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  • feedwordpress 07:48:42 on 2014/10/23 Permalink
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    The Open Books Event: where a flash of insight could change everything. Come be brilliant. 

    It can be hard to come up with a good idea by sitting alone + staring at the computer screen.

    (Trust me, I know.)

    You need minds to crash into; you need the spark and magic of creative collisions.

    The psychologist Daniel J Siegel talks about the “neurobiology of we”.

    It’s not just the mindbody connection – it’s the mindbody-relationship connection.

    Our influence on each other, face-to-face, is so profound that our brains change with the experience. Mind becomes something you don’t own, but share with someone else.

    We are that interconnected.

    “We need to make maps of we,” says Siegel, “because we is what me is.”

    So if you want to change your life, you don’t have to work on changing yourself.

    Change your tribe.

    Change up the people who influence you. Seek out people you admire and want to make part of your ‘me’.

    When I was in the process of changing my life, one of the people I sought out was Danielle LaPorte.

    I wasn’t the only one.

    One of Danielle’s gifts as a writer-priestess-entrepreneur is her ability to create community around her, particularly when she partners with Linda Sivertsen (also known as BookMama, because she can take a book idea and raise that baby something fierce).

    I paid thousands of dollars to attend Danielle’s live event in New York with Marie Forleo and, more recently, Linda’s retreat in California.

    Worth every freaking penny.

    Which is why it’s a thrill to invite you to join Danielle, Linda and me in Santa Monica on Nov 6 for an all-day Q + A about writing, publishing, creativity, building a social media empire, landing an agent, and why stop there?

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    No hype, no bullshit, no agenda, no outdated advice, no selly-sell: just us, and you, and one hell of a conversation that is yours to shape exactly as you please.

    (I spent months – years – making mistakes, rambling around online, and engaging in half-baked experiments to learn what you will learn when you share our mind for one day.)

    So much of the writing life is spent in solitude, or among people who don’t get what you’re doing or why you want to do it in the first place.

    Stepping into a sense of community — to be with people who understand where you’re going because they’re aiming like arrows in that same direction – is like stepping into a bigger story that allows you to be a bolder and braver creative.

    The best part?

    What you learn you can teach others.

    It isn’t selfish to invest in selfhood.

    To change the world – or a small part of it – you must tell your story with your whole heart, to say what others can’t, or won’t. (See also: courage.)

    Developing your gifts, finding your soulwork + cultivating an authentic voice are not selfish or self-indulgent but sacred obligations. When you tell the truth, you create space for more truth around you.

    The world needs so much more of that.

    In my blog I like to write about the heroine’s journey. She pulls away from the workaday world into her own space, so she can listen to her inner voice and practice becoming the person she was meant to be.

    It’s a process of enclosure, transformation, re-emergence.

    I like to think of Nov 6 as a heroine’s journey. We’ve got the space for you to step away from the usual madness. What you learn will change you, because that’s what knowledge does, and you’ll take that with you into the rest of your life.

    It’s a fabulous thing.

    Who knows what you might do with it?

    The Open Books Event. Come be brilliant.

     
  • feedwordpress 01:22:59 on 2014/10/19 Permalink
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    you are your own damn permission slip 

    1

    I saw part of an interview between Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert and Gilbert said a thing that still nags me:

    “For some reason, and this just boggles my imagination, there are still just huge swaths of women who never got the memo that their lives belong to them.”

    I know that feeling, as loathe as I am to admit it. I’m increasingly aware of those places in my life where I “gave away my power” by looking outside myself for validation and authority.

    I have played small. I hide out.

    As I get older it becomes more important for me to understand why – especially given my ambitious, competitive streak, or what my ex-husband always referred to as the fire in my soul: “You,” he once told me, “are no lamb.”

    2

    When I was at a dark point in my life – coming to terms with the death of my infant son, undergoing a brutal divorce process – I became fascinated with the Persephone myth. Persephone, a careless and naïve young woman, is dragged down through the earth into the Underworld. Hades, King of the Underworld, forces her to be his bride.

    Persephone’s mother, the goddess Demester, searches all over the world for her daughter and raises her own kind of hell. Finally, Zeus himself must intervene…but that wasn’t the part of the myth that intrigued me.

    I liked the part where Persephone becomes Queen of the Underworld and a guide to lost souls.

    Because she dares to taste the Underworld – she eats half a pomegranate – she is forever tied to it.

    (What you learn, you cannot unlearn. Either you master it, or it masters you.)

    So every year she spends six months below ground and six months above.

    I knew the story as a kid, but when I came across it as an adult – trapped in an underworld of my own – I realized the story was about trauma and recovery. Persephone comes to terms with what happened to her, maturing from silly young thing to mystic Queen. She develops a compassion for troubled souls and the skillset to guide them. She moves between the worlds in an endless cycle of death and rebirth: rising in springtime, descending in winter. She can’t change the past — the events that put her in touch with dark energies. She takes in that energy and transmutes it; she becomes powerful in her own right.

    She is initiated.

    Pain can remain pain – nothing more or less. Or pain can be ritual pain, if you use it as a call to adventure, a portal to change and transformation. Then, it becomes an initiation into the life of the soul: a deeper sense of you, your connection to a larger story, and perhaps to the mystery itself.

    We are stronger for the broken places.

    When I researched Persephone, I found an older, pre-patriarchal underground story that stars the goddess Inanna. Unlike Persephone, Inanna is a badass from the beginning: whipsmart, ambitious, sexy as hell. She goes underground because she seeks to become even more powerful. The descent humbles her (as it does us all), strips away her identity layer by layer, and ends in her death. Three days later, she is reborn. She rises from the Underworld with demons nipping at her heels.

    She is initiated.

    These underground stories introduced me to the term “the heroine’s journey”, the neglected psychological complement to the well-known hero’s journey. If the hero’s journey is about going out into the world and slaying dragons, the heroine’s journey is about pulling inward, traveling down through the layers of yourself until you sound the depths of your soul. Soul is defined here as the essence of what makes you unique, and how that positions you in the world.

    To be initiated into the life of your soul means to know who you are and where you belong, expressed in the world through what you do (the work of your soul).

