There was nothing a little dog loved more than nutmeg. So he took a quick turn off the path and sped to the lovely pie he saw cooling on a log. Soon the pie was all gone, and the little dog began to trot home. He tried to think of the young women’s names but again, he had forgotten them. Finally the little dog ran back to the hut, and this time the sisters were readying themselves to be wed. The little dog realised there was hardly any time left, and when the sisters called each other by name, he put the names into his mind a sped away absolutely resolute that nothing would get in his way. On the way towards Manawee’s hut, the little dog saw some fresh kill on the trail, but he jumped straight over it. He thought for a moment he smelled nutmeg in the air, but he ignored it and kept running. Suddenly, a stranger jumped out of the bush and grabbed him by the neck and shook him so hard his tail almost fell off. The stranger shouted “Tell me those names! What are the names of the young women so I may win them.” The little dog fought bravely. He growled, he scratched, he kicked and finally, he bit the stranger between the fingers. The stranger ran off into the bush, and the little dog snarled between his teeth “Do not come back or you won’t see morning ever again” and he proceeded to half wobble, half run down the path towards Manawee. Even though his coat was bloody and his jaw ached, the little dog remembered the names of the twin sisters and he limped up to Manawee, beaming. Manawee washed the little dogs wounds, and then raced back to the village of the young women with the little dog riding high on his shoulders. When Manawee reached the father with the names of his daughters, the twin sisters received Manawee completely dressed to journey with him; they had been waiting all along. And all four, the sisters, the dog, and Manawee lived in peace together for eternity.

The end.

Each part of the story can be interpreted in different ways, but I use it as a way to understand the Masculine. The plot of the story is centred around finding out the names of the twin sisters. “In cultures where names are chosen carefully for their magical or auspicious meanings, to know a persons true name means to know the life path and soul attributes of that person.” Finding out the sister’s name represents finding out their true essence, the deep nature of the feminine.  Their father is saying,  “You can’t have understanding of the feminine just for the asking. You must do the work first.” So, the Father forces Manawee to guess their names. The path to guessing their names is the path of developing the Masculine.

In the story, the masculine and feminine are both represented as dual natures. Manawee and his dog represent the dual nature of the Masculine. Every man has a human self and a dog self. The human self in the story is unable to guess the names of the twin sisters, it is his dog-self – his instinctual, wild self – that has keen ears for deep listening and is eventually able to hear their names.  Dogs are universal symbols of unconditional love, loyalty, companionship and protection – this is the instinctual masculine. The feminine in the story also has a dual nature – the twin sisters. Women are said to have an outer being and an inner being. “The outer being lives by the light of day and is easily observed. She is often pragmatic and a very human. The creature, however, often travels to the surface from far away, appearing and then as quickly disappearing, yet always leaving behind a feeling; something surprising, original and knowing.” It was only through utilising the dog-self that Manawee was able to guess the twin’s names. Developing the dog-self is the first step to developing the Masculine.

Cultivating the Masculine in Myself. The journey of the dog symbolizes the path of cultivating the instinctual self within the Masculine. On the journey to naming the twins, the dog get’s distracted off the path by the temptations of the bone and the pie. He eventually learns to overcome his temptations when he realizes what’s at stake – Manawee is about to lose the twins to someone else, meaning, he’s about to lose the feminine and all it represents. This is a universally applicable concept and something I’ve noticed happens often in my life. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been ‘distracted off the path’ on the journey to ‘naming’, finding, excavating the feminine in myself. Maybe life just feels too busy, or it simply becomes too hard, or my anxious mind takes over, or I move countries, get distracted by a career, love, money. But the masculine also has ‘right instinct’, and shows tenacity and perseverance; he simply keeps going back and starting again, until he finally overcomes the distractions. The second step in cultivating the masculine, is developing tenacity and perseverance in the face of being distracted off the path.

The final step to developing the Masculine, might be the hardest obstacle to overcome.  Maybe the scariest, most intimidating of them in all, is the stranger who jumps from the bushes. The stranger does not care about trying to understand the duality of the feminine, to him the feminine is a possession – something to control. The stranger can represent either a real person, or a negative aspect of the psyche. And what does the dog-self do? He fights, for his own instinctive life, for what he finds dear, for everything the naming of the feminine duality represents; deep knowledge, deep power, deep life. This is the final step in cultivating the masculine in the story – to fight and overcome either the negative aspect of the psyche that seeks to hold down the power of the feminine, or something in one’s environment that’s doing the same.

Date Yourself Day: Creating Intentional Solitude

It’s difficult sometimes to make time for myself. My environment constantly needs things from me. Relationships take a lot of energy, they require constant cultivation. I have family and friends in another country, a boyfriend and friends in Seattle, I have a dog that could always use more exercise, a full time job with an hour and a half commute every day, and a supposed-to-be daily yoga practice. Every day is overwhelming full, with people and events pulling me in twenty different directions. And I don’t even have kids.

