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The Bliss Blog

This past weekend, I immersed myself in the juicy, playful, light, lovely, dark, soul deep, bone marrow core, Earth-shaking, birth-giving, uplifting, dance ’til you drop,  life-enhancing, righteously angry, shadowy, frightening, flirtatious, fluid realm of womanhood when I attended the Womanly Arts Experience created by Regena Thomashauer (a.k.a. Mama Gena). I had heard of her back in the early 2000s and was drawn to her calls- it -like- she- sees- it-speaking-truth- to -power-from -the heart- in -yo’- face-irreverent attitude.

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the WorldMama Gena’s Owner’s & Operator’s Guide To Men  and Mama Gena’s Marriage Manual are her triumvirate and she adds to them her most recent book, Pussy: A Reclamation. If that title is shocking to you as a reader of this column, remember that it is used as a pejorative term that was cast about caustically by the occupant of the Oval Office. Mama Gena and those who attend her workshops claim it as an empowering word. As she moved across the stage facing 900 some women who had traveled from many places on the planet (Nigeria, Denmark, Australia) and throughout the United States to New York City, she invited us often to see that part of our bodies as a source of creative power to call in the lives we desire. Her passion for this work is contagious. She presents a resounding clarion call for women to step out of the shadow in which they may have hidden and into the light, center stage, fully honoring all that they are.

What I loved (among many things) about the weekend, was the invitation to explore the myriad ways of being a woman. None was preferable to another. There were women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, educational levels, ages, body size and shapes, skin hues, spiritual traditions, physical abilities, and life experiences. The diversity was dazzling. Several generations from the same families attended. A woman in her 80’s whose youthful appearance belied her octogenarian status, proudly introduced herself to the cheering crowd.

I had set an intention when signing up that I would put away my tendency to be ON as a way of connecting with people. I planned to be fully present as a witness as well as a participant. An occupational hazard for me as a therapist and facilitator is to take care of others who I teach and counsel professionally and who I love personally. Quite the experiment and quite the challenge to simply BE. I know that once I sign up for a workshop, it has already begun and issues connected to the subject matter will arise. Not a surprise when a few days prior to the weekend, I developed a stye in my right eye and at some points over the weekend, my eye was so swollen that I looked like I had gone a few rounds in the ring with Rocky. I felt self-conscious and a bit grotesque and lizard-like when I looked in the mirror. It made sense to me since according to Louise Hay’s work, it represents anger. I also wondered what I was not wanting to look at. I think of myself as conflict avoidant and as a Libra peacemaker would much rather go for a win-win. I know there is much beneath the surface that is brewing and festering, ready to purge, just like that bacterial bump under my eyelid. Warm compresses, makeup-free eyes and anti-biotic drops were practical interventions. Breathing through the emotions that surfaced, sharing my feelings with Sister Goddesses (the term used for those in the community) who lovingly empathized.

A central issue arose that I addressed via journaling and conversation was one of comparison. Even though I (like every human on the planet) have experienced loss and trauma (the death of my husband when I was 40, both parents over a few year period back in 2008 and 2010, the destruction of our house in Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida, an ectopic pregnancy, my husband’s diagnosis of Hep C all in 1992, fast forward to 2013 with the onset of shingles, and then a heart attack and kidney stones in 2014, I reasoned as I heard the stories of other women there of horrific trauma, that my stuff isn’t so bad, added to it that I have resources and learned resiliency skills. After all, I reasoned, I am a therapist who counsels clients who have experienced loss and trauma.  And as I heard other women sharing about their successes, I asked myself why I wasn’t where they were on that ladder. Neither are good for the heart or soul. I am learning to hush the inner naysayers.

We were encouraged us to brag about ourselves and be witnessed by each other. Women are not generally encouraged to do that, instead, we are given messages that who we are and what we do is not enough or shouldn’t be lauded. “Be humble.” “Don’t be too full of yourself.” “Keep your head down.” “Who do you think you are?” “Don’t shine too brightly.” Women are often intimidated by each other, not trusting each other.  In this safe setting, we could, with zest and joy brag freely. A rising tide lifts all boats and I was inspired by what my Sister Goddesses achieved as I thought, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The courage to stretch our comfort zones was heartily applauded.

My brags: Single mama of a 30-year-old son who recently married the love of his life. My wonderful ‘daughter-in-love’ thanked me for raising the man of her dreams. I am a self-supporting Renaissance Woman (writer/speaker/therapist/editor/minister/coach) whose work makes a difference. I am at ease with new experiences and meet friends daily. I embrace life full out, and do it physically via Free Hugs events. I did my first 5k in September. Oh, and I lived a dream into reality by interviewing the Dalai Lama in 2008.

I have come to recognize that I am an excellent provider. I took care of my son as a single parent and kept us in the same house by working several jobs. I provide support for the people in my personal and professional realms.  This I do because I can and because I want to. Another stretchy area had to do with willingness to be the recipient of other people’s kindness, caring, and generosity. I can talk a good game about the cycle of giving and receiving. One can’t exist without the other. And yet…I often push it away. A few years ago, a friend was offering me a  shoulder massage and assured me that she didn’t need or want anything from me at that moment. Yikes! Was that ever hard to accept?!

I sense it has been a stumbling block to attracting the kind of romantic relationship I desire. I want to be able to trust a partner to be strong enough to be an emotional and physical support. Needing to surrender in safety to someone willing to be in that role.

Both of these are works in progress.

A few observations that remain with me from the weekend. Mama Gena has a vital talent as a facilitator. She is able to skillfully open people up and do ’emotional surgery,’ and be able to close them up afterward so that they are not left gaping. Sadly, I have not seen that in every workshop I have attended. A second gift she has is that of presence. I watched her working with a participant and as she gazed at the woman, it was like they were the only two in the room, so focused was she.

I continue to do ‘this woman’s work’ every day of my life as I experience all the feelz full out and I celebrate the myriad ways of being a woman.

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