My take on what it means to be a Feminist

Feminism doesn’t ask you to be a man hater

Feminism doesn’t ask you to use coercion or domination as a means of influence

Feminism doesn’t ask to be expressed in obnoxious and disrespectful ways

Feminism doesn’t ask you to only care about women and women’s rights

Are you a feminist simply by being born a woman? I don’t think so.

‘It’ isn’t literal and narrow. It is about honoring that aspect in and around us which connects us to the feminine. What is feminine you ask?

I hope you do ask because we have had too much information and little knowledge about this idea/concept/construct.

Feminine is the creative force. It is open, vast, receptive , fluid and vulnerable. It is the power of intuition, emotion and nurturing. In humans, we understand the right hemisphere of the brain and the left side of the body to be working on this principle. Being born as a woman definitely gives us a biological advantage to be more in tune with the feminine but it requires awareness and acceptance to be used as a strength.

The construct of the ‘Feminine’ encompasses all creatures on Earth who depend on us human beings to be taken care of, to not be violated. This is a child, a woman, a man, an animal, plants, oceans, environment etc. ‘It’ asks for grace, compassion and empathy for another being. It evokes a power within which cannot be denied. It asks that we transcend our ego and see the world beyond the ‘I, Me, Myself’.

Any being who can be subjected to oppression, injustice deserves to be fought for. Across generations and cultures we have seen this injustice manifest the most around women and hence feminism is synonymous with the experience of being a woman today.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Mother’.  She gives of herself to create, raise and nurture. She can protect her offspring when she senses any threat. She also feels the collective pain of any injustice.

And if we know anything, then we know that the true feminine cannot live in isolation from the true masculine. Both are needed and in balance.

Masculine is the seed force without which creation isn’t possible. It is the power of action, focus, intention. This is the ‘achieving’ energy which is logical, rational and solid/set.  It is externally focused.

We know this force as the archetypal ‘Father’. Quite naturally, the masculine force provides the seed and the feminine nurtures it to life. Masculine provides and protects.

In schools, offices, governments, families, we are taught to recognize and bolster the Masculine but seldom talked about is the Feminine power.  I suspect that this is because we only believe what we see with the limitations of our physical eyes and the faculties of our rational mind. I am happy to see an increase in the ‘mindfulness’ trend in schools. Practices like meditation, mindfulness, art connect us with this power which lies within untapped.

As for a man vs woman debate, I have seen many men who are securely in touch with their feminine side and I have seen many women who aren’t. I know the corporate driven achievement oriented culture doesn’t give much of a chance to stay connected with our feminine side and neither does a culture where a girl is not free to exercise her freedom which stems from simply being alive.

In majority of the cases, women leaders and the men who find a way to honor their feminine side do tend to think long term and in terms of a larger balance. Here I would like to draw your attention to the women led Icelandic bank which was the only financial institution to survive the financial crisis in 2007-2008. Auður Capital is a financial services company founded by two women who formed feminine values as the basis of their institution. Halla Tomasdóttir who is one of the founders of this bank said that if we want to see a change anywhere, we must include atleast 3 women on the board because one is token representation and two is a minority.

I was thrilled to learn about several initiatives in European nations and some other countries where as a society, balance, harmony, sense of community are highly prized values and are seen integral to improving performance. These initiatives are in the direction of healthcare, education, child care, environment protection, animal rights, parental leave, vacation time etc. The ‘softer’ side of running a company and a society.

An example of honoring the feminine around us was in 2013 when New Zealand granted legal personhood to Te Urewera National Park and Whanganui River and its tributaries. This speaks volumes in terms of respecting and protecting the intrinsic rights of this earthly body. It is recognizing and protecting the rights of an entity which cannot speak for itself and calls upon us human beings to do so.

So, what does it mean to be a Feminist?

  • Being aware of the most obvious and subtle forms of injustice
  • Speaking up against injustice as and when you can
  • Taking action at an individual and or collective level in a collaborative manner

Thoughts?

Advertisements

Why seeking help is not crazy?