So, when I do decide to take time for myself, it’s hard not to feel guilty about it. I haven’t spoken to my mum in months, I should organise a Skype with her. Sunny hasn’t been outside today, I should take him to the dog park, or I haven’t seen the girls in a week, I should really see what everyone is doing today.  But the truth is, although that guilt is very real, my mum doesn’t care, Sunny can wait, and the girls are all completely fine without me. And even if that wasn’t the case, it’s just as important for me to take for myself, as it is to please everyone around me. But that’s not the issue, the issue is although I love solitude, sometimes there’s something inside me that resists it.

The world of solitude can sometimes feel like solitary confinement. Sometimes it feels forced and uncomfortable and painful. Sometimes there’s an anxious energy I can’t seem to shake, so I reach for my phone to check Facebook; or sometimes I get bored quickly and my mind starts to go crazy; sometimes I miss my boyfriend and I wonder why I’d choose to spend time without him when we have enough time a part as it is. The different emotional states that arise when I’m alone and undistracted, are the same emotional states that manifest in day-to-day life, but are quickly repressed because of a need to ‘get on with it.’  Spending time without distractions simply allows these things to come up.

Sometimes what comes up for me is an overwhelming amount of creative energy, so I’ll write or paint or draw. Sometimes it’s sadness, and I’ll cry. Sometimes it’s a deep, mellow, insightful state when I just want to think, think, think, and try and figure out the world. Sometimes I’ll spend an hour with my head in the clouds, day dreaming.

Intentional solitude is about creating a relationship with yourself, it’s about learning what’s going on in your inner world.  A full day of intentional solitude can be overwhelming, so to ease myself into it, I started doing “Date Yourself Day.” Date Yourself Day is a mix of intentional solitude and mindful activities that promote a relationship with, and love for yourself.  My Date Yourself Day goes a little like this:

Yoga Practice – For mindful exercise
Coffee/Tea – Create space for day dreaming
Journaling – I ask myself a series of questions about what’s going on in my inner world
Reading – Something which looks beyond binary logic, like poetry or a spiritual/philosophical text
Spa/Sauna session – Massage and heat are always healing and relaxing for me
Shopping – This can sometimes be a meditation, though very easily can be a distraction!

I leave my phone at home, and I’m going to experiment with both planning my day, and going off how I feel in each moment.  The purpose is to get to know what’s going on in my inner world, so feeling is key. Notice when you start to feel bored or anxious and have a list of things you can do next, but sit with whatever comes up, don’t repress it. The point is to use the day to get that negative stuff out, so expect to feel shitty at some point.

I’m going to make this a monthly practice and spoil myself. If you have any ideas for other activities you think would be perfect for a Date Yourself Day, please let me know in the comments, because I have eleven more days this year to fill!

Inspiration Friday:: 3 Ways To Find Yourself

I’ve been feeling a little disconnected from myself lately. I’m old enough now to sense when this is starting to happen, and smart enough to know I need to do something about it immediately, or it won’t be long before it results in a full blown meltdown. That’s one of the upsides about being so vulnerable – life is so raw which means you notice changes quickly, and as a result you can never stray too far from your deepest self.  When I feel things starting to unravel, here are three things I commit to doing to cultivate that connection:

1. Create Space

The number one reason why I start to lose myself is I begin giving into all the distractions around me, and stop creating intentional space for myself. Sometimes this comes from laziness, or a big life change will throw me off and I’ll lose myself in the process of trying to acclimatise. Giving into distractions is not about being ‘too busy’, we all experience being busy. You can be busy and still create intentional space for yourself. My intentional space for the last few months has been waking up at 5:30am and getting to a cafe at 6am, every day, to allow myself time to think, create, get inspired, day-dream, before I get to work. Create space, take it and notice when you’re not making it a priority.

2. Desire Intimacy

Intimacy is unbelievably convoluted, and a totally subjective experience for everyone. For me, my desire for intimacy represents how in touch I am with my deepest self. I know nowadays that losing my desire for intimacy usually means I have more basic needs that aren’t being met (security, stability etc) but it can be an insightful way to figure out what’s out of balance, and an insightful way to start exploring once I figure that out.  For me, intimacy is a perfect door into the wild, instinctual self and while there are sometimes more important things than being wild, noticing how I feel about intimacy can be helpful in figuring out how deep my connection is to life.

3. Travel, Anywhere

Travel, movement, change are fast ways to release stagnation and bring me back to myself. Travel itself creates space, and the change of environment often gives me a fresh perspective. It doesn’t have to be crazy travel – go on a road trip, go stay in a local hotel, or go interstate – do whatever’s possible in the moment. When my outer world is shaken up, my inner world becomes more clear and I’m able to work on deepening that connection.  Ironically, once my inner world becomes clear, my outer world begins to align and life starts to work itself out.