    I could identify with both Persephone and (at least on the days when I felt strong and cocky) Inanna. Their underground stories activated something in me – an archetype – that reframed my feelings of grief, anger and hurt, the earth opening up below my feet, as the call to a heroine’s journey. My pain could be a ritual pain, if I chose to move through the process as consciously as I could; if I sought to use everything, everything, to learn and to grow; if I approached my life with curiosity and detachment instead of (or as well as) anxiety and dread.

    I could be initiated.

    Like the seasons, like creativity itself, personal growth cycles through stages. A journey doesn’t happen once in a life; it happens over and over again, for different reasons and varying lengths of time.

    But you never descend into the same place twice; and you always rise a little higher than before.

    (We are stronger for the broken places.)

    3

    A crisis destabilizes us in a way that contentment or happiness does not. Crisis knocks on our life and then knocks it over. It disrupts us, challenges our worldview, forces us to search inside ourselves for an effective response, tapping inner resources we might not even know we possess.

    It may leave us standing amid the broken remains of the old life…but that becomes the ground zero on which to build a whole new house.

    Sometimes the call to the journey presents as a sense of burnout, or boredom. You feel lost, adrift, confused, depressed, lethargic….and beat yourself up for feeling that way, for not knowing what you want or being motivated enough to go after it, for feeling stuck, for not being productive.

    Gertrud Mueller Nelson (in her book HERE ALL DWELL FREE) distinguishes between “a fruitless depression” that renders you “incapable of movement”…and something else.

    Instead of hiding from the sharp points of difficult feelings, you can lean into them fully and consciously. Nelson refers to this as

    “embracing a conscious choice to withdraw from life where [you] will face [your] woundedness and enter to its very depth…Conscious depression or conscious suffering will finally being about healing.”

    However:

    “An acknowledged and well-suffered depression rarely receives recognition and validation from the outside world…[which] sees any depression as stagnation – a blockage. But stagnation, when it is freely accepted and suffered through, can be in reality an incubation. The incubation period…is unhurried, an unseen growth prefatory to an initiation…an introduction to a new and conscious way of living life – fully and passionately.”

    Chaos will come for us in one way or another. When it does, it opens up new opportunities – if we have the courage to see them.

    4

    As our heroine descends, the old story of who she is supposed to be falls away from her. She must let go of what is no longer working, and step into the bigger story that is waiting.

    There is power in knowing who you are.

    In her new book SACRED SUCCESS, Barbara Stanny quotes Erich Fromm: “The main task in life is to give birth to our self to become what we actually are.”

    Stanny adds:

    “That task is the essence of power…the essential challenge facing women today. It’s each woman becoming who she is meant to be, the ultimate authority in her life….”

    I’m going to repeat that: the ultimate authority in her life.

    This is when you own your life. When you know beyond a doubt that your life is yours to create however you please.

    You are your own damn permission slip.

    The culture does not teach girls to own it. From early on, a girl receives messages that her body, her sexuality, her dreams and ambitions, her opinions must be shaped to please other people. If her inner voice threatens to speak out too loudly, or passionately, or take up too much airtime; if it threatens to rock the boat in any way, she learns to switch it off.

    If she feels a rise of anger, she learns to disconnect it – good girls don’t get angry – even if it signals that her boundaries have been violated.

    Over and over again, she learns to look outside of herself for approval and validation, for the magical authority figure who will give her the A, the prize, the promotion, the compliment, the diamond ring.

    In her new book PLAYING BIG, Tara Mohr notes that it

    “…is a sad state of affairs when women find it a surprising, moving idea that they can turn inward to access their own wisdom… Though dressed in the guise of women’s empowerment, all the encouragement for women to find the right mentors and right advice is often, underneath, the same old message telling them to turn away from their own intuitions and wisdom and to privilege the guidance coming from others instead.”

    If many women haven’t yet “gotten the memo that their lives belong to them”, it could be due to the system we’ve inherited. It is, now, a system in transition, but for thousands of years it had a special interest in girls remaining girls. The maiden was desirable, the mother was useful —

    — but the crone, with her wisdom and spirituality and hardwon inner authority, was not.

    The system praised and paid attention to girls, and encouraged their mothers to remain as girlish as possible, and moved the juicy crone to somewhere way, way back in the picture.

    5

    Imagine if we all got the memo.

    Imagine a culture of confident, initiated women who regard themselves as the ultimate authority of themselves and their lives; who stop investing so much energy into being pretty and pleasing and ‘young’, and use that energy to seize the queendom of their realms.

    Imagine if we stopped being good girls and such good students and (as Tara Mohr points out), instead of adapting ourselves to external sources of authority, used our passion, intelligence and creativity to transform them.

    Imagine what that would do to the status quo.

    Because that would change the world.

    Feed your head!!
    How thrilled am I to be doing the Open Books Event with Danielle LaPorte + Linda Sivertsen? They’re better than chocolate!
    Come for the wisdom, the creative mentorship, the community.
    Come be inspired…+ go inspire others.
    Invest in yourself + your wildest dreams.
    Your soul will thank you.
    …+ your heart will bust out with some sacred rock’n’roll.
    Open Books Event Yeah baby.

     
  • feedwordpress 00:59:38 on 2014/10/02 Permalink
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    how to be a hero/heroine: the power of story + the quest for true self 

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    When I was in my early twenties, I had a moment where I thought I was going to die, and the thoughts that would have been my final thoughts surprised me.

    I was teaching ESL in Japan and I was on a date. It was a first date, which was traumatic enough. We were sitting in the back of a mostly-empty Korean restaurant in the middle of nowhere, when a piece of meat lodged in my throat and shut off my breathing. I jumped from the bench and started flapping my hands at my throat, like I was doing some weird variation on the chicken dance, and waited for my date to manfully rescue me with the kind of expert maneuver you see in the movies. Instead, he sat there and looked at me and said, in a you are so embarrassing me right now kind of voice, “What are you doing?”

    You hear a lot about bad first dates, but dying seemed excessive.

