Happy Solstice Yogis!
Right where I'm living there is an incredible swimming hole in the River, so every day I am immersing
myself for a few minutes - it’s my dedicated Winter Sadhana.
Yes, it’s freezing. Yes, it’s absolutely magical.
This ritual is anchoring me in a new and more balanced sense of self. Releasing patterns of what I think I am capable of, what I think I am comfortable with, and opening me to new and previously unexplored parts of myself - the dark and the light. This ritual is helping me to bring samalana (my current favourite sanskrit word - means ‘commingling’) to the unhealthy masculine part of myself (a part that has been out of balance for, well, forever), a part that I am actively reclaiming and offering to the light. It’s work I’m doing for myself, and, as always in broader service. My offerings are shifting as I do, and whilst I'm still absolutely dedicated to holding space for healing and expanding the feminine (because this is important work that is desperately needed in the world), I'm also moving towards a more integrated approach. You might have noticed I have begun to offer more intentional space that is inclusive to men, as well, of course, as everybody identifying beyond binary gender.
Humans are now so far out of balance we can hardly identify what Masculine Energy is without resorting to negative labels. In all my years of work with healing and teaching empowerment of the feminine, I’ve never once attempted to create balance by putting men (and the masculine) down. So whilst I have certainly directed intense rage at individual men for their actions and behaviours, it has never been directed at men in general. There’s no empowerment there, in my opinion, and there’s certainly no balance. The work always begins, and ends, in the self.
The following is a personal account of how I have given my power over to different men, and, how I came to be passionate about this path of healing the masculine & feminine within myself. It’s still a draft, I’m sharing as a work in progress here, in my deepest vulnerability. Of course, this is part of the journey.
In an upside down world it’s time we start standing on our heads to look for solutions.
The story begins when I was seven, my brother became unwell and I gave all my needs over, nothing could be as important as what was happening for him. This didn’t happen with consciousness, of course, it just came in like a thunder cloud and controlled the weather in my family for 7 long years. He suffered from chronic bipolar (not the light kind), and was tossed around in the washing machine of the mental health services- drugs, hospitalisation, and more drugs, rinse and repeat, until he eventually, and inevitably, he took his own life.
The Australian Department of Health reports that suicide rates for men are 3 times higher than they are for women. 3 times. This can only be a response to unmeetable expectations - to a system that is insistent on fitting into a box marked happy & successful at all cost. In short, men (much more than women) feel like there is no other answer.
The shame & secrecy that shrouds Mental Illness was extremely formative for me. I was excluded, obviously & often, because of this mystery monster in my home. People are so controlled by their fear of the unknown, and of course, only want to protect their own families, I don’t hold any anger to those parents now (I do, however, cherish and honour the mums that rose beyond that - Therese & Fiona, you are in my heart). As a young girl, I quickly learned how to not express or share what was going on. I learned how to stuff and store emotion, and how to do my best to present as “normal”.
With suicide, of course, the weather turned again and I was way out at sea, in a lonely boat. During this teenage chapter I learned Tibetan Buddhism & Meditation, and, it saved me. I also learned the power in my body, training became a wonderful escape…and I took it to acrobatic extremes.
When I was 21, I took all the physical skill I had developed in this dark time, and let it lead me as far away as I could go. With my back to the past, I made my way to London, and started to welcome the possibility of show business.
I got an amazing gig, and, with innocent gratitude gave all the power of my career over to the magician I was working for. He was a big name, and quickly the doors started to open up for me. I felt I owed him so much, in the way you do when you are young and no one has taught you better.
I think for many years I told myself that the lines were blurred. They weren’t, actually. As well as giving me golden and unheard of opportunities, he also gave me a gold membership to the #metoo club. And I did what so many others have in the name of protection - I shouldered the blame, turned it to shame and retracted.
The end of that chapter was the beginning of taking Spirituality & Yoga more seriously. I longed for something deeper, something ancient, something that I could whole-heartedly trust. It wasn’t long before I was off to India to have a big long stint in a Traditional Vedantic Ashram.
