Ancient Feminine Practices for a Contemporary World

For the last decade I've been engaging in a growing conversation about feminine power. People are looking back at ancient understandings and exploring anew what it means to be feminine; what it means to embrace the goddess and bring balance to our hyper-masculine world. These voices are asking "Why do we value money over humans?" and "Why do we define success by what we have rather than what we've given?" I've witnessed a reemergence of a feminine power from out of the darkness, with authors like Arianna Huffington giving modern-day language to old-world beliefs.

In my heart, Arianna's new book, Thrive, articulates a theme that runs parallel to the growing awakening-feminine movement. After passing out from exhaustion and waking up in a pool of blood, Arianna began questioning her way of life. In Thrive, she advocates that we slow down our lives, shut off the twenty-four-hour workday, and become fully present in each moment as we live it. This understanding is that of feminine power, in which we take our signals and direction from within, and trust in the unseen creative process, like that of a seed in a womb. We may not see the work being done, the care and intricate detail that is being given to a creation, but we can rest assured that when it manifests we will witness the splendor of the feminine. The Third Metric, as Arianna so eloquently terms her new vision of success, features the qualities of archetypically feminine mythological characters. Sadly, our current culture demonizes those who have adopted such qualities, while it celebrates those who practice self-neglect. It is not my intention to dismiss the value of money and all traditional ideas of power. Rather, what I want to see is a harmonious resonance allowing both energies to coexist in service to the greater good and well-being of all people.

This past Sunday I watched Oprah's interview of Arianna about her book, and I was most inspired by her story about her mother. She said that her mother always encouraged her to bring qualities of presence and nurturing to every moment of her life. Although my mother was very different, having spent much of her life as a sex worker, she was a woman who truly embraced her creativity, stillness, and beauty, and her sensual and nurturing nature. The way she cared for her home reflected her inner order and the deep peace she held within herself. My mother adored preparing delicious soul-food meals and she'd spend all day making me oxtail soup, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. She took time at least twice a week to paint her nails and toenails, giving herself the love and care she deserved. She washed her lace and silk undergarments by hand, appreciating their delicacy. For my mother, being good to herself was an art form.

When I was twenty-nine, I watched my mother struggle desperately to care for herself, her ailing father, and her partner. I could see from her un-manicured hands that she was having a difficult time. One evening she called to say that her partner had died; he'd had long-undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. I insisted on coming to her, but she demanded that I see her the next day, saying she needed to sleep. When I arrived at her home the following morning, I learned that she'd had a fatal heart attack the night before. Although I was devastated, I was not surprised, having heard the exhaustion in her voice.

I was at one time embarrassed by having a mother who had been a sex worker and who established a strong sense of dominion in her home and her kitchen. I believed that women who embraced the qualities of feminine power--the qualities of wisdom, well-being, wonder, and giving, as Arianna describes them--were weak. More worthy were women who were strong; who exerted power in their offices and communities. After many years of going within my heart, I see that my mother gave herself to her immediate experiences; she lived her life trusting in her inherent value and the ineffable beauty of the moment right now. The care I once witnessed her giving to herself is something I now embrace. I now celebrate the wisdom my mother offered me around sexual arts and have forgone the deep shame and secrecy I carried for many years. I give greater value to what is within rather than what is without, as I know the latter is transient. I listen to the signals of my body that tell me when I need rest, food, or sensual touch. I am obedient to those signals.

Most of us have mothers or grandmothers who lived long before the exaltation of living for the next thing to occur. They existed in a time when communities were united by traditions and a shared desire for the greater good. We likely witnessed them creating well-being, activating wisdom, abiding in wonder, and giving unconditionally. Their life energy lives on in us, and all we must do is get still with the intention of receiving the power of the reemerging feminine.