    And what came to mind was this: the books I had not written, and the regret I felt at losing my chance to write them. How can I die, I thought, with my books still inside me?

    Then, like a miracle, I felt the meat fall down my throat. And I could breathe.

    My friend Todd Henry is an entrepreneur and author and creativity guru and he urges people to Die Empty. That’s the title of his book: DIE EMPTY. It did not thrill his publisher. But what he means is, don’t risk dying with your songs trapped inside you, whatever they might be or form they might take. Get them out into the world. It’s not enough to ‘find’ your voice – you must give it shape and substance in the world. The world requires it. Your soul requires it, and it will push you and nag at you and at the end of your life, it will hold you accountable.

    I’m a writer and a woman, and writers and women are always being urged to find our voice. I’m lucky, because I started writing when I was too young to know that I was supposed to have a Voice, so I never worried about losing it. Growing up, I lost other things instead, like passports, and car keys, and cars. You should never let me borrow your car.

    To me, voice is another way of referring to your particular and highly personal stamp of creative intelligence. Your soul’s intelligence. Your soulprint. We define creativity as a special kind of problem-solving, and we live in a culture that judges how creative we are by how productive we are. We forget that creativity is not just doing, but being. It’s a state of mind that takes in the world and transforms it, makes meaning out of it.

    Because creative intelligence is especially concerned with solving problems of meaning.

    Human beings have a deep need for meaning. It is right up there with water and oxygen and milk chocolate and Keanu Reeves. It is our quest for meaning that compelled our ancestors to clamber down from the trees. It gave rise to symbolic intelligence and the evolution of language. It stimulated the growth of the human brain. There’s that famous line from a movie, What’s it all about, Alfie? What does it all mean? I never saw the movie, but I know that line.

    When that need for meaning goes unmet, we are highly dissatisfied individuals. Our lives seem shallow and empty and – meaningless. That’s when we turn to bad choices, addictive behaviors. I myself would go shopping. I would look for meaning in all the wrong places, like Neiman Marcus, and expensive footwear.

    But here’s the thing. As creative people, it’s our job to create meaning, not just for ourselves, but others. People want it, and need it, and look for it. People are willing to pay for context and meaning.

    I have A.D.D., so I am sensitive to the fact that I shape my life according to what manages to hold my attention. And nothing holds attention like a good story. If you want me to spend my attention to something, tell me a story about it and show me how I can be a part of that story, or fold it into mine.

    Story sets us up for meaning.

    Maybe you’ve heard of the Significant Objects experiment. These people bought junk items from flea markets and garage sales and put them up for sale on Ebay. But they also got some talented fiction writers to write a story about each item. Each story was posted on Ebay alongside the item it featured, and a copy of the story came with the item. It was made extremely clear that these stories were fiction – there was no wish to deceive Ebay customers. And the organizers of this experiment still made thousands of dollars off of junk. (They donated the money to charity.)

    People were not buying the item, they were buying the meaning invested within it. Story provides this.

    The story is the country you visit, and if you love it, you purchase the souvenir, so you can take some of it home with you.

    I was an obsessive reader when I was a kid – I still am. I was the kind of kid who would hide in the library stacks during lunch hour and recess so I could read. I remember my eighth grade teacher pounding on the library window, ordering me to get outside so I could be socialized like a normal person. More than one adult told me, growing up, that fiction was an escape from reality.

    In junior high, I was obsessed with the soap opera SANTA BARBARA. Talk about an escape from reality. So I was interested to read a story in the New York Times from 2010 about the educational value of soap operas. Countries all over the world have discovered the power of using soap operas to educate populations about everything from domestic abuse to HIV/AIDS to countries in conflict to the status of women. In Colorado, state official developed a telenovela intended to convey health messages to the population. After it aired, there was a substantial increase in the number of children applying for health insurance. Many of us kind of look down at soap operas, but these stories connected people to a message deeply enough for them to be transformed by it.

    I have learned that attention is connection; when you put your attention on something, you are getting out of your own head and touching the world outside of yourself. When we compel someone’s attention, we are co-creating their relationship with the world.

    Stories are not an escape from reality.

    Stories are how we shape and understand our reality.

    We create the world we live in by the stories we choose to tell about it.

    There’s a Hopi saying: Whoever tells the stories, rules the world.

    Or, to quote the title of a popular business book: The best story wins.

    As someone who spends time on social media, I am fascinated by online word-of-mouth; by what makes people want to share things other than cat videos. (Although I’ve seen – and been disturbed by — some oddly compelling cat videos.) So I was riveted by a study involving, again, the New York Times. This study looked at the articles people emailed the most, and studied them for what they might have in common. The upshot was this:

    People share the stories that above all give them an experience of awe. People share stories that enlarge their frame of reference, shift their personal paradigm. Despite – or maybe because of – the fact that we live in what many writers describe as a narcissistic culture, it turns out we want to connect to something much larger than ourselves. As Martin Seligman put it, the self is a very poor site for meaning. True happiness comes from thinking less of ourselves, and finding a way to connect our daily actions to something so big that it reminds us of how small we actually are.

    The best stories, the ones that last, contain nutritional value that teaches us how to do this; how to grow into heroes willing to sacrifice themselves for the people they love and the ideals they believe in.

    I love the idea of oral storytelling, of stories as a breathing, living thing that are constantly evolving. As people told and retold them, they stripped away the boring parts, and reinvented the details. But the bones of these stories stayed the same: the archetypal truths, situations and characters that remained relevant no matter what time or culture you lived in; that made you want to tell the story in the first place, or see the latest Hollywood version of it.

    And all these stories turn out to be pieces of the same big, overarching story, the monomyth that Joseph Campbell described and made famous as the hero’s journey. Perhaps you are familiar with it. The hero is forced to separate from his familiar world, go through a series of trials, slay a dragon and then return to his community with a boon that will transform that community and restore health and wellness.

    It’s about separation, initiation, return.

    The hero’s journey is really a metaphor for psychological development. This idea of of fulfilling your destiny by following a unique path of development, resonates across the cultures. The Navajo call it the Pollen Path, the Sioux call it the Good Red Road, the Chinese call it the Tao. Jung referred to it as individuation, and Maslow called it self-actualization.