And there I was, 24, maybe not so innocent anymore but most definitely still naive, making my mixed up way from the advice of a very mixed up world. I loved my time at the ashram. It was easily the most formative and expansive time I had ever experienced. I am grateful for every moment I spent there. But…if I knew then what I know now, about Vedantic Philosophy, about the practice of bringing consciousness always up, out, and away from life, I would certainly have found another way.
In brief, the foundational understanding denies the existence of the body, the earth, of pleasure and pain. This is the (common & extremely masculine) Yoga that says “all is one, and everything you see in this world is an illusion that must be overcome by practice.” It is this philosophy that makes a practice of renouncing family, worldly work & sexual energy, and has caused so much terrible pain and corruption over the centuries. When you scratch the surface on the homogenised, asana focussed approach to Yoga we see in the West it can be difficult to really see the Philosophy for what it is. This, coupled with the gross misunderstanding of true Tantrik Philosophy, makes it difficult to know how the physical body has anything to do with Yoga at all.
It’s still hard to admit it, but in the name of my Spiritual longing I had once again given over my power…this time to the Swami (an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into a religious monastic order) and to the Ashram. My time there was not punctuated with big drama or big shame, thankfully, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for other young women who sat at his feet to learn Yoga. This shadow story, of course, is as ancient as the Philosophy of light it rides on. There are no surprises, but somehow it’s still hard to speak of, somehow it still stings. Perhaps if I’m really honest I didn’t escape the shame, because I feel like my Spiritual journey has been tainted…that somehow I’m not the Teacher I could be because he was not living as the Teacher he professed to be. I’m aware that those words are crazy, that actually this experience gives me depth and insight as a Teacher, but shame is an emotion, and emotions are not rational. I am practicing releasing them in this very moment.
With masculine focus, the chapters between India and now are punctuated with a committed (male) partnership & the arrival of my two sons - my greatest Teachers, and the return of my other brother from a long and difficult period of absence. No longer trusting the Teacher & Philosophy I had been dedicated to, I took a deep turn inwards to the Teacher within. By miracle and perhaps divine intervention, I started to trust what had been denied my entire life - the power of the feminine. I began to understand the world through a Tantrik lens, my meditation no longer brought me up and out of “the illusion” but brought me to a complete samalana, commingling, of nature and spirit. Meditation stopped being only a practice, and became an existence of pure one-ness, or non-duality.
In knowing & trusting the power of the feminine, I have opened to an infinite Universe of support, strength & potency that I spent at least 25 years completely oblivious to.
When I found myself again out at sea, this new way of understanding consciousness was my anchor, the boat and also the ocean. It was the map that helped me navigate losing my mother, suddenly and unexpectedly just 6 weeks after the birth of my second baby. It became my backbone when I dislocated my pelvis and endured a long period of crushing pain (all those years of unhealthy & extreme training caught up with me eventually). Because these things are part of life - the suffering as well as the sweetness. Through this embodied understanding I can stand open and strong each time I am inevitably thrown into a pit of darkness.
At it’s essence, I am able to stand in grief at the same time as being completely in awe and wonder at the magic of life, and the miracle of my own unique aliveness.
In the last months I’ve had Kali in the house - I’ve said goodbye to my dear old dad, and, witnessed my marriage crumble away. In the wake of deceit, betrayal and a powerful blow from the sisterhood, I’ve come face to face with the shame of failure and of not being enough and, the shame of staying as well as leaving.
Basically there’s no escaping the shame, and as emotions are not rational we need to call on the balanced masculine to help to bring them to the light - to be seen, felt, named and known for what they are. When the masculine in us is disempowered, he will seek to hide these irrational emotions away, to let them stagnate and become toxic rather than risk the embarrassment, the disempowerment of being imperfect.