By help here I am referring to any form of treatment for your mental, emotional and relational health. This could be called psychotherapy, counseling, couples therapy, family therapy,  mental health counseling etc. (I do agree that lot of these titles do a good job of scaring people awayJ )

Do you think you are crazy to seek a doctor’s advice when you have been suffering from chronic back pain? I hope not. Of course, we all have among us our friends and family who love to self-medicate & or live in pain. Perhaps there are temporary cures that do work and hey, I am a big believer of natural therapies too. However there is a point when you and everyone around you knows that you are only being in denial or being too willful. It is at this point when you have been living in excruciating pain everyday that you do consider visiting a doctor and seek help.

Applying the analogy of physical debilitating pain to emotional dis-order , the first issue that arises is acknowledging it. We all know when we are not functioning according to our ‘normal’. Every person has a different point where he/she knows that they are doing well. Similarly there are times when we are:

1) Feeling stuck

2) Feeling overwhelmed

3) Overcome by fears / worry

4) Feeling unheard/unsupported

5) Feeling hopeless

SanFranscisco - GoldenGate

Golden Gate, San Francisco

 

The challenge here lies in not only being able to acknowledge it but assuming responsibility for your health/wellness and approaching a mental health professional. Our friends and family can help us a lot and they also come loaded with expectations. In all fairness, they cannot be expected to hear you out non-judgmentally and support you. Do not listen to people who ask you to ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or ‘be more strong willed’. What intrigues me here is that we do not have such expectations of ourselves or of other people when someone needs treatment for a fracture, cancer or a condition like diabetes. Yes one can choose to ignore these too and you know how it ends!

The next time you know of someone who looks dis-ease d (not at ease/harmony), keep it simple and encourage him/her to seek help. Perhaps your loved one could use a non-judgmental listening ear who can provide support through their period of transition.

What! I need to cater to my Body???I thought it was meant to serve me!!!

Aside

What! I need to cater to my Body???I thought it was meant to serve me!!!

A few days ago I had written to a dear friend of mine that “ Don’t expect your body and mind to always serve you while you keep ignoring their needs.” In our fast paced and performance driven society it is very important to know our own limits. Commercial organizations may very well organize a one day workshop on stress management for their employees but seldom does one provide an environment/culture conducive for an employee to take a few minutes away from their work to de-st

Boston - Walkway

Unwind in nature

ress. To top that, we have demands in our personal lives from our children, parents, partners and friends.

There are also several schools of thought out there that teach us to stretch ourselves, push beyond the comfort zone and work on maximum performance every day. Extending ourselves into several different directions is required for our growth and we definitely need to stretch beyond our so- called comfort zone to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The only thing we are not taught is to pay heed to our bodies when it is screaming through pains, inflammations, diarrhea, persistent allergies and constant fatigue. Somehow we have not learned that there might be reason that our bodies appear limited. Every person has his or her own ideal working hours in which he/she can be productive and effective and then there are those hours that just count as ‘office hours’.

It is important to know that you are at the center of every activity you choose to engage in and the state of your health will reflect in every activity you take up.

There are some of us who are extremely capable of ignoring symptoms and putting up a ‘everything is fine’ façade. It is an inevitable vice in today’s society. Unfortunately or fortunately the body knows to scream louder and will draw your attention in several ways. Taking responsibility for yourself begins with taking responsibility for your body and scheduling break times for yourself.Allow yourself a few minutes of ‘me time’ and learn the art of saying ‘No’. Do your best to eat healthy.

Understand that it is required of us to  recognize our limitations and push ourselves within our boundaries; not those created by someone else for themselves. Our body is always talking to us, we fail to listen.

Ever wondered why Seers and other wise individuals ask us to treat our bodies like a temple? It is supposed to be the vehicle through which we perform our duties and enjoy a humanly existence. A vehicle that needs routine maintenance just as your car does!

The Wisdom in Stillness

 

Image

Folsom 

 

Being still does not mean you are stagnant.

When you are separated from external activity, through an illness, job loss etc, it is not a punishment. Embrace it as a time for renewal and healing.

Winter is nature’s time to lie low and renew. Everyone one of us lives through different seasons in life. All seasons play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature.