    The goal of this journey is to come home to your true self through transforming your view of the world– which ends up transforming the world. In other words, you let go of your old story, so you can step into a bigger, better one – and this ripples out to impact the stories of the people around you.

    What is not as well-known as the hero’s journey, but is emerging strongly into the culture in stories such as FROZEN or Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, is the heroine’s journey. (In this case hero and heroine do not refer to gender; either gender can take either journey.) The journeys complement each other. While the hero’s journey takes him (or her) out into the world to slay a dragon, the heroine’s journey takes her (or him) deep into the psyche, where she must wrestle with her personal demons and recover previously exiled or abandoned aspects of her identity.

    It’s about enclosure – transformation – re-emergence. It is the butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

    The enclosure is the heroine’s secret world, where she withdraws from the demands of her community and the voices that would have her be what they want her to be. It is ‘a room of her own’, where she is free to discover and rehearse a new version of herself. This is a place of creative incubation.

    But before she can reach for the new, she must let go of the old. She must dwell in the uneasy place in-between. She must tolerate ambiguity and not-knowing and the feeling of being adrift. She must stay in the dark long enough to nurture visions and dreams, and to follow the clues to the new thing as it presents itself. She must have faith that the new thing will appear.

    Anyone who engages in creative work will recognize this process. It’s one that our culture does not make so easy to honor. These episodes of time-out — of feeling personally disrupted and lost – are looked at with suspicion and regarded as a waste of time. You are not being productive. But if we don’t make it a habit to seek out inspiration and integrate new experiences, to engage with them deeply, we won’t get those flashes of breakthrough synthesis that allow for game-changing insights.

    Joseph Campbell writes about the need to have a sacred space, what he calls a ‘bliss station’, in order to explore our fascinations and incubate new ideas. Creativity happens when we combine familiar things in new ways, and if we don’t take the time to refill the mental well, we find ourselves with a dwindling number of things to smash together.

    As we let of the old beliefs, we create space for new things to enter. As we discover what we are truly drawn to, we invite creative inspiration into our consciousness. We can recognize that the journey of life isn’t simply linear, but also moves in spirals. We descend into ourselves, but then rise into the world again, higher than before. At some point we descend again, but it never to the same sacred space. (As the saying goes, you can’t step into the same river twice.)

    We don’t go through this process alone. Every hero has a mentor, someone ahead of us on her own journey who can reach back and help us with ours. The mentor gives the hero a gift to aid in the quest for self-actualization. This gift can be an insight, a tool, or a strategy. It can be a product of some kind, invested with the meaning of the story you tell around it, a story that encourages the hero toward a higher version of self.

    When I read about people who succeed at building online communities, they sound, to me, like mentors. In a community, members collaborate toward a shared purpose of self-actualization. The mentor keeps this larger purpose front and center, stretching people with a higher vision. The mentor delivers an inspirational message alongside a focus on tactics and performance, and creates ways for members to make personal gains along the way. The mentor also recognizes the truth of his or her role, which is to enable the community members to be the true heroes.

    David Whyte has a poem:

    This is not
    the age of information.
    This is not
    the age of information.
    Forget the news,
    and the radio,
    and the blurred screen.
    This is the time
    of loaves
    and fishes.
    People are hungry
    and one good word is bread
    for a thousand.

    To find those good words — words with meaning — each of us must sound the depths of our true selves, and bring up the music we find there. When you liberate the songs of your soul, you grant others the freedom to liberate theirs.

     
  • feedwordpress 13:54:54 on 2014/09/24 Permalink
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    Emma Watson + why the Artemis archetype makes for awesome heroines 

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    Emma Watson gave a UN speech over the weekend in which she declared herself a feminist, called for women’s equality and a loosening of gender roles.

    Emma represents an archetype emerging in this culture that – judging by the success of characters like Katniss Everdeen, Lisbeth Salander and Anastasia Steele – girls in particular are hungering for, a femininity with fire in its soul.

    It was originally Jo from Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN: the unconventional sister in the March family who had a temper, a desire for adventure and independence, and a fierce determination to be a writer. Like Katniss, Lisbeth and Anastasia – or Arya Stark, Sarah Conner, Ripley, Buffy, Xena – Jo embodies the Artemis archetype, characterized most of all by an indomitable will.

    An archetype is a recurring pattern of human behavior shared across cultures and mythologies. Jung believed that archetypes live within the collective unconscious: we know them and respond to them on a deep level. We project them onto others; we sense them activated within ourselves.

    In her book GODDESSES IN EVERYWOMAN, Jean Shinoda Bolen put forth the major Greek goddesses as female archetypes, each one representing a different way of being in the world. Although one archetype tends to be prominent at any given time, different stages of our lives can call forth different archetypes.

    Everywhere you look – on billboards, in magazines, on Victoria’s Secret runways – you see sexy Aphrodite. In a recent issue of Esquire, Tom Junod drew some online fire with his In Praise of 42 Year Old Women, which was truly in praise of Aphrodite women.

    You see the goddess Demeter in the so-called soccer moms: packing their kids into minivans, running errands in yoga pants.

    The goddess Hera – wife to Zeus, not known for his monogamy – comes alive in the “jealous, crazy” ex-girlfriend. She’s the one who slashes your tires or sticks pins into dolls bearing a striking resemblance to you. When his daughter Dylan accused Woody Allen of molesting her as a child, many people pointed fingers at ex-wife Mia Farrow, depicting her as another version of crazy, bitter, bitchy Hera. They dismissed Dylan’s story as the brainwashed delusion of a frail and damaged maiden: a Persephone.

    Every time a confident, successful woman like Marissa Meyer distances herself from feminism, I think of Athena. Athena women, with all their brilliance and strategy, are the ones smashing up through layers of glass. They tend to identify with men, keeping femininity at a distance.

    Like Athena, Artemis is a badass. She’s a competitor and a goal achiever.

    But she’s also a feminist and an advocate for sisterhood. She comes to the rescue of girls and women not yet in the position to rescue themselves.