For now, the waves of shame in all their colours are still revealing themselves to me , and yet I am rising, stronger from each episode in the dark pit. It’s not that there is no longer shame, I’m just recognising the shame for what it is a little more clearly each time I rise. It doesn’t control me because I am anchored in the source of my feminine power.
These last months I’ve been called (in a way that is impossible to ignore) to really address the masculine; husband, father, teacher, boss, brothers, sons - these stories and relationships are under the microscope - but the study is all just a mirror to the masculine within me. This is my story, and I have to believe that each part is delivering a deeper knowing. Each time I enter the dark pit my faith is challenged, and each time I surrender I am gifted a little more expansion.
If the feminine is untamed creative force, then the masculine is the clarity, the order and stability that holds the space for this wild & chaotic dance. They are perfect for each other, when they are whole and balanced. In this crazy imbalanced world, all the attempts for clarity, order and stability have become warped to extreme - this is where the hiding, secrecy and shame is seeded.
I believe the shame comes from the unbalanced masculine, and I’m not just talking about what men do to women. This, of course I am not excusing, just to be clear, every body needs to be held accountable for their toxic actions, but this is only the first part of the healing. It’s so much bigger than that, and I’m not willing to be part of pushing the blame on - it’s time to take 100% self responsibility. I am recognising more and more the masculine within myself, weak from being mistreated for just as long as the sacred feminine.
For me, it’s time to reclaim the power that lays dormant here too, to find a true samalana. To be whole. I truly believe, even and perhaps especially after all of these blows, in the sacred masculine. Reclaiming the feminine was just half of the work.
Yes, there must be time & space for releasing anger, the feminine in us all must find safe expression for all the wrong that has been done. I am, as you probably know, deeply passionate about holding safe spaces for release.
So yes, let the sacred fire of your rage burn…but let it burn everything.
If we hang on even just a little bit, to hatred, to blame, to righteousness, if there’s any resistance, any at all, then there can’t be true growth. Let it burn away the masculine in you that seeks to control and hide away the “shame.” Let it burn the secrets that risk your exposure as imperfect, as human. Let the true masculine, the steady and deeply responsible masculine, rise from the embers, and let him hold the space within you for your feminine as she dances her wildest expression. We have to create space for this, in real time.
I’m not going to give my power over to anyone again, but, I’m also not willing to give up on understanding the true nature of my power. Not only reclaiming the feminine, but reclaiming the whole. The very act of giving up, of turning my back on the masculine would in itself be an act of the toxicity it is trying to deny.
It’s time for the blame and the shame to burn.
It’s a practice, every day. I will continue to show up to it…no mater how much I want to hide away.
So, my river sadhana, every day, has been this: I get completely naked, do some connected breath work to bring everything to the surface, and say these words before diving into the icy flowing water:
“Today I choose to believe in myself.
I choose the potential and possibility of the unknown.
I put my trust in nature, in this beautiful river, to bring me ever closer to radical truth & deep presence in each moment.
Today I choose to act from my highest heart, to know my power.
May I use the privilege of this knowing for the greater service.”
And when I come out of the water I chant 13 rounds of the Purnam mantra (if you would like to join this practice I’ve recorded it here). Sanskrit & meaning below.
In standing naked in the elements I challenge the parts of myself that don’t want to be exposed.
When I plunge into the river I challenge the parts of myself that would rather choose the comfort of the known. I hear them making their excuses, pleading their stories, and I get to know them all a little better. With this knowing comes a dissolving.
The longer I can stay within the discomfort, the more comfortable it becomes.
The deeper I go with the practice, the truer the samalana.
All is welcome to come back home to the heart, without shame, without blame, and always, without fear of the dark.
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Puurnnam-Udacyate |
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
Om, That (Outer World) is Purna (Full with Divine Consciousness); This (Inner World) is also Purna (Full with Divine Consciousness); From Purna is manifested Purna (From the Fullness of Divine Consciousness the World is manifested),
Taking Purna from Purna, Purna indeed remains (Because Divine Consciousness is Non-Dual and Infinite),
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.