“Every friendship travels at sometime through the black valley of despair. This tests every aspect of your affection. You lose the attraction and the magic. Your sense of each other darkens and your presence is sore. If you can come through this time, it can purify with your love, and falsity and need will fall away. It will bring you onto new ground where affection can grow again.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
This is an attempt to set sail in the most shark infested waters of my life, not because I want to but because the communion and insight I seek is at the other side of there.
Relationships are, as we know the fast track ways to transformation and to meet yourself fully through the mirror of the other. One of the most powerful things about the practice of Tantra is the weave between the inner beloved and external partner. The possibility of sacred union with Goddess/God tasted in meditations and ceremony to be realised is within us all along. I have made this sound like a bed of roses, when of course it is generally not without large doses of painful dialogue, disconnect and meeting wound. But this is not the shark infested waters I am talking about. They exist, for me as a woman, in the realm of female friend-ships.
This is an area for many women, which is fraught with battle scars, open wounds and even the septic ones which look ok on the surface but only because they are covered over with gauze and nice smelling ointments. The thing about these relationships is that the mirror is one you cannot so easily walk away from, nor gain a perspective on because what you see is that perilous place where you, she and your in-between reflections meet.
The 19th Century tale from the brothers Grimm; Snow White, explores the powerful feminine themes of dark and light, vanity and jealousy, envy and ruin. In the beginning the ‘good’ queen longs for a child “How I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony”. An embodiment of perfection, untainted pure as the driven snow. When this very child is indeed born and is left to the evil doings of the ‘wicked stepmother’, following her real mothers death, a drama unfolds where we can see the split in the feminine psyche. This is the split which is excavated into revelation when female friend-ships move towards intimacy.
The feminine aspect of all of us is comparable to the ocean. It is unfathomable in its mystery, changeable, powerful and terrifying to even the biggest of ships. When two feminine poles meet, there is often a powerful intensity. A pattern which is there from childhood onwards of extreme openness and love followed by the equal and opposite extreme of closure brought on by overwhelm. There is the tendency to take the heat off our own places which lack self compassion by gossiping, criticising, hurting the other, ensuring our own investment in snow white.
This way of being in friend-ships has been my own pattern and one which echoes the relationship with my mother and her own with her own mother and so on. When I follow the recent shadow manifestations back to their root, what I see is the disconnect from the ‘Good Mother’ which for me is the Tao, the invisible way and nature. The ‘wicked stepmother’ is the face of the feminine who does not know she belongs and therefore equally clings to and then wants to destroy every scrap of feminine love she can get her hands on. I recognise and acknowledge this pattern in my female ancestral line, my female friends and most of all myself and I now wish to make a different choice, by embracing my shadow work and deepening my own roots to the ‘source’. Sometimes it is not possible to repair a wound in the relationship which made it, nor to recreate a facsimile in another in the hope of transplanting the work there.
Shadow work within the feminine is a subtle and perilous art. The attachment to our purity is very powerful, brought up as we are to believe that life will open up most for us if we show our prettiest face, wear our most beautiful dresses and keep our ugliest emotions under lock and key. The work of embodying the awakened feminine in the world requires NOW that we do the opposite. So what arises in genuine intimacy with women is first of all the wound, the impoverished feminine of the wicked stepmother, poisoned by her own self hatred and unable to love or care for the orphaned child except to repeatedly plot her murder, spurned on by the reflection she sees in the mirror. Sometimes the mirror becomes so clear that it is necessary to stop looking in it, to flow around it and reconnect to source long enough to be able to own the ‘wicked’ face before you destroy your own heart and innocence. Taking ownership of the darker feelings and allowing them to move through you, supported by personal practice and centering so you can feel instead of repress the painful emotions surfacing.
I have been in a phenomenal transformational women’s circle of 4, then 3, then 2, then 1 for the last couple of years. I have witnessed the mirror doing some spectacular things. I have seen a deep desire to find intimacy and a huge addiction to intensity which stands in the way. An epiphany at a women’s tantra workshop recently helped me to become more clear “Do not confuse intensity with intimacy, it is just another elaborate form of control.”
So, I have been undergoing detox from this addiction and it is greatly supported by centering in my own feminine knowing, the fullness of my own body and soul life which is content in her solitude but has begun to reveal a deep need for intimacy with sisters. I am so profoundly grateful for the journey my sisters and I have sailed in the shark infested waters and I wish to “hold the beam” towards the territory I see ahead. It is a place where we take responsibility for our own shadow work and where we help eachother stop blaming and shaming as an avoidance tactic. It is a place where I can already see a group of Goddesses/whole women doing their own soulful practices, finding their own voices and supporting one another into ripened emergence, because they know there is enough to go around. There is no lack and nothing to protect or defend which cannot be replenished by returning to source.
For so long we followed a masculine spiritual practice, one founded mostly by men in caves, learning the art of alignment and awareness, the face of Shiva. However his counterpart in the dance is Shakti, who is energy, emotion and feeling, sensation and body. As Shakti awakens there is a great need for us as women to lean how to centre. This is not the same as alignment, it is not empty, but full.
Shakti is intrinsically connected and rooted into the earth through her body. She has her earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunami’s, just like the earth, completely connected. As we learn how to allow this energy to move through our bodies we may begin to really feel this cord of belonging, from our physical centre within the womb down our legs and feet and into the earth and back. It feels very much like an umbilical connection, is deeply nourishing and goes both ways. It comes with so much intensity of its own that we need to re define the edges of how we deepen with our sisters in a way which supports rather than consumes us.
When our roots are firmly established in Her rich fertile soil, we can begin to reach our branches towards eachother and share the dance, reshaping the myths and fairy tales our children are raised with. One version of the tail of Snow White ends with the ‘wicked stepmother’ dancing to her death in a pair of red hot iron shoes whilst Snow White lives on in her innocence, although not yet whole, unintegrated with her shadow. Surely we can do better than this.
The ‘Good Mother’ is still around, she exists in each moment as the mystery, the Tao and it is She who makes us whole.