    Artemis women often have difficult childhoods. She’s the kid who seeks comfort in the woods, or animals, or books. If trapped in an authoritarian family, she blends in to get by – but keeps a fierce autonomy inside her head and heart, looking to the day she breaks free.

    She engages in the pursuit of mastery (Artemis can handle the bow and arrow like nobody’s business). Jean Shinoda Bolen writes:

    “The bow and quiver of arrows which makes a sculpture or a painting of a goddess recognizable as Artemis is a meaningful symbol. To send an arrow to a target of your own choosing requires aim, intention, determination, focus and power. You can bring down game to feed yourself and others, punish enemies, or demonstrate confidence: metaphorically, you can take care of yourself.”

    These women use their intuition and depth and courage to drive themselves out of their comfort zone. They are not subdued. They are not broken. Each in her own way must venture into strange territory: blazing trails, navigating a metaphoric wilderness.

    She is Jane Goodall studying the chimps in the woods and revolutionizing our entire understanding of them. She is Eve Ensler conquering cancer to finish building the City of Joy — a rehabilitative and educational community for sexually assaulted women — in the Congo. She is Sheryl Sandberg on the TED stage urging women to claim their place at the table.

    She is the high school girl accompanying her friend to the rape crisis center at three in the morning, then taking her home and making her tea.

    She is the still-hot woman in her forties who starts to find deep satisfaction in pursuing her goals, and starts recognizing men as friends and brother figures and not just potential lovers.

    She is the middle-aged mother of three who watches her kids set off for college, then rediscovers her wanderlust and goes trekking in Nepal.

    She is Malala, targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head and still resolute, fighting for a girl’s right to be educated. She is Elizabeth Smart, abducted from her bedroom at 11 years of age, surviving nine months of captivity and abuse, telling teenagers at the Key Club International conference to “Never be afraid to speak out. Never be afraid to live your life. Never let your past dictate your future.”

    She is Emma Watson on the UN stage, saying that both genders should be equally free to express who they are, inviting boys and men to join the fight for equality.

    She is formidable.

     
  • feedwordpress 23:15:53 on 2014/09/14 Permalink
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    the woman in the water: how domestic abuse is psychological abuse 

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    “It’s very difficult for people to wrap their minds around the concept of a man actually balling up his fist and hitting a woman…The video forces you to take it in. There’s no escaping. You can’t dance around it, you have to deal with it. That’s why video really becomes crucial for this cause, the fight against domestic violence… People say: ‘That guy is so nice when he’s with me. What did you do? What did you say to him? He’s cool. I play golf with him. I can’t imagine him doing this.’ Women are simply not believed.” – Robin Givens

    A woman with a famous and/or wealthy man is suspect.

    I was a kid growing up in Canada when Wayne Gretzky announced that he was leaving the Edmonton Oilers for the L.A. Kings.

    Let’s think about this: man decides to leave Edmonton, Alberta, to go live in one of the most exciting cities in one of the most charismatic states, and is paid an insane amount of money to do so. But rather than admitting that Gretzky might have been making a sensible decision, many people blamed –

    his blonde, nubile, American-actress wife. I remember conversations on the playground in which kids denounced her as a slut and a whore. She was stealing Gretzky away from us! Never mind that Gretzky was a fully functioning, intelligent human being with a will and reason all his own. She was – say it with me, boys and girls – a golddigger, forcing him into the, uh, coal mines and general brutality of Beverly Hills.

    The nerve.

    I remember when Robin Givens admitted, on-air, that her husband, Mike Tyson, physically abused her. She was reviled and denounced as a – wait for it – golddigger. I remember thinking about Robin when a very pregnant Denise Richards left Charlie Sheen, practically fleeing in the middle of the night with a toddler in tow. Sheen had a well-documented history suggesting that he was, shall we say, a difficult personality. But in online forums and tabloid magazines, Denise Richards was the one at fault. Never mind his addictive tendencies: the gambling, the hookers, the cocaine. She was a golddigger.

    Since the day that Eve manipulated Adam into eating the apple (no doubt by flashing her breasts and promising him a blowjob afterwards), women have been regarded as rather shady characters. If she’s not a virgin in white, she can’t be trusted. If she cries rape, she’s out for money or attention or revenge. If her sexuality is not safely contained within a monogamous relationship, she’s a homewreck waiting to happen. The combination of female sexuality, intelligence and autonomy especially unsettles us. There’s a name for those kinds of women: femme fatale. Whether it’s Jezebel back when or Glenn Close in the movie FATAL ATTRACTION, she will lure an innocent man to his doom (unless she’s thrown out of a tower window or stabbed and shot, respectively.)

    Granted, Jezebel and the Glenn Close character are extreme examples – and fictional. Janay Rice is neither. She is a woman in an elevator who got cold-cocked by her famous boyfriend. Then he dragged her unconscious body out into the hall.

    Reader, she married him. It happens everyday.

    It is easy for some to say that Janay “shared responsibility” for this event. Because she went back to him, and stayed with him; because she was lunging at him in the elevator as if to hit him when he punched her in the face and knocked her unconscious; because this culture likes to make men out to be the victims of women, partly out of respect for all the good men out there and the acknowledgement that women themselves are no angels. It might even be easy for others to say that, hey, the real victim of domestic violence here is Ray.

    (And let me stress that in many cases, the abusive partner is indeed a woman. For this particular piece, I’m not talking about those cases.)

    But that is failing to understand – or refusing to understand – the actual nature of an abusive relationship.

    Abuse is not just physical. Many abusive relationships don’t include physical violence at all.

    An abusive relationship is not about violence; it is about power and control.

    It is not about how many times you hit your partner, or insulted your partner, or whether your partner strikes back.

    It is about the systematic use, over a prolonged period of time, of a variety of tactics intended to keep the abused partner in his or her place, which is wherever the abuser declares it to be (and always in a subservient position).

    Not every psychologically abusive relationship culminates in physical violence.

    But every physically abusive relationship begins with psychological abuse.

