In Sweet Company

“Getting in touch with [this feminine, receptive side of our nature] can be a life-transforming experience because what we’re really talking about when we talk about receptivity is how we can be open to growing and evolving into more enlightened human beings.”  — Lauren Artress, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

There is an old mission-style church in La Jolla, CA, I used to visit called Mary Star of the Sea. I’d walk inside, my eyes adjusting to the light, steeling myself for the heart-stopping image of Mary painted on the wall behind the altar — looking for it, feasting on it, each time, every time, as if for the first time. The lining of her sapphire-colored cape glitters with tiny golden stars. She is engrossed by some inner wonder, yet her out-turned hands, her enveloping arms invite respite and reprieve. This Mary rests the head of the world on her breast.
This Mary comes to me as the year draws to an end, as I begin to think about what I need to move through the challenge and chaos of our modern day, of each next day to come — the combination of gentleness and strength she so richly embodies. It’s difficult to keep gentleness and strength alive when you are trying to keep your ducks in a row, to not mistake passivity or conformity for gentleness, to not believe aggressiveness or defensiveness is strength. When we are troubled and preoccupied, when we are without examples and support systems, we lose our balance and our perspective. 

Images of the Divine Feminine — visual representations, inner perceptions, literal metaphors — are turning up a lot these days in art, in spiritual practice, in everyday conversation — more than ever before — to provide us with a balanced framework for living. Her compassionate Presence, Her listening heart, Her lionhearted warrior spirit are a movement in the making, an evolutionary progression toward the manifestation of genuine well being, of inner and outer peace, comfort, and prosperity. The Divine Feminine calls to us, to women and men, to revision our lives, to counter self-interest and isolation with emotional generosity and kindness, to resist force yet take care of ourselves, to let go of the failed but familiar and embrace the expanded though uncharted as the next step in our unfoldment — especially when there is little promise on the horizon.

The great dancer Katherine Dunham told me a story in this regard, about the work she did with injured veterans after she retired from the international stage. “When those of us who were able danced before them, their eyes filled with light,” she said. “They could not dance, but something inside them did.” That light, that spirit of the Dance, is the Divine Feminine.

Zainab Salbi told me similar stories about the women she works with at Women For Women International — women from Rwanda and Bosnia, and now, Iraq —  who suffered unspeakable atrocities of war yet prospered. “What do you want us to do,” they once said to her. “Just because we’re in this situation doesn’t mean we must stop loving ourselves.” Their boldness, their ability to create something out of nothing, is the Divine Feminine.

Let Her Gentleness and Strength make a home in your heart this holiday and for the year to come. Let it be your gift to yourself — and to the world.

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