While I’m at it, does anyone know a good foot doctor?
With so many politicians having become caricatures of themselves, the things that we humans struggle with are being brought into sharp relief for us to see clearly and deal with.
I have long believed that, while women’s rights and LGBT rights are clearly important and we must continue fighting for them, what’s also important is addressing the ways in which we do or do not honor both the feminine and masculine inside ourselves.
Namely, that many of us struggle with engaging our feminine power.
The word feminine often brings to mind flowers and pink glitter and the idea that men should be dressing up in heels.
To which I say: if heels are your thing, go for it. (I gave them up a long time ago because I have a bunion the size of Idaho. You’re welcome for that image.)
But such a narrow definition of feminine is cultural brainwashing. It’s also bullshit.
Cultures that existed long before the U.S. came onto the scene a short time ago have embraced as a core belief the idea that both feminine and masculine energy exist in each of us. These energies have nothing to do with gender, but are both essential to the flow of life.
Exhibit A: the age-old Chinese philosophy of Yin (feminine: slow, soft, passive, yielding) and Yang (masculine: fast, hard, aggressive, forceful), which describes how forces that appear to be opposite are actually complementary and necessary.
In other words, we need both sides of ourselves to get the job done.
Ask any great athlete whether they rely solely on strength all the time, and five to one, they will tell you no. Good athletes understand that a big part of performing is being in the flow – knowing when to soften in boxing, for example, as one is shifting positions and before taking a swift action. Yin and yang, feminine and masculine.
On a practical level, this principal is great for preventing pulled hamstrings. On a higher level, it can help us flow with the energy of life and accomplish things far more easily and with less stress.
Not for nothing, it can also help us have deep compassion for ourselves and those around us, which eventually, hopefully, leads to equality among races, genders, etc.
It doesn’t take much to see that, as a culture, we are failing epically at embracing the feminine.
Being feminine is generally seen as sexual, a task for “beautiful” women, or as weak.
Trying to engage men in a conversation about their feminine side usually leads to a string of Chuck Norris jokes born out of discomfort.
Engaging women in a conversation about their feminine side can lead to a string of guilty thoughts about how we are not sexy or nurturing enough.
Both are missing the point.
Most of us were raised hearing “Don’t cry – stop being a baby. Get out there and push back!” And we were taught in school that hard work and pushing, pushing, pushing is the way to achievement. (“If you’re not succeeding, it’s because you’re weak…try harder!”)
We learned pretty early to shut down our feminine side. We learned to feel tremendous shame about the part of ourselves that operates in non-action, vulnerability, and intuition. As a result, our minds don’t accept what our bodies and souls know – that these pieces are a critical piece of productivity.
The result of this is that we wage an internal war every day. Which leads to things like addiction, destructive anger, shutting down sensuality, and hate toward anything we view as feminine: women, LGBT individuals, etc.
Let me be more concrete. Sometimes masculine energy is exactly what is required.
But so is learning to soften in stressful moments as an act of self-kindness and so that we can make space for things like receiving and hearing our intuition.
If you don’t believe me, try this:
Think about a task you have that you are dreading. Could be a paper you need write for school. Or a meeting you have with your boss scheduled for next Tuesday. Or getting together with your great uncle who likes to go on about how the price of bananas has gone up 49 cents since the 1950s.
Whatever it is, bring to mind all the negative feelings you have when you think about this task. Identify where it lives in your body. (I usually find that my shoulders migrate up to just below my earlobes.)
Now think about what you generally do when you have this feeling. This is your auto response.
Nine times out of 10, our auto response to negative feelings is to engage in some form of self-criticism or fleeing.
We do things like call ourselves lazy and stupid for not wanting to write the paper. Or weak for wanting to curl up in the fetal position every time we meet with our hyper-critical boss. Or unkind for not wanting to hear about the banana glory days.
Or we binge watch episodes of Golden Girls, stalk the Facebook pages of this month’s list of people we love to hate, or spend $300 on a new binder/organization system that we know we will never use. (In my defense, it *is* really cute and motivated me for like, a day.)
In any case, each such action eventually brings us right back to self-loathing.
The problem with these auto-responses is that they are inherently masculine in their “just try harder and get your shit together” nature. This approach almost never works and only makes us feel worse.
To stop this cycle, the next time you feel an unpleasant feeling pushing at you, try engaging the feminine instead.
By that I mean: sit your butt down on the couch and stop moving. Allow the feeling to surface and just be.
This is yin/feminine energy.
When I suggest this to most people as a course of action, they balk.
But the beauty – and challenge – of yin is that it allows us to soften into what is.
Because when we fight reality, we lose 100% of the time.
When we can simply name our feelings without trying to change them, we embrace reality and non-doing. And in the non-doing, transformation happens.
We begin to hear the voice of intuition that provides us with genius courses of action seemingly out of the blue. We begin to accept that life is not all about pushing. We see the beauty in receiving pain as a means to grow. And we slowly learn the difference between what we can control (our ability to be present with ourselves, no matter what) and what we cannot (our emotions, what other people do and say, death, taxes, etc.)
Feminine energy is really quite powerful, after all.
When we stop fighting ourselves, things that are meant to flow through us naturally do. Like a clear, direct way to tell our boss to back off or a kind yet firm way to tell Uncle Harry to move on to a new subject.
Or the call to take a baking class instead of going after that Masters degree after all. Or to decide that we will let our bodies decide what form of exercise it needs from moment to moment, instead of believing we are a piece of crap if we don’t run five daily miles on the treadmill.
I don’t know. But you do. The answer to whatever you are struggling with is waiting for you to make space for it.
Try doing less and being more and see what happens. I’d love to hear about it.
I’ll be right here, sitting on my couch.