    Dr Clare Murphy lists many of the tactics that male abusers use, in various combinations, on their female partners, and summarizes them in her blog:

    One-sided power games including behaviours that ensure he has his way at her expense
    • Mind games including guilt trips and confusing her in ways that make her feel crazy
    • Inappropriate restrictions including refusing to let her work
    • Isolation including controlling incoming information such as what she reads
    • Over-protection and ‘caring’ including dissuading her from going out alone in case she gets raped
    • Emotional unkindness, violation of trust, Cyberbullying including promising to help and then ‘forgetting’
    • Degradation & suppression of potential including criticising her strengths and achievements
    • Separation abuse including stalking such as leaving flowers – this sends a threatening message that he can always find her no matter where she is. Whereas, an outsider might look at this act, and think of it as a caring gesture.
    • Using social institutions including engaging in child custody battles to maintain power over her
    • Using social prejudices such as saying to a disabled partner that she can’t even walk out the door – this reinforces his power
    • Denial including refusing to take responsibility for the harm he causes
    • Minimising by saying “it wasn’t that bad, get over it”
    • Blaming by twisting the story so she appears responsible
    • Making excuses such as blaming stress at work
    • Using children for example saying he wouldn’t get so angry if she kept the children quiet
    • Economic abuse including not allowing her access to any money, or putting her in charge of the budget, but then spending all the money and abusing her when the debt mounts
    • Intimate Partner Sexual abuse including pressuring her to have sex when she is sick
    • Symbolic aggression including threats to harm her family, friends, pets
    • Domestic slavery including punishing her for not carrying out duties he claims she should have, while not carrying out his own

    As she observes:

    “Each behaviour, when looked at separately, could seem justifiable. Each singular behaviour could look like something minor. Each behaviour on its own could appear that the woman provoked it. Just one of these behaviours viewed from the outside — out of context — could appear like he was just having a bad day. However, look at this short list in its entirety. Now consider this mass of behaviours as a systematic pattern. Also know that women who are subjected to this pattern of abuse and control experience MANY of these tactics — every day, every week, every month, every year — for years and years. Then ask yourself if you think this systematic pattern of power and control is about the partner just having a bad day.”

    Abusers are master manipulators. Nobody knows you like your intimate partner; nobody knows how to press your buttons, or reach inside your head – and your heart – in quite as much intricate detail. The abused partner becomes convinced that the abuse is her own damn fault. If only she can figure out how to fix her defective and offensive self, then the relationship will return to the glory days that marked its beginning: the whirlwind romance, the swept-off-her-feet candlelit magic.

    Over time, this eats away at her self-esteem until she appears to outsiders just as fragile and unstable as her partner often depicts her to be.

    To expect a psychologically abused woman to simply get up and leave her partner is like asking someone to run a marathon – after they’ve been standing inside a cloud of nuclear radiation. What is likely to happen is that the woman will defend the man who abused her.

    If a woman went so far as to bring charges against him, she is likely to drop them.

    This piece tells of a rather fascinating study that took place in 2011, examining how abusers will convince their partners to deny that the abuse ever happened:

    “…a group of researchers published their findings after studying the recorded detention-center phone calls between 25 couples. In each couple, the man had been charged with felony-level domestic violence and was behind bars while awaiting trial in Washington. In each couple, the victim was a woman. Of the 25 couples, 17 women eventually recanted their stories. The phone calls show exactly how the attackers convinced their victims to do this. Attackers in domestic violence have an advantage most criminals don’t. They have an intimate relationship with their victim and know exactly how to appeal for sympathy. They prey on our capacity to forgive. In the detention-center calls, first the men downplay what happened, then they beg for help. They bemoan the horrors of incarcerated life, fret about their children growing up fatherless, worry about how their victims are doing without them, even threaten to kill themselves. They tell stories about the good times, how they first started dating, invoke the Lord, even Buddha. Finally, the attackers tell the victims to change their stories. It works.”

    (The piece goes on to quote directly from those conversations.)

    Abuse is a colossal mindgame as much as anything else. It is the slow, steady, extreme distortion of the abused partner’s sense of her identity and her very reality.

    It deepens over time.

    It can be (and often is) compared to a frog in the pot.

    The relationship starts out with sunshine and romance. The water is lovely and calm.

    But then the cook starts to turn up the temperature — slowly, so that the frog acclimatizes to the change – until the water is boiling and the frog too weak and disoriented to jump out. And if the frog should complain to the cook (stretching the analogy, I know, but bear with me here), the cook will tell it that it is crazy, or oversensitive, and in any case it’s all in the frog’s head. Water? What water?

    My heart goes out to Janay Rice. Ultimately it’s her own decision what to do and how to live (and none of our business in any case).

    But maybe one day we, as a culture, can deliver a message in a strong, unified voice to Janay and every other woman and man in her situation. We can say that yes, we see the water, it’s getting hotter all the time. It is not and has never been your fault.

    And if you ever decide to fight your way out of it, we are here on the other side. We are waiting to help.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:59:02 on 2014/09/12 Permalink
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    11 ‘rules’ of seduction (for the maverick soul) 

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    True seduction is meeting the person where they already are, then leading them to a place where they didn’t know they wanted to go.

    True seduction doesn’t involve pick-up lines. It is not one-size-fits-all.

    True seduction involves the ability to see things from another person’s perspective, get inside their head, find points of genuine connection.

    True seduction is about creating an experience for the other person that surprises and ultimately satisfies. Exploitation is about taking something from them, and ends in lack and regret.

    Great storytelling is the best seduction of all.

    Voltaire once said that the difference between conquest and seduction is that everybody wants, on some level, to be seduced.

    True seduction involves the gift of artful and focused attention. We become what we see in others. We become what others see and call forth from deep in us.

    True seduction involves a dance of ache and pleasure: it’s the power of contrast that makes us feel alive.

    True seduction knows that there is an art to anticipation, and that every destination is part of a bigger journey.

    True seduction is not about possession. It is about the ways we learn and know the world outside of ourselves. It is a slow descent through layers of mystery.

    True seduction knows, and respects, that desire is subversive. Desire shows you who you are — and not what they told you to be.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:53:26 on 2014/09/05 Permalink
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    how to make people *not* want to join your freaking tribe 

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    “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” – Emma Goldman

    I got a kick out of this short and punchy post by online maverick Ashley Ambirge.

