GENDER ROLE EXPECTATIONS

As much as we would like to believe that the gender playing field has been leveled, we only have to look at the past year to see that inequalities still exist. The #METOO movement, the anger on both sides of the political divide around the Kavanaugh hearings, only exemplify the gap of understanding between the sexes. I cannot profess to speak to male gender role expectations, yet I do believe they are as crippling for men as female role expectations are for women.

Over twenty years ago, I was introduced to a poem by Patricia Lynn Reilly entitled Imagine a Woman. This poem came to me at the right time, speaking to me at the deepest levels. Each stanza of this poem reflects a woman free of any cultural stereotypes.
Even though this poem addresses women I have included reflection questions for men to enable them to consider the women in their lives, and to determine if any of these stanzas present a challenge to them. I hope someday a man will write a poem entitled imagine a Man.What a gift that would be for men and women to reflect on the impact of male gender role stereotyping.

Imagine a Woman by Patricia Lynn Reilly

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who believes she is good. A woman who trusts and respects herself. Who listens to her needs and desires, and meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past’s influence on the present. A woman who has walked through her past. Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life. A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf. Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods. A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness. Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body. A woman who believes her body is enough just as it is. Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face. A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life. A woman who sits in circles of women. Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

Reflections for Women:

What stanzas touch you? Why?
Where are you on the road to becoming the woman in each stanza? What barriers keep you from living out any of the stanzas?

Reflections for Men.

 Looking at the stanzas, do the women in your life embody all of them?
Are there stanzas that you find challenging? Why?
 Are there stanzas you wish women would embody? How would that look?

LONGING

The secret of life somehow always has to do with the awakening and freeing of what has been asleep.           Mark Nepo

As I pondered what my writing prompt would be this week, John O’Donohue’s book, Benedictus, A Book of Blessings seemed to call me. I hadn’t opened this book in over two years. When I pulled it from my shelf it fell open to his poem For Longing. Rereading this wonderful poem, I realized it was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life.

I am currently in the “in between” or the threshold. Many doors have closed over the past year, but new ones have not opened. I am not sure what is calling me forward. This feeling of emptiness is an uncomfortable place. Reading this poem I am curious what is being birthed within me?  What new wants to emerge? What is longing to be awakened?  Am I staying safe and not saying Yes to Spirit’s whispers?  All questions this poem evoked in me.  Below is the poem.  Read it slowly and pay attention to what sentences or words jump out at you.  Where is the energy in this poem for you?  Where are you in this poem?

FOR LONGING      by John O’Donohue    

Blessed be the longing that brought you here 
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging—in love, creativity and friendship
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feelings.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which 
Your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Reflect on what speaks to you in this poem and explore it in your writing.

New Year’s Rituals

New Year’s is the perfect time to set-up rituals that support you letting go of the past year with grace, and welcoming the new year with hope.  I’d like to share the rituals I began about ten years ago to honor the power of the changing of the year.

The week after Christmas through New Year’s Eve I spend time reflecting on the past year in my journal.  Below is an outline of what I reflect upon:

Overall Summary of the past year

 I write about the challenges, gifts and surprises this past year brought.  I sometimes use my calendar to jog my memory.  After the summary, I reflect on specific categories of my life. Again I write about the challenges, gifts, and surprises each category brought me.  The categories I reflect upon are:

Spirituality

Relationships

Health

Travel

Another ritual I follow is choosing a word that I would like to embody for the coming year.  My word for 2018 was Receive.  I write about how I opened myself to receive the gifts and challenges brought to me this past year.

New Year’s Day

On New Year’s Day I follow the same structure of overall summary, and the categories. I write my hopes and intentions for each for the coming year.  I do not write New Year’s resolutions, but rather my intentions of how I choose to live into each category.  

Right now I am focusing on what word I want to embody for 2019.  One seems to be strongly coming forth this past week.  I continue to ponder this word to feel what it would be like to embody it for a year.

Finally, I keep my journal’s reflection from past year and read through it to see how I lived my intentions and how I embodied my word.