You will know when life presents you with this ‘still’ and ‘down’ time. Go inward. Spend some time in silence. Retreat into your being. Utilize this time to rest your body. Become a witness to all that you have created without judging yourself or others.

I believe it is for this purpose that several people go on a pilgrimage. You need not always travel to a different destination. You may choose to do so if your heart so desires. Spending time in nature will provide you with the inner stillness and grounding that you need. For some of us, it may present as a time to do some soul searching.

Until you find that ‘stillness’ inside you, you will continue to experience restlessness because your spirit is not at ease. A lot of us need a ‘time out’ from family and friends too. Some of us recognize that we need this time for ourselves but are unable to do so due to familial responsibilities. The more we ignore it, the more pronounced it becomes and then comes a day when circumstances build in a manner that we have no other excuse to reach for. We also find some people who take a break from a successful career to satisfy their soul’s longing and wonder how does one give up a well settled life in search of an unknown. I am reminded of the book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma as I write this.

Having lived through some such seasons in my own life, I can also say that there are some who choose to fight and fret this period which makes it even more gruesome. Ultimately, such periods are nothing but chances for us to grow on a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical level.

Not to say that there is anything easy about these stretches.

Similar to most other experiences in life, we can choose how we respond.

Namaste.

Meet your biggest Critic..YOU!

It saddens me to witness so many of my friends and clients become victim to their own inner criticisms. The negative self talk as we know it. Some of us are aware of this constant badgering we put ourselves through and some of us oblivious to it. When we find someone talking out loud to themselves we think they are going crazy but what about this constant unforgiving chatter in our minds?

Image

Be kind to yourself

One of the earliest issues a child develops while growing up is that of low self esteem. We often try to find external causes for the occurrence (that’s if someone identifies the issue) or assume that the child just needs to try harder in a particular area. As I write this, I am reminded of a friend’s facebook status after she delivered a baby which was “ the way we talk to our children, becomes their inner voice.” If it’s not parents, it is some other family member/friend/teacher/boss etc whose voice gets installed into the software of our brain. Sadly enough we keep running these tapes in our head without ever questioning them.

Messages like: 1) “You cannot even draw a straight line.”

2)  “You should always get an A or else you are a failure.”

3)  “You cannot afford to relax if you want to be successful.”

4)  “Boys are not attracted to you because you are dark skinned.”

5)  “You are not aggressive enough for this job.”

I am sure that each one of us has our own versions of messages like these that always keep running at the back of our mind. Somehow we believe these to be true and keep working as per the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘musts’ other people have imposed on us. We internalize these as our own values and continue inflicting pain on ourselves. All these messages tell you somewhere that “I am not good enough”, “I am not valuable/loved the way I am.” We also begin to play the “ I am good if I do..” game and feel puzzled when we are not accepted anyway.

It is also important to differentiate between this unhealthy self talk and constructive criticism/ feedback. When you receive constructive criticism or feedback for improvement, it is specific to the situation/ behavior and you leave from the situation understanding that you are valued for who you are and are being given suggestions to grow further. For example: A parent could tell a child that “ I was looking at your progress card and congratulate you for your improvement from last semester in Mathematics. Continue to do your best.” The child here is not being judged at a global level that he is a bad child for not receiving the highest grade. It is here that we learn to give ourselves some room for mistakes and ease out the need to be perfect all the time.

Low self esteem shows up in our work as settling for a lesser salary, our belief about what kind of life partner we deserve and what limitations we set on our abilities. A great amount of depression and anxiety stems from this unhealthy inner self talk.

At a much larger level, one cannot accept another person if one does not accept one’s own self. The answer lies in awareness. Be mindful of your inner dialogue, journal about it and reflect on whether it is helpful or harmful at this point in your life.

From a holistic perspective, I would like to mention Dr. Masuru Emoto’s water crystal experiment where he finds that water tends to crystallize in shapes resonating with the type of music being played around the water. The principle behind this experiment is that sound vibrations from the music influenced the formations in water.

With water being a major component of the human body and thoughts containing vibrations that echo through our systems, I would encourage you think about the impact your thoughts are having on your physical/emotional/ mental health.

