A Voice of Initiation, Reconciliation, & Gender Intelligence

Archive for Gender Enlightenment

Virginia Woolf’s Birthday

“Now then is my chance to find out what is of great importance, and I must be careful, and tell no lies.” –Virginia Woolf

Yet, it was not always easy for Virginia to tell no lies. Relentlessly honest, intellectually demanding, still she loved jokes and, to some extent, gossip. Family members knew that if you wanted to keep a secret, you did not tell Virginia, though you wanted to tell her! On occasion, she enjoyed stirring pots among her friends. She would often astonish friends and strangers alike by ‘going off’ at a party or at tea, settling on someone for her attention, then launching into a brilliant biography of the person, which she invented on the spot. Vita Sackville-West caught this complex, wonderful character when, musing on her perfect name shortly after Virginia’s death, she observed that her given name was virginal, while her married name had a hint of the fang.

Virginia was coyote, a trickster. She loved games, confidences, jokes. “Exquisite self-containment.” That was her goal, and it could also be a description of the woman and artist she knew herself to be. Aflame, she lived at a pitch of ecstasy that only a genius knows.

While still in her teens, Virginia created the process by which she diligently worked at her craft, navigating through the immense canyons of bi-polar disorder to produce five great novels (To the Lighthouse, The Waves, Mrs. Dalloway, The Years, Between the Acts), a brilliant satire that is also the longest love letter in English literature (Orlando), the best criticism I’ve ever read (the two Common Readers), five volumes of astonishing Diaries, terrific Letters and the inspiring, feminist call-to-action, A Room of One’s Own.

That Virginia deliciously haunts my waking and dream hours is an added benefit I could not have anticipated when I first met her. Intellectually, spiritually and romantically, she lifts me up. I commune and converse with her. Her unbridled, almost hooting laugh is daily music to me.
There is a wonderful way to get to know Virginia better, and that is to listen to her. I listen to her novels read aloud over and over, and I have a hot tip for you. If you can, get a recording of To the Lighthouse narrated by Virginia Leishman. Here is a link for you:

https://www.amazon.com/Lighthouse-Virginia-Woolf/dp/1419367323

Leishman is superb, beautifully modulating her voice from character to character and sounding so much like Virginia Woolf herself that it’s almost eerie.

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About ten years after her death, Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold, kept company on the terrace at their home (Sissinghurst). It was a fine, soft day and Vita looked up, asking her husband, “Of all the people you’ve ever known, who would you most like to see coming up to the house from the road?” Without hesitation, Harold said, “Virginia”. “Me, too,” said Vita, “me, too.”

Me, too.

Read A Friend’s Heart: Blog Post

Read a Friend’s Heart
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November 17th, 2014
Leonard and Virginia Woolf
What are men to do?

In 1920, Virginia Woolf published a brilliant story, A Society, which concludes that war and brutality are distinctly male in origin, and that the world will never know peace until men have babies and so acquire through experience reverence for all life.

My puny masculinity and gender-enlightened, awakening self agree, yet Woolf’s declaration and my agreement beg the question: what are men to do?

There is no solution in having babies. I’ve had three, or rather, I was a spectator/participant at the birth of three, and though I saved my wife’s life during the third delivery, I’ve never had any doubt that she always performed the heroic, transformative journey, not I.

Having babies, even once removed, has made me more dovish than hawkish; I do revere life more than I did before. Yet, I’m keenly and poignantly aware that I lack what Woolf required of me—a visceral, experiential connection, through giving birth, to life itself.

There is in all men a precious fragility that perversely seeks to crush what is fragile in others. Call it a motor impulse that makes an aggressive male driver suddenly yank the wheel of his Cadillac to the left so that he can squash a pelican that has wandered onto the blacktop of Highway 1 near Monterey. It’s the impulse that coaches and teachers use to shame young men for their perceived weaknesses. It’s the madness that drives the rapist and passive-aggressive abuser of children, women and men. Call it the make-war impulse. Men possess it, or are, perhaps more accurately, possessed by it, than women.

So, I ask you: what are men, and women, to do about this? I welcome your thoughts, your wisdom, your anger, your insight.

Book recommendation:
Washing the Bones: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Transformation by Katherine Ingram http://www.amazon.com/Washing-Bones-Memoir-Love-Transformation
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Consider these books for your library, reading pleasure and gifts. Share them with friends, colleagues and loved ones!

Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions and The More We Get Together: The Sexual and Spiritual Language of Love and other collections are available at my website www.robertmcdowell.net, and at www.IndieBound.org, www.amazon.com, and www.b&n.com or by request at your local bookstore.

