THE REAL EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN REQUIRES RECONNECTING WITH THEIR OWN NATURE
For quite a few years now, talking about women’s empowerment has become trendy, especially associating it to entrepreneurship, economic development, and poverty reduction (depending on the context). Although I did not like the word used in Spanish, empowering women is critical because we are agents of change within our family context and in society. In many parts of the world the status of women has registered a lot of progress thanks to feminist advocacy movements dating back to at least early last century. Even though, many women are seeking to recover their femininity that eventually has been left behind since the beginning of this race to compete against men. Yes, it actually became a confrontation which must be overcome. But in order to get harmony with men, we need to make peace with our own feminine nature, accept our cyclic experience and revalue the feminine qualities; taking advantage of them to enhance our creativity and productivity, as well as our spiritual experience. Obviously modern woman owes much to feminism (although we must admit that many women reject some of their approaches). It is good to remember that the term feminism encompasses a wide variety of approaches and to recognize that their fight have allowed us to enjoy a number of rights that our ancestors could have never imagined.
The very right to education is a reality women have not always enjoyed, nor was it possible to develop a professional career of our choice, to vote and to represent a community within a Parliament or preside over a nation. It is interesting to note that in the nineteenth century women could not even be school teachers; at most they could be governesses, while today they predominate in childhood education. Of course we still have a way to go in the field of higher education and science, among others, at least in the West. In other parts of the world, women and girls still die to defend the right to education or are denied the right to life by the very fact of being women. There have also been some other changes of great significance as sharing household chores or the widespread entrance into the labour market, which were unthinkable less than a century ago. In fact, that lead Simone de Beauvoir claimed in her book The Second Sex that women had been excluded from the production process and limited to procreation, as well as to caring for children and the house, not allowing them to be financially independent. Many women have overcome most of those limitations stepping out of their homes and developing a professional career, but at the expense of a double working day, since housework is considered a woman’s responsibility. And even worse, it has also derived in a suppression of our own nature trying to be equal to men at all levels, including aspects we have criticized!
Much emphasis has been put on gender being a social construction, as a learned behaviour. To some extent it is true but it’s not only a cultural fact. There are some differences at birth, which by the way do not justify differences in rights between both sexes. Interesting researchers corroborate those differences such as Louann Brizendine, a neurobiologist who claims that male and female brains are different because from the eighth week of gestation male fetus begins to produce large amounts of testosterone that pervade brain circuits and derives in developing the organ in a different way to women´s brains. She argues that we have certain innate abilities and natural predispositions, such as empathy in women and the tendency of girls to start talking faster than children in order build relationships, while men are more likely to get concentration on a certain issue or better targeted. Additionally to the undeniable difference in physical strength! However, these differences have served to fuel mutual criticism and especially to “accuse” women of being complicated! Even from a scientific point of view women’s cycles are seen as annoying phases a number of medications can help to cope with. Fortunately there are increasingly more authoritative voices that warn us of the wisdom contained in the feminine soul and the need to seek health in other ways. For instance, Dr. Christiane Northrup, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology and author of Women´s bodies, women´s wisdom, says “I dedicated the first half of my life studying all that can go wrong with the female body—and learning how to fix it. I’m devoting the second half of my life to illuminating all that can go right. She considers that there is nothing more exhilarating and empowering than to find the connection between our thoughts, beliefs, physical health and life circumstances, since it implies that we have found the driver´s seat to conduct our lives through the desired path and make profound changes.
Besides personal experience, years of participation in women’s circles has allowed me to realize that, in order to adapt to social demands, particularly in terms of working life, women have been compelled to adopt behaviours and habits completely distant from our own nature, causing diverse gynaecological or emotional illnesses. To compete professionally with men we impose linear rhythms that do not take into account the needs of our body, rejecting or repressing our cycles. In fact, most girls get their first menstruation as a curse or at least a disruption to their “normal” lives. It is interesting to analyze our own life itinerary to identify now distant is our behaviour from our essence, because it has a fundamental relevance that we may have failed to perceive. It holds the key to real empowerment. Miranda Gray, author of Red Moon and The Optimized Woman, argues that our cycles contain gifts that we can use to improve not only our physical wellness, but also to increase our creativity and the achievement of our goals. As she rightly points out, in addition to a personal and relational practical side, there is an undeniable spiritual aspect in all this energy transformation resulting from the reconnection with our nature. In her case, she is expanding that spiritual experience through worldwide womb blessings and the attunement of Moon Mothers, who in turn can carry this profound transformative energy to other women. This is one of those expressions of female spirituality that the connoted as Jungian psychotherapist Jean Shinoda Bolen has referred to as being reborn since women took the floor to speak for themselves and about themselves or their sacred experiences. For her that’s what empowers women because it exceeds the identification of the feminine with guilt, or philosophies and myths that are not derived from the female experience, allowing them to develop a personal and collective transformation process.