The Thread (t) s of Intimacy…

People, People, People…all around us. We want them and run away from them too. Most of our lives are spent or invested in relationships. Right form the time we are born till we claim our coffins, relationships with other human beings always surround us. Love them or hate them, you cannot do without them. There are various reasons why we have relationships with people. The relationships we seek satisfy some of our needs and desires. These needs can be broadly categorized into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Physical needs are well known to all. Emotional needs are that of warmth, affection, appreciation, acceptance, security etc. Mental needs could be of intellectual stimulation, discerning rights and wrongs etc. Spiritual needs could be that of seeking harmony with life, a positive outlook, need for oneness etc.

Based out of these needs and may be more, we seek relationships. Subconsciously, each one of us has clearly defined criteria of accepting and rejecting prospective candidates into that mould or framework we are looking for. Just like a kitchen recipe, we all know at the bottom of our hearts that how much of which ingredient we need in our life. As per our conditioning and scripting, we attract the kind of people who will add the required spice to get the perfect flavour in our lives.

I believe that it is from the most intimate relationships that we learn the most. Many of us derive our sense of being from these relationships. In my view, an intimate relationship is one where you are not required to be someone else but your own self. Your Self, is not threatened here. It feels 100%. Unfortunately, there is a lot of homework and investment that goes into the development of this kind of intimacy. In order to feel that sense of security, you will first be challenged whether you need to share your feelings/ emotions/ fears which for many years were covered by a protected shell known as “private self”. It is only when you can learn to open up without fear that you can enjoy the relationship. This definitely works on a tacit assumption that your partner appreciates your opening up. Each one of us decides what we should and shouldn’t share with our partners. The opening up requires courage and a deep sense of security in oneself. It requires courage because you need to move out of your comfort zone and start walking inward with your partner. You take chances of being “misunderstood”. The entire process makes you vulnerable. It is for these reasons that we carefully choose the people to whom we open up with and bare ourselves.

The irony here is that we seek closeness/ intimacy in relationships and escape from them for the same reason. Every person has defined the limit till where he will tolerate another person. The feeling of Oneness which is sought through sex never goes beyond that, for, we cannot shed the clothes of mental make up that we wear. The intimacy we seek is like getting naked each time you open up to somebody. Shedding off these physical garments is much easier than taking off the layers of one’s deep rooted desires, thoughts, insecurities and needs. Taking from the analogy of a recipe, the best cuisines are those in which all the spices lose their individual flavours to make one delicious serving. The paradox in it is that they lose themselves but are always remembered, for, the final outcome wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t there. It is this losing of our self which we fear and never open up even to some beautiful angels who cross our paths. We are more concerned about the momentary vulnerability of unclothing ourselves than the gains that one finds by merging into the parts of the other. We choose to settle for less by taking minimal risks.

To quote an example here: A friend of mine lost his first love in an accident. He married an individual who did not meet him at all planes and he never grew out of his first love. A decade after his successful marriage and being blessed with a child, he felt the gap in him growing and fell for a girl who possibly met those unfulfilled needs. His passions and love which were locked till now started opening with the warmth of this new relationship. Nevertheless, having protected a part of him for so many years, he could not give himself completely to the relationship and named the growing distance as “personal space”. It was the growing intimacy that possibly threatened him and forced him to keep away to safeguard his pride and responsibilities. He knew what he was missing in life and hence was afraid to handle it when he received it.

Being yourself does not mean you never change. The “I” constantly needs to be renewed through a process of learning and unlearning. Quoting from nature, it is the mighty looking trees that are forced to break in a storm and the feeble yet agile grass survives it. The rigors of any intimate relationship provide a good basis for this constant renewal process. Human beings are known to learn more through pain than through pleasure. Intimacy has the capacity to transcend that pain into an enjoyable experience. Unless, we give ourselves completely into any activity or relationship we cannot gain the maximum.

We go on accumulating skills, degrees and qualifications but hardly ever take our learnings from the school of relationships. Not many of us know why we do what we do, likewise, even this aspect of our lives i.e. the ingredients we seek in our recipe of life, remain a victim at the hands of our awareness of ourselves.

Hence, the threads of intimacy become the threats of intimacy.