    As she explains:

    The internet popularized the concept of “finding your tribe,” and while Seth Godin’s book by the same name is right on the money, the term itself has become cliché, stale, trite, boiler plate, and fucking offensive…

    I’m tired of seeing my Twitter feed, my blog reader, and every single “newsletter” that comes into my inbox be another vomit party of #sameshitdifferentday. I’m tired of seeing yet another call to, “live your best life!” (give me a break), or “Join the tribe!”

    I’ve also noticed all those calls to join someone’s “free community!” so I can self-identify as a [insert cute tribe name here] and buy their products and services. As with most of the clutter that fills up Internet airspace, I’ve made a habit of tuning them out.

    Blame, if you wish, Lady Gaga, who rose to stardom partly on the brilliance of her online savvy, galvanizing a deep online community of hardcore fans known as Little Monsters. Books on branding and marketing have done a deep-dive into the success stories of Gaga and other tattoo brands* —

    *(By tattoo brands I mean: brands that people love and self-identify with so intensely that they tattoo the brand logo on a chosen body part. That is when you know you’ve truly made it: when someone immortalizes your symbol on their ass.)

    — like The Grateful Dead, Harley-Davidson, Apple. These business books (and well-read bloggers) then break those stories down into 7 easy steps or 10 guiding principles (Give Your Community Members A Special Name) that you, Dear Reader, may follow in order to produce a lucrative ‘movement’ of your own.

    I absolutely believe in the power of the tribe. As an artist, writer or creative entrepreneur of any kind, creating your much-discussed platform is creating community.

    Except you don’t really ‘create’ community.

    You create the conditions for it.

    You offer up a cool idea – not a what so much as a why.

    You express it in a way that attracts and resonates with the people whom you are meant to serve.

    You embody, in some way, whatever it is that you’re talking about; if you just piggyback on a rising trend, people will reject you for someone who lives it. Authenticity has a smell. People are keen to sniff it out.

    You create the bonfire that other people gather round. You give them something to talk about, believe in, and bond over. You provide a loose structure in which this can happen: a great spot on the beach, an online home, an annual conference.

    I once got cocky – and tipsy – and made the mistake of saying to a friend whom I wanted to impress, “Do you know how smart I am?”

    “Too smart to say something stupid like that,” he said promptly.

    His point: if you have to say it, or sell it, you’re not (you’re probably the opposite). Because it’s not for you to decide or dictate how other people perceive you (or each other). Lady Gaga did not choose the name ‘Little Monsters’ and then push out emails to sell community as a way of selling her stuff. She created her stuff, and gave the people who liked it a place to go, a language to share, and a way of relating to her (Gaga is known for her frequent social-media use and her candor) and to each other.

    The purpose of community is to enable self-expression and connect with like-minded individuals.

    Sales become a happy byproduct.

    People do not want to be sold to: it’s like the number one rule of so-called platform building.

    They do, however, want to be recognized.

    So they take that bonfire and make it their own.

    They are not your minions. They belong to themselves. They take ownership of a vision that you have managed to articulate in a way that captures their emotion as well as their intellect, their imagination as well as their logic. Community inspires them to live into that idea or philosophy.

    Your stuff – whatever it is — enables them a deeper sense of self. Which, when you think about it, is a remarkable and humbling thing. So let them tell you all about it.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:14:55 on 2014/09/01 Permalink
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    thoughts on Jennifer Lawrence’s photos hacked + leaked online 

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    A young woman takes naked pictures of herself and texts or emails them to a lover, or keeps them for her own amusement. There is nothing wrong with this.

    There is, however, something very wrong with anyone who seeks to exploit or humiliate that woman by violating her trust and/or basic right to privacy by splashing those images online.

    Equality begins with a woman’s ability to have control over her own body (….including naked representations thereof).

    I mean, I’m all for desire, and the things we do and the games we play when we’re caught in the zesty back-and-forth of mutual lust.

    It’s human nature to find each other attractive.

    It’s human nature to want other people to find you attractive.

    But a person’s sexuality cannot be divorced from the person herself (or himself): that hot body comes complete with an inner life, a personality, hopes and dreams, a range of emotions, family and friends, an intellect, and the will to consent. Or not.

    When you deny a person all that rich interiority – when you deny a specific group of people that, and you do it thoroughly and consistently – you strip them of their humanity. You flatten them out. You reduce them to a two-dimensional existence.

    That’s when it becomes oppression.

    As Laurie Penny writes in her new book UNSPEAKABLE THINGS,

    “it ceases to be about desire and starts to be about control. Seeing another person as meat and fat and bone and nothing else gives you power over them, if only for an instant. Structural sexual objectification of women draws that instant out into an entire matrix of hurt. It tells us that women are bodies first, idealized, subservient bodies, and men are not.”

    Penny reminds us of Caitlin Moran’s

    “litmus test for sexism, whereby if only women have to put up with a certain situation – say, seeing their gender reduced to oiled, half-naked, dead-looking stereotypes on every surface that’ll take an advert before they’ve even had their cornflakes – then it’s sexist. When it comes to sexual objectification, the misogyny is in the discrepancy.”

    I was thinking about this when I went on Twitter and found out about the nude photos of actress Jennifer Lawrence, apparently stolen from her iCloud account. Scrolling through the #Jennifer Lawrence hashtag, I saw guys applauding the hacker who did this like he was some kind of hero, and I saw the inevitable comments about how she should not have been so stupid as to upload those photos to a cloud server in the first place.

    What I didn’t see was any tweet that said, more or less: The hacker who did this? Dude. What an asshole.

    When this happens to actresses – and this happens so often that many of us will roll our eyes and shrug it off, or assume it to be a PR stunt – it’s so easy to blame the women themselves. Reese Witherspoon did exactly that in an awards acceptance speech, saying that she was at the podium on behalf of “the good girls” while chastising the bad ones to “hide your face! Hide your face!” when they’re stupid enough to take naked photos that get uploaded and released without their permission.

    There is nothing shameful about female sexuality.

    There is nothing shameful about the female body.