May you create your own rituals to reflect on the past year and focus on the coming year. May your New Year be blessed with good health, joy, and peace.

Gifts of the Magi

We come to this season from different traditions, yet all traditions celebrate the miracles of this time of year. I come to this time through the lens of Christianity.  Advent is a time of quiet solitude.  Winter solstice honors the quiet of the winter months where the ground is cold and dark so the seeds can rest and germinate for the coming spring. It is difficult to follow our bodies yearnings to be still and listen in the busiest time of the year.  How do you balance solitude and community?  I’d like to reflect on the Christmas story, but with a different look at the gifts of the Magi. These are gifts offered for our journey.  I’ve gathered these 18 gifts from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance.  They include:

Unconditional love.    Selflessness.    Trust.    Faith.    Forgiveness.

Wholeness.    Second Chances.    Comfort.    Joy.    Peace.

Reassurance.    Rejoicing.    Generosity.   Compassion.   Charity.

Wonder.    Acceptance.    Courage.

Reflections:

  1. Where are you on your journey with each of these gifts/qualities.?
  2. Which ones are challenging for you?  Which are fully integrated into your life?
  3. How do they play out in your life?
  4. Which one would you like to carry with you through this season?
  5. Are there any that are easier to give than receive?

May you find time in this busy and miraculous season for solitude to be still and listen.  A time to go inward and reflect on your life and the meaning of this time of year.

Happy Holidays to all.

Remember to free write with no editing or critiquing.  

Seeing With Grateful Eyes

Americans long ago dedicated a day during this month for the sole purpose of inviting and expressing gratitude. Even though Thanksgiving has just passed, I send you wishes for seeing with grateful eyes.  Angeles Arrien, in her book Living in Gratitude offered the following prompts for us to reflect upon.

—What are you thankful for today?

—In what ways do you express your gratitude? How do others know you are grateful?

—What family rituals and expressions of gratitude have been passed on to you? Which ones have you continued? What new ones have you originated?

—As the year begins to wind to a close, reflect every day of the coming month upon the blessings, opportunities, fruits, and harvests that have come into your life this year. 

—To whom or what are you especially grateful for in your life? In what ways are you shifting your perspective from looking at what is not working to developing “grateful seeing”—looking first for what is working and what is good in your life?

—Whom have you helped this year? What circumstances have ignited your generosity and gratitude?

—What positive changes have occurred in your life that you can directly attributed to your gratitude practice this year?

Remember to free write with no editing or critiquing.  

What Skins are you Shedding?

So many skins have fallen off of me. My “skins” have included old messages and assumptions about life that developed in my childhood, behaviors that bound me to unhealthy ways of approaching life, religious beliefs that kept my spiritual world too small, and boxed-in views of my self-identity. Skin-shedding has been a time of discovering what keeps me from growing.  Joyce Rupp, Dear Heart, Come Home

1)    What skins have your shed?

2)    What skins would you like to shed?

3)    Have you spent time in the darkness?

        -What do you most resist about the cave of darkness?

        -How has darkness been a teacher for you?

        -List significant times you have experienced darkness.

Fear often enters into the process of skin-shedding.  Kathleen Norris writes: “Fear is not a bad place to start a spiritual journey.  If you know what makes you afraid, you can see more clearly that the way out is through the fear.”

List your fears.  Study each fear, which ones are imaginary and which ones are real?  

What comes to you as you write down your fears?  Choose one or two and do a ten minute free write about that fear.  

Remember, no editing or critiquing, just write all that comes up for you.

Spiritual History

Below are some questions that helped me explore my spiritual history.  I’ll use the name God in the following questions, but I know that people have different names for the Creator.

Questions to Ponder

What was your relationship with God as a child?

What was your image of God as a child?

What did your parents and other adults teach you about God?

How has your relationship with God changed over the years?

How has your image of God changed over the years?

What is your present relationship with God?

What is your present image of God?

What are the pressing spiritual concerns or questions you have at this point in your life?

Our spiritual beliefs impact how we see the world and others. Take time to reflect on the impact religion/spirituality has had on your life.  How has it informed your behaviors and decision-making processes?