Newsletter #139

September 2014 | Read a Friend’s Heart

Hopeless and Homeless

As I write this, four South African women will be killed by their partners. Along the interstate in Anywhere, USA, cars will pull over and release bewildered dogs in fields, then drive off. Untold incidents of elder abuse will occur. In Turkey’s refugee camps, thousands will struggle through the day, wondering if and when they’ll ever see home … or find new ones. In America’s disposable culture, women and men will exit the relationships they’re in, believing the grass is always greener somewhere else.

What can one do in a world like this?

Abide. Persevere. Meditate. Go on.

“What is there to do?” asks the spiritual supplicant. Perhaps embrace Lord Buddha’s teaching that every moment of our lives we are loved and accepted by beings seen and unseen.

Trust your purpose, that you are here for a reason, that it includes making your mark with integrity and compassion. Do your inner and outer work, then rest in stillness.

When doubt wells up in your chattering mind, lean into a tree and listen. Speak your truth to it, your dreams, your aspirations. The tree will listen and speak to you. Resume. Bring love and gratitude to everything you do, especially to those areas of your life that require forgiveness. Enter surefooted the dream of your sacred life and live.

Where is my daughter? Where is my love?

Can I ever again enter the ruin of my house?

What do the trees know? More than you.

Lean into and be lost in the psithurism

Of their language of branches, wind and leaves.

Go back to your labors. Your answers are in you.

Answer the predator with love.

Examine your heart with precision

And make right that which you’ve done wrong.

Step up. Encounter the world. Love.

Book Recommendation

Washing the Bones Book CoverWashing the Bones: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Transformation, by Katherine Ingram

Participate

Please visit my website and look around the new site, which I envision as a hub for our global, gender-enlightened community.

I ask your help to spread the word. Please share with your friends and contacts. If you enjoy the videos, please Like them at Youtube. I’m grateful! I look forward to serving and collaborating with you.

—Robert

Read & Share

Please consider reading these books. If you like them, perhaps you can share with friends and loved ones. They make appropriate gifts.

Poetry as Spiritual PracticeThe More We Get Together: The Sexual and Spiritual Language of Love, and other collections are available at my websiteIndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and by request at your local bookstore.

Newsletter #138

August 2014 | Read a Friend’s Heart

Newsletter 137: Goddess from Catalhoyuk in Turkey

Above is a photograph of the Goddess from Catalhoyuk in Turkey. She dates approximately to the seventh century B.C., and she looks nothing like our contemporary vision of goddesses. Yet her image was remade and copied by the thousands in the Neolithic Age.

This Goddess is big, but she seems somehow weight-appropriate. As I contemplated her full figure, or that, say, of the Venus of Malta statue, something subtle changed in my anima projections. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, but over time I found myself appreciating the beauty of stout goddesses where before I’d experienced nothing but shades of loathing. Surprised, I realized I even connected with the erotic qualities of these goddesses and the real women on which they were likely modeled.

During my recent travels and while walking around Ashland, Oregon, I’ve found myself really seeing plus-size women as if for the first time. They resemble the Goddess below, and their beauty is undeniable. Is it strange to imagine the men of Catalhoyuk worshipping this image, this fertility Goddess of birth and death? Did they see the beauty and qualities of women despite physical appearances?

If they did, then those Neolithic ancestors of ours were more gender-enlightened than we are in the West. We’re bombarded by media images of feminine beauty, and so many animas are regressive as a result. Who wants the model, the one with the perfect breasts? I do, the anima cries. I do. I deserve it!

Is it mysterious to see this for what it is? We have much work to do in gender relationships, and much work to do in anima maturity. Can men convene with women to discuss this issue of image? Can it be done with love and empathy rather than anger and resentment? It takes courage, lots of it, from women and men, and I believe it can be done.

Let’s begin. The elders among us need to stand up and guide initiation rites for boys—and yes, for men who never had them. Only then will the anima have a chance to hold richly diverse images of women as they truly are. Yes, let’s.

Please explore my new website, which I envision as a hub for our global, gender-enlightened community.

I ask your help to spread the word. Please share with your friends and contacts. If you enjoy the videos, please Like them at Youtube. I’m grateful! I look forward to serving you more effectively from here on.

—Robert

Read & Share

Please consider reading the books below. If you like them, perhaps you can share them with friends and loved ones.

Poetry as Spiritual Practice and The More We Get Together: The Sexual and Spiritual Language of Love and other collections are available at my website, and at IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or by request at your local bookstore.