    There is nothing shameful in taking pride in that body.

    What’s shameful is how this culture encourages women to loathe their bodies, worrying about everything from body hair and body fat to how we smell and look “down there”, thinking if we don’t properly monitor and control and pare away and remove, we won’t be loved.

    What’s shameful is when this culture assumes a right to a woman’s body when the woman herself did not give permission.

    What’s shameful is when this culture assumes it is okay for a person to use that woman’s expression of her own sexuality against her, and for their own benefit.

    What is shameful is revenge porn.

    “Women’s feelings don’t really matter,” writes Penny. “That’s the point.”

    I like Jennifer Lawrence a lot. She’s a great actress, and she’s hilarious, and she seems like the kind of woman you would love to grab a beer with and talk and laugh and dance until you’ve closed down the bar.

    So she took some naked photos of herself. So what.

    But the hacker who leaked them online?

    Dude.

    What an asshole.

     
  • feedwordpress 05:25:25 on 2014/08/23 Permalink
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    it’s time for you to go on an adventure 

    “It’s not what you’ve got. It’s about how brave you’re prepared to be.”
    — Seth Godin

    It’s time for you to go on an adventure.

    It begins
    with the knowing
    that ‘here’ is a place you can’t stay.

    The journey owns you.

    It’s time to go deep
    and take back the gold in the dark.
    The power and the light.
    The power is your birthright.

    They stole it from you.
    (Perhaps they didn’t mean to.)

    It’s time to see the world
    through a heart broken open.

    This is how we find our deeper selves.

    If you’re on someone else’s path–
    it’s not your path.
    If someone else tells the story–
    it’s not your story.

    Where you burn
    is the doorway
    into a bigger life.

    It’s time for you to go on an adventure.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:10:32 on 2014/08/13 Permalink
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    the art of being a heroine 

    Heroine.

    The word makes you think, maybe, of a damsel in distress: flinging hand to forehead, tied to a railroad track by a villain with impressive facial hair.

    Heroines provide opportunities for the hero to prove his heroism. They serve and support by acting as the hero’s moral conscience, or by serving as his muse, or by dying prematurely so that he can go after the bad guys and seek vengeance in manly ways.

    “In the whole mythological tradition,” Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying, “the woman is there.

    She doesn’t need to go on any quest, because “All she has to do is to realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to. When a woman realizes what her wonderful character is, she’s not going to get messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.”

    I don’t buy it.

    As a little girl, I wasn’t playing house or planning my dream wedding or decapitating Barbie dolls in increasingly creative ways.

    I fantasized about being a female Jedi Knight.

    I enacted entire scenarios in the family living room. I hungered for female action heroes like Ripley or Nikita or Sarah O’Conner: women who kicked ass but demonstrated a complex and full-blooded humanity (otherwise known as “being a three dimensional character”).

    Buffy? We were starved for her.

    It’s not that we didn’t care about cute boys and awesome clothes and best friends forever; we just knew that there was a world out there, and we wanted to explore it, dancing on a moonlit foreign beach to the rhythm of our own deepest natures. We heard the call of the times as fiercely as anyone. We, too, wanted to rise in answer, instead of watching from the sidelines and waiting

    (so much waiting)

    for the hero to come claim his reward.

    But words like strong and powerful cut against the softness of traditional femininity. Adventurous and independent and bold get tagged as male characteristics.

    If a woman demonstrates these traits, she is somehow not quite feminine.

    She is “messed up with the notion of being pseudo-male.”

    I don’t buy that, either.

    If women get “messed up”, it’s because we absorb the message that in order to pursue worldly accomplishment, to take up public space, our femininity needs to pack itself away. We learn that our job as females is not to be heroic, but perfect.

    Perfection involves whittling ourselves down to size.

    In her poem “A Work of Artifice”, Marge Piercy argues that the quote-unquote “female role” is so restrictive that girls are shaped from birth in order not to outgrow it: “the bound feet/ the crippled brain/ the hair curlers/ the hands you/ love to touch.”

    If you want to go big or go home, “femininity” becomes something a woman needs to suppress. We learn to mock ‘girly’ things like manicures and Lifetime movies. To declare: I hate the color pink. To declare: I prefer the company of men. To declare: I don’t trust other women.

    We grow up steeped like tea bags in messages that convey something shameful about being in a female body: body hair and body fat, periods and appetites, desire. We must remove, monitor, conceal, repress, suppress, pare away, control.

    We must be pure.

    “I’d come to see….” writes Carol Lee Flinders, “that at critical junctures language regularly fails women for the simple reason that in male-centered cultures language just isn’t set up to speak for women or carry women’s meanings. This is one of the subtler aspects of the silencing of women.”

    We’re silenced not because we’re forbidden to express ourselves; we’re silenced because the words we need either don’t ‘belong’ to us, or don’t exist.

    In an earlier post, trying to stake out the ground between being traditionally, passively feminine and being “pseudo-male”, I identified the “creatrix”:

    “…a woman who maintains strong relationships with others while cultivating her natural gifts and pursuing mastery, for however long it takes her. She actively uses her gifts in service of herself, her loved ones, and the world. She is grounded, sensual, and comfortable in her body. She recognizes her birthright to pleasure and play. She believes in interdependence and interbeing: she is her own person while knowing that we are at least partly defined by our relationships. She may or may not have kids. Chances are she tried the conventional thing, or came close – the wedding, the ‘safe’ job or career, the house in the suburbs – and it didn’t work out. So now she lives in the country/on the beach/in a loft downtown/in Thailand.

    She is not afraid of power: standing up to it, speaking truth to it, or using it to advance her own agenda.

    She is not afraid to have an agenda.”

    Recently I came across this quote by Henry David Thoreau:

    “One should be always on the trail of one’s own deepest nature. For it is the fearless living out of your own essential nature that connects you to the Divine. Finding and then embracing our calling helps bring us to our true self.”

    That, I thought, is how to be heroic, for men and women both: to fearlessly live out your “own essential nature” in a way that connects you to meaning, your true self, a sense of the bigger picture; to be at home in the world.

    To be whole.

     
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