Therefore, reconciling with or embracing the feminine energy leads us down to a path of learning about our bodies, revaluing ourselves and changing values in society, and also to direct energy experiences that can become an essential tool to our personal and spiritual development. Understanding, respecting, and validating the feminine qualities is key to develop relationships with men and with other women marked by harmony and cooperation (not competition); because our differences allow us to complement each other. This will help our youngsters to develop to their fullest potential, to cultivate respect for differences, and to honour our own nature. Eastern philosophies insist that this feminine and masculine relationship takes place even within ourselves because we all have both (yin/yang, Shiva/Shakti), although one might predominate. Nowadays we have many tools at hand to achieve this joyful reconnection to our essence, while there are quite a few women –and even men- who are committed to further deepen this beautiful process of integration and harmony that releases our true power. One such a tool is undoubtedly the nurturing and deep work with our cycles, with our uterine energy, simultaneously at a conscious level as well as at a sacred one. ________________________ The beautiful womb watercolour painting has been done by Emma Plunkett.
THE MANDALA OF THE FEMININE ESSENCE
Mandalas have the ability to convey stories, concepts, and ideas that otherwise would required many words to be expressed. It´s particularly evident in figurative mandalas such as the Buddhist ones depicting some teachings or passages of the life of the Buddha. Circular images have also been used in a sacread way by ancestral civilizations and cultures to represent cycles, totality, perfection and harmony. Besides, Carl Jung underlined their usefulness as a tool to better understand ourselves. The Mandala of the Feminine Essence created by Pedro Molina has been inspired by Miranda Gray´s book Red Moon. It constitutes an attempt to convey –in a clear and beautiful way- the cyclical nature of women, the gifts of each phase and the creative forces that connect us with the Universe and life itself. I think this great work done by a man which speaks about the gifts of being a woman deserves our recognition…
This lovely mandala does not only reflect Pedro´s talent for artistic expression or his refined technique which after a longstanding practice (he has been fascinated by Mandalas for more tan 20 years, now). But it also shows his deep understanding of Miranda Gray´s ideas on the female cycle and the gifts of each phase or the achetypes associated with them: the Maiden, the Mother, The Warrior and the Sage. The beautiful images he created for each archetype are harmoniously assembled and contourned by a complete moon cycle and flowering branches of trees that denote the influence of Celtic and Oriental art in his work.
The process he followed to create it reminds me about the Tibetan Buddhist traditions regarding the sacred art of Mandala painting. While I was stationed in India I had the opportunity to visit the city of Dharamsala several times (northern area of India where a great number of Tibetans fled to after the Chinese invasion, including the Dalai Lama). Among other marvellous people, I met a few artists who share with us stories about those traditions. They told us that it is only after capturing the essence of a teaching through longstanding meditation and spiritual practice that an artist could be authorised by his/her teacher to paint a representation of it,
Pedro has devoted not only time to painting but also reflecting and assimilating the ideas he has represented in such a wonderful way. And he gets to the point, he transmit the message. In fact, this Mandala has become a useful tool for me, both to meditate as well as a visual support when I give talks about the cycles or women empowerment. It is commendable that this Mandala had been done by a man to tell us what a gift it is to be a woman!
On the other hand, it is a great news that he has just opened “a shop” in ETSY, the e-commerce platform for handicrafts and hand made art products worldwide. People could appreciate and buy his high quality paintings which are not only beautiful but done with his heart. Here is the link to the poster of the Mandala of the